Kenneth Branagh, 2011
Miscellaneous review
Thor
Thor is really cute. Decent acting. Idris Elba. Some fun lines.
The Nihonjin Tribe joins the Vikings. Special effects are mediocre at best. 3D adds nothing to the experience.
I hate the cinematography.
3


Thor is a graduate-level seminar in shopworn filmmaking technique.

It's also a movie, I guess.

Unlike, say, Avatar, the statement "Thor is not a very good movie" is not a particularly radical position. So, I won't dwell on that for too long, although I should explain my statement, I guess.

Thor's basic problem is that it is lifeless. There is a lot of shouting, and a lot of action, but it lacks any kind of spark that would make it interesting. The characters barely deserve the name; lacking any depth, motivation, charisma or purpose, they wander aimlessly between ethereal realms as though caught in purgatory, only pausing for brief histrionics normally reserved for Oprah's couch and not the big screen.

They are separated only by their names — and races, the Vikings having adopted an Asian and Idris Elba (who can blame them) — and exist as automatons, delivering dialogue on command and then passing inexorably on to the following scene, where the process repeats. The acting, as is par for the course in Hollywood these days, is pretty decent, let down by lackluster writing and a script that is almost, but not quite, as interesting as a takeout menu.

For example. Much is made of there being a traitor in the midst of the Norse gods (no points as to who that might be), but in the end this turns out to be unimportant, Chekhov's gun being left loaded, where a child could reach it but never did. One of the characters, it is revealed, secretly belongs to a race of evil men. It seems a clear, if cliché, setup for a betrayal, since he is one of only two or three people who know his secret. In the end? Nada. As though this was some Final Fantasy game, the king falls ill and we are led to believe that, this time, he is close to death. Naw. The good guy's utopian realm is revealed to be compromised; nobody cares.

That being said, Thor isn't a bad movie. It's pretty average, and it's enjoyable enough. There aren't any headbangingly stupid moments, the lead actor is very cute, there are some clever lines and the acting isn't bad. It is one of those movies, incidentally, where seeing it in 3D adds nothing except eyestrain, so avoid that if you can; it's just a gimmick, and an irritating one.

(For this, incidentally, I would like to give a hearty "fuck you" to James Cameron. Although I was not impressed with Avatar as a movie, and in my review said that I don't find the visual style as compelling or as pretty as, say, a Miyazaki film I do highly respect the technical craftsmanship and the fact that the film put 3D to pretty good use. Thor does not. For that matter, I have my doubts that the upcoming Smurfs movie will either. A fucking Smurfs movie, Jim. Is this what you wanted? Well, smurf you very much, you sick smurfing bastard.)

"Gimmick, and an irritating one," actually, applies to most of the filmmaking. It's interesting that, for all our strides in CGI, it still looks pretty damned fake. Films like Independence Day hold up where, I suspect, Thor or Transformers will not, because there's not really a better way to blow up the White House than, well, blowing up the damned White House. I won't lay the blame entirely at the foot of CGI, because Peter Jackson was able to use it to incredible effect in Lord of the Rings, but in Thor it's almost distractingly awful. Flat, lifeless, and fake-looking, it completely fails to capture what should be the epic scenery of an entirely different plane of existence.

The movie is jam-packed with the irritating techniques that have pushed their inexorable, unwelcome way into cinema over the last three years. The bit, for example, where an action scene slows down and then speeds up again real quick, like it was somehow lagging on the way to the projector. Can we be done with that now? Can we agree that it was clever five years ago, but has become woefully overused now? Can we declare a moratorium on all these Final Cut Pro special effects? The ones that you add in as an afterthought in post because you think it makes things look cooler?

Like the camera shake. It's not as pronounced here as it was in Star Trek, but even still the audience is expected to believe that Fox News somehow got a crew into Asgard, but that they weren't allowed to bring a Steadicam in with them. Similarly with the lens flare — which, again, is not as prominent as in JJ "Oh God My Eyes" Abrams' movie, but still creeps in to blot out a few scenes in its gimmicky, fakey way.

Actually, I half wonder if that's where the director got all his inspiration. Come to think of it, Thor suffers from a peculiar proliferation of dutch angles, like a study of architecture in The Hague. Really, guys? I know your "on assignment" crew got shipped out on short notice, but... you couldn't afford a tripod? Were you having inner ear problems? Here, a family of pugs is scene watching Thor (though some man has dubbed his voice over the movie, for some reason).

But whatever. It's an alright movie, Idris Elba is in it, and it's a good excuse for some popcorn. Mediocre writing with a few cute scenes, let down generally by cinematography that irritated me until I could do nothing but write a blog post in a disused corner of the Internet.

Worth watching in theatres; skip the 3D if you can.
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