OK so there was this movie called Thor. I will just say up front that I liked it. The wife liked it too.
It was pretty much exactly what I expected and I got what I was looking for, the origin-insofar as the Marvel movie universe is concerned and the clear set up to the Avengers movie and a nod to the Captain America movie later this summer. (the silly post credit bumper does both. It sets up the Avengers and is a nod to events that happened back during the war that Cap was/will be when the movie comes out, involved in)
This is the first of the big comic book blockbusters of the summer and I think things are off to a decent start. Was the movie a bit of a mess from a narrative point of view? Yes. Was some of the acting a bit silly? Yes. But that is kind of the point. There is a reason Marvel has shied away from the darker possibilities of their properties. They could have gone darker with any of the films so far. There needs to be mention of the X-Men films at this point. Marvel does not have complete control over these films. The same is true of the Spider Man and Fantastic Four franchises as those deals were made before Marvel Studios was up and running in its current form. They have a fair bit of input but ultimately the control they have is limited to what the controlling studio will allow. The only films that have really tried are the Punisher films. Dolph Lundgren does not count, sorry. No, the Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson (also in Thor as mentioned below) films attempted to do the title character justice with differing degrees of success. the dark nature of those movies, while appealing to fans (especially the violent War Zone) killed the overall box office dollars and I don’t quite see Marvel being happy with the money made from a “true to the spirit of the source material” movie right now when they could make crazy money with big, flashy pabulum in the PG and PG-13 end of the ratings.
Bearing that in mind, Thor is pretty much exactly what the fans SHOULD like. Not that many of them will, mind you. The changes that were made are of the nature of making the movie make sense as a 2 hour film rather than a comic that has been running, almost without break, in one form or another since the early 60’s. But that never really stops those that call themselves “true fans” from complaining. Let them complain. As of this writing, the movie has made $119 million. It dropped less in its second week that most of the other Marvel films, which means its overall performance is likely to be considered good by the studio. I would expect its full first run total to just top $200 million, maybe as high as 250. I would be surprised to see much more theatrically from that domestically. Adding in the overseas numbers will make this comparable to Iron Man’s first 2 outings.
There are lots of great little visual and story touches that WILL please the fans. For the reasons story-wise, you need only look to J. Michael Straczynski. The popular Thor writer that was bumped from the book unfairly and stupidly is the co writer of this film and it shows. There are lots of character moments and asides that are very much reminiscent of his all too short run on the comic. Visually, I was hard pressed to find something that WASN’T inspired by Walt Simonson’s epic run on the book from the 1980s. Untill very recently, most of the visuals of the books was based on his template and the influence on the film is every bit as evident. Most particularly in the costumes.
Most of the actors cast in the lead roles clearly know what kind of film they are in and have fun with it. Chris Hemsworth does a fine job as the title Thunder God, but the real standouts here are Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston and the amazing Idris Elba as Heimdall. One of the funniest, most unexpected moments in the film is his and he does not waste it. Just as an aside, if you are one of the people complaining about the casting or a black man in the part (or the asian cast as Hogun), you really are hard up for things to complain about, aren’t you? The myth’s reference to Heimdall as the White God, is a metaphor for his purity of purpose and spirit, not his skin color. Never mind this film is not based on the Norse myths. It is based on a comic book about the norse myths that was, for most of its history, largely unconcerned with accuracy. These are the same ignorant peasants that complained when Morgan Freeman was cast as Red in The Shawshank Redemption. Get over it. The actor chosen made this a better movie, in both cases and many others I could name. As long as that criteria is met, the rest is geek fodder. If in some way the skin color of an actor COULD worsen a movie, I have yet to see that movie. There are lots of actors who ruin films just by showing up, but it never has anything to do with the color of their skin.
The action is pretty decent. It’s funny, I have never thought of Thor as much of a hand to hand combat kind of guy, but he is without hammer for the bulk of the film (my only geek related gripe) and is kicking ass like a pro. The Destroyer is a very well realized effect and is full of real menace and is good and scary for the film. Hiddleston’s Loki is also very well done and a far more interesting character than I ever remember from the comics. Another tip of the hat to Ray Stevenson as Volstagg. While he is woefully underused in this film, he is a fun and interesting performer and he makes the most of it.
This was a fun film. I want more. Not just the Cap and Avengers movies that are already on the schedule, but more Thor films and more of the other properties they have. Doctor Strange is one I hear bandied about. But there are loads of smaller properties that would be piles of fun.
I cannot wait for Captain America (please don’t suck) and the Avengers. This film did its main job pretty well, I think. It makes me want more.
UPDATE: AT 4 WEEKS IN RELEASE, THE FILMS TOTAL DOMESTIC GROSS IS AT JUST UNDER $160 MILLION (PER BOX OFFICE MOJO). SO IT IS FALLING OFF A BIT. THE $200 MILLION MAY NOT BE QUITE REACHED IN FIRST RUN. DON’T WORRY THOUGH, THROW IN OVERSEAS AND VIDEO AND THIS FILM DOES JUST FINE.