Fun with Franchises: Final Thoughts on The Marvel Universe – Thor
All right… we’ve watched the film, talked about it, had fun with it, and then we went and listed our favorite images from the film yesterday. Now all that’s left is to finish up with what we actually thought about the film as a whole.
This is our space to go over what we liked and didn’t like about each film we watch for Fun with Franchises. We talk about specific things as we get to them during the articles, and we’ll mention our general thoughts during them, but we don’t really ever get to sit and do broad strokes during the articles. So this is why we do these Final Thoughts. We get to take a step back and talk about the films as a whole, rather than discussing specific scenes or images. We’ll talk about how we felt about the film, how we liked it as a film, how we liked it as a member of its franchise, and where we think it falls within that franchise.
Again, it’s not very complicated, but it is a place to find out what we actually thought about certain movies, since, while we’re having fun with them in the articles, it may get difficult to tell sometimes. Because we’ll just rip things to shreds for fun, even if we love them.
So here are our final thoughts on Thor:
Final Thoughts on Thor:
Okay, Thor. I saw this movie twice in theaters (both times because I was home from school and people wanted to go see something), and I think it was every bit the moment as it was the poor quality that made me hate it. By this time, anyone with thinking clearly was already suffering from Marvel fatigue, and they hit us with this 3D conversion. Remember that phase? When everything was being converted to 3D hastily, if it wasn’t shot in 3D to begin with? 2011 was the peak of the craze by total number of 3D titles — that was the year that gave us Immortals and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never both in 3D. So I was pretty pissed off at this movie because it was Marvel, but also because it was playing to a fad that we all hate.
The story. Uh, what story? Two brothers, one dick and one…no, I guess they’re both dicks. Anyway, one is popular but has to go away and sacrifice himself to find true humility (Boromir. No,wait.) and the other is conflicted about his parental relationship and tries to do something morally questionable that the other brother initially suggested doing in order to gain the ruling father’s approval (but actually, kinda Faramir, though). So the first brother is lost on Earth and needs to get home (E.T. Boromir?) and does so by just hanging out with Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard, who happen to be studying the teleportation phenomenon like a mile from where he lands.
He and Natalie fall in love because…abs? And instead of just leaving him on Earth where he’s not dangerous, Faramir visits and then gives his friends a reason to go find him and contradict the story. Meanwhile, Faramir is plotting against the Space Blues, again to please Dad, even though Dad has said repeatedly that this isn’t what he wants. Boromir would have stayed mortal and harmless, but his moron brother sends something to kill him unnecessarily, even though he could just properly kill Idris Elba and leave them all stranded for eternity. Aaaaand when we return, he doesn’t use his flying hammer to stop the laser thingie — he decides to destroy a bridge, conveniently letting him off the hook from having to visit Natalie and leaving him stranded until the next movie, when that no longer matters. After the credits, the bad guy who we watched “die” was unkilled and had gone from misguided to properly evil.
Let’s start at the end, with Loki. He wasn’t a bad villain, mostly because Hiddleston is solid. He’s known for Marvel stuff, obviously, but he’s one of those guys where you’re watching a lackluster film and know that he’s going to be good to watch elsewhere. I’ll take this chance to tell you all how excited I am for his upcoming BBC/AMC miniseries “The Night Manager,” which is based on a John Le Carre novel and also stars Tom Hollander (who we know as Cutler Beckett from the Pirates movies — another awesome character) and Hugh fucking Laurie as an arms dealer. Yeah, sign me up.
Loki’s character is fine, to start. He’s grown up in his brother’s shadow and wants to get him out of the picture. There are PLENTY of better tropes to draw on here, particularly because Loki is supposed to be the smart, conniving type, and Thor is supposed to end up the brave and loyal type. Slytherin and Gryffindor, if you will. But Loki stays pretty one-dimensional and hell-bent on winning Dad’s approval by attempting a slightly modified version of the plan that got Thor banished. How about making him smarter and giving Thor a bit more difficulty instead of [back]handing him his worthiness? And then, once he’s defeated, he gives up on himself and “dies.”
But before you’ve even left the theater, you’re shown that he’s totally alive and is evil and is SMILING about it. They set up a villain who could have had some of the victim’s mentality as well; someone who was wronged in some way or felt slighted and only wanted to please the family. Now that he’s been put on the bad side of things? Fuck it, he’s evil and he smiles while plotting world domination for himself. O…kay?
No idea why Natalie was in this movie. Well, other than to be the random eye-candy and potential love interest for Thor. But more so than any of the other Marvel character movies, this one requires two attractive people. I really hated The Incredible Hulk, but nobody in that movie is gorgeous. Compared with Natalie Portman, Liv Tyler isn’t exactly eye-candy so much as she’s eye-licorice. There are some who go for her, but she was picked for additional reasons. What happens to this movie if he lands and gets found by Helen Hunt, the other storm chaser? I defy you to take out the staring at each other and Natalie getting aroused and see what this movie looks like. You know what a worthy hero is? Someone who’s willing to sacrifice himself for Helen Hunt in 2011.
