Friday, May 6, 2011

'Thor' is an unexpected surprise

Thor (Chris Hems worth, left) falls for Jane Foster (Natalie Port man) in the comic book action-adventure "Thor."
Marvel is placing all of its chips on the table for next year's summer tent-pole film "The Avengers" — a movie bringing many top superheros such as Iron Man and Captain America into a single film. In fact, during Comic-Con 2010, Robert Downey Jr. called "The Avengers" project "the most ambitious movie ever!"
But fans have been increasingly skeptical of one aspect of the coming project — a certain Shakespearean-speaking Viking from another planet who flies around with a hammer, wears metallic armor and sports knee-high boots. That's right, Thor, son of Odin and namer of Thursday.
Well Marvel fans, "Avengers" hopefuls and fantasy buffs — breath a sigh of relief. "Thor" is actually a solid film. In fact, it's probably the best fantasy film since "Return of the King."
Beginning in a small New Mexico town, Jane Foster (Natalie Port man) and her small team of scientists accidentally drive over a lone, hearth-throb of a man (Chris Hems worth) when they lose control of their mobile science station. Who is the strange man? Where did he come from and why does he speak like a drama reject?
Those questions are addressed as audience members are transported back in time and across the universe to Asgard, planet of Viking gods and the kingdom of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), father of Thor.
Asgard is home to the comic book goodness most Marvel fans will be eager to see. Gods don't just throw a few punches when they settle their differences, they call down the destruction only rivaled by the imagination of little boys with action figures. And much to the credit of director Kenneth Branagh, even as the story shifts back to Earth, it's well-paced and doesn't drag while you wait for the next over-the-top battle of the gods.
There are two noteworthy flaws that plague the galactic adventure, however. The first includes some wildly unnecessary 3-D, and the second is rather underwhelming character motivation.
"Thor" is a movie that's just too dark for the more-times-than-not distracting technology. And as for character motivation? Thor's arch-nemesis does some pretty terrible things throughout the story, and at the end, when he or she blurts out why they've done the things they've done, you may just ask yourself, "really?"
This also holds true for the kiss scene, the sacrifice scene and the switching-sides scene.
But when you consider the amount of cards stacked against this project, those issues are almost laughable. There's actually a good film in the world called "Thor." Think about that for a minute. The last time Thor made an acceptable appearance in Hollywood was in his brief cameo in "Adventures in Babysitting."
So while this isn't a perfect film, I'm throwing four stars at it because it amazes me that I actually want to see it again. It's a relatively family-friendly, fast-paced jar of eye candy that sets up next year's adventure beautifully.
"Thor" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence; running time: 113 minutes.


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