The Great MCU re-watch part 4: Thor

Have you ever seen Adventures in Babysitting? I did, like 10 million years ago, and what I remember of that when I remember nothing else, was this guy:

adventures-in-babysitting-thor

And this kid. Isn’t she cute?

BabysittingWorship

Anyway, that was pretty well all I knew about Thor going into this movie for the first time. I was a blank slate upon which the film could project itself. And I recall my first impressions being largely positive. With most Marvel movies this has been the case though, even the Incredible Drag. It isn’t until I’m out of the theater, scrutinizing these things on the laptop from the comfort of home that I see the problems. And man, does Thor have problems.

First though, let’s get this out of the way, right away: Chris Hemsworth is super hot. HAWT. With those sparkling blue eyes, dazzling white teeth… and the less said about that chiseled physique, the better. Instead, let’s just gaze longingly at this picture so we can move on:

thor

Good? Okay. So, the first thing you to know is that Thor is a big, loud, and dumb comic book movie. If you think about it too hard – and I strongly encourage that you do not – then it starts to fall apart pretty quickly. Not the actual plot, that’s a pretty well straight-up fish-out-of-water story with a touch of Cain and Abel thrown in for good measure. But we are led to believe that humans once worshiped the Asgardians as gods, which means that Thor has to be like 800 years old.

https://45.media.tumblr.com/1346f18af78c36a3162255e578d55654/tumblr_mu98fd5HnE1sb12pco1_500.gif

Which he neither looks nor acts like. But wait!, you say. Perhaps because this is space and shit, there’s like a time discrepancy, except that there’s not because action on Earth and Asgard take place concurrently throughout the film. So no, Thor is 800 years old and shut up and watch the movie.

Now, when I first heard that they got acclaimed Shakespearean actor/director Gilderoy Lockhart behind the camera for this film, I was pumped. Someone with his background would surely be able to lend this – essentially silly – premise some much needed gravitas. Then, when I heard SIR FUCKING ANTHONY HOPKINS had been cast as Odin the Allfather, I was double-plus pumped. Gravitas, it seemed, would not be lacking.

And… I guess it wasn’t? Like, I think? But I sure hope you like dutch angles, because Kenneth Branagh is about to shove a million of them right down your unwilling eye-holes.

In reference to the unwatchable film ‘Battlefield Earth’, Roger Ebert had this to say:

“…the director has learned from better films that directors sometimes tilt their cameras, but he has not learned why.”

Now, this was not something I noticed on first viewing, probably because I was too busy learning about new and base urges my body had in regards to the films titular hero. This guy? Just look at that pretty, pretty mouth:

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But once you do notice, it becomes impossible to unsee, and if you can’t unsee it, then your enjoyment of this movie is going to plummet. Mine sure did. Because every time you see a shot like this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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Or this:

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Or, fuck me, this one:Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 5.59.50 PM

Well, then so much for your immersive cinematic experience, yeah? Instead, you’ll just be wondering what the hell was going through the director’s head. It’s like he just discovered the technique and fell instantly and irredeemably in love with it. Except this is Kenneth Branagh we’re talking about, not some kid in his first year of film school.

The only thing I can think of that possibly makes sense is that dude is trolling us; that Mister Shakespeare isn’t taking this comic book movie seriously. And that’s too bad, because pretty well every one else is.

Chris Hemsworth is more than just a pretty face attached to smoking body wrapped in glorious muscle – that kid can act. The picture of him above? The one with the puppy dog eyes? That’s Thor learning about the death of his father, and he sells the shit out of it.

Tom Hiddleston takes his first crack as Loki here and it’s wonderful; the aforementioned Anthony Hopkins mostly just phones it in, but you can’t really tell – he’s just that good. I only found out from interviews after the fact just how unmoved he was by the source material.

Even Natalie Portman is downright decent in this movie. Now this was surprising to me, because I even went so far as to compare her blandness to the zest brought by Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man. But I guess I was thinking of the next Thor movie, because here she’s awkward and funny and a pretty decent audience surrogate – she falls in love with Thor just the same as we all do. I never needed to have that romance explained because it was pretty obvious from her angle why she was into him (hint: he’s hot). As for Thor, I just assumed (and still sort of do, though the films haven’t borne it out – yet) that like any good sailor he has a girl in every port.

I feel like there was a decent movie in here before the director pissed all over it with his dutch angles. But that aside, we’re never really given a compelling reason for Thor’s growth from petulant, arrogant princeling, to the hero willing to sacrifice his life in the end. I mean, there was some good set-up for it: the death of his father, and you can see Chris Hemsworth playing that angle. But instead of honing in on this, instead of teasing out the themes of fathers and sons, the film instead settles for the lazy excuse that Thor changed because he met Natalie Portman. Seriously, in his final fight with Loki, the trickster god says this:

“I don’t know what happened on Earth to make you so soft! Don’t tell me it was that woman?… Oh, it was. Well maybe, when we’re done here, I’ll pay her a visit myself!”

And yeah, the last bit of that is pretty cringe-worthy, acting as it does as the impetus to get Thor to fight his brother, but the first bit is just awful, and not supported by the events we’ve just seen. It makes the movie worse, when simply honing in on Thor’s visible grief over his father’s death as the catalyst for his growth would have improved things immeasurably.

I mean, just look how sad he is!

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That is one sad, sad, stricken little puppy.

Also worth noting is the casting of Idris Elba – a visibly black man – as Heimdall, a Nordic god. Now, I’d never heard of Mister Elba previous to this role, but I was past my latent racism by this point, so I gave zero fucks going in. Coming out, I was impressed by his performance, and rightfully so: Idris Elba is fucking awesome.

But naturally a certain percentage of sub-human bottom-feeders got their privilege all up in a twist and there was blowback. How much and by how many people isn’t even the point at this point: this shit is embarrassing. But since we will be reviewing neither the Amazing Spider-man 2 nor Fant4stic 4, we don’t have to talk about how fucking awful white people can be sometimes.

Instead, enjoy Thor! A big, dumb, loud comic book movie. I award it 3 Mjolnir’s out of a possible 5. I didn’t hate it, is what I’m saying. That is, until I noticed all those fucking dutch angles.

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This one’s the worst one:

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Also, Phil Coulson was in this movie! I guess we should appreciate that while it lasts.

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