I got into this while talking about The Incredible Hulk, but they REALLY need to cool it with these fight scenes in the dark. Dusk, maybe. The first 10 minutes of this movie are a voiceover narrating CGI action in the dark that’s impossible to follow and lends no mood or tone to the film that couldn’t be achieved with a marginally better script. I’m sick of it. Stop it.
Asgard is a CGI funhouse with about 8 characters and hordes of peasants who are taken out of their box periodically to clap. Earth is 9 square blocks of plywood and product placement. What were the stakes in this movie? The throne? The Jotuns? Loki doesn’t technically steal the throne, and nobody dies. Nobody dies in this movie except Jotuns, who we give zero fucks about. MAYBE there was a no-name SHILED guy or two in the explosions when the Destroyer arrives and there were a few frozen no-name Asgardians guards killed at the beginning. Otherwise, no Asgardians and no humans were killed in this movie about a prince becoming the king. Do people have to die for me to care? No, but there have to be STAKES that matter, and we don’t care about the evil, blue guys whose planet isn’t worth a damn.
Aesthetics? Dumb costumes. Horrible CGI. In the theater, horrible 3D. The same product placement like 30 times. The shots, though — I think they determine whether you’re a glass half-empty or a glass half-full kind of person. Branagh canted the absolute hell out of this movie, and it makes for a stylistic presentation. Personally, I like it for some of the shots, but eventually it becomes like a younger sibling who plays one song on the piano really well and slowly makes you insane by playing it over and over again. You lose your appreciation for it.
Anthony Hopkins. Stellan Skarsgard. I like you guys. Everyone else, meh.
In spite of all of this, I like this better than The Incredible Hulk. It’s slightly less useless. It’s different. And it’s the Brainmuda Triangle. If you really shut your brain off for this movie, it’s almost bearable. But there are a shit ton of reasons why this movie doesn’t really come together.
My Final Thoughts:
I honestly like Thor. I tell myself I don’t for a variety of reasons, but when we get down to it, there’s more of this movie that I like than I don’t. Or at least, the parts I remember, I like. Mostly the Asgard stuff. All the Natalie Portman stuff is garbage. But I like that at its core, the superhero stuff in this movie is more Shakespearean, or at least aspires to have that level of drama. To me, that keeps it from being as overall pointless and boring as The Incredible Hulk.
I like the idea of the father/son/brother conflict. I like the Greek mythology aspect to it — the Gods’ business playing out and the mortals having to deal with it. I like the set up of Thor being cocky because he’s been given it all, Loki wanting so badly to impress Odin while also stepping out of his brother’s shadow, and Odin being Anthony Hopkins. Thinking about the relationships here helps me ignore the lesser elements of the film, because I get to go, “Well, most of Marvel is mediocre garbage, so at least there’s that stuff that I like.” Most movies don’t really have that. I look at this in that midrange of Iron Man 2. Where it’s got flaws, isn’t awful, but isn’t anywhere near the top. It’s in that range between the “not goods” and the top tier ones. The difference, though, is that, unlike Iron Man 2, I like stuff here. Iron Man 2, I barely remember parts of that movie I like.
I like that Branagh tries to spice up the boring by canting everything he can find. I like that they set most of it in this small town they built in the desert rather than adding unnecessary CGI to the budget. I like that they have these cool looking Asgard sets (and at least made the idea of the visuals of exteriors on Asgard look nice, even though they look completely fake). I don’t give a shit about any of the characters outside of the main three. Stellan Skarsgard is cool and all, but I don’t give a shit about his character. SHIELD is weirdly forced in here as a sort of villain. There’s not really much to like about a lot of this movie. Yet, I prefer it to Iron Man 2 because at least I can track the growth of the character and the relationships. And because Tom Hiddleston is probably the best single casting Marvel has made outside of Robert Downey Jr.
This has the similar Marvel problems — underdeveloped female characters, underdeveloped villain who doesn’t pose a real threat, focusing more on world building than telling a full story (though to be fair, this one does stand alone a lot more than it ought to. Which I imagine is because half of it takes place in space and because Branagh wanted to focus on the more Shakespearean elements of the story), too much dodgy action sequences in the dark, and bad exposition. Especially the bad exposition. The opening of this movie is truly awful. They feel like they need to explain all this backstory to stuff to explain it, whereas if you just started us on Asgard hooked us through the characters, we’d have went along with the blue people and the other shit.
Mostly this is just a middling Marvel film, but it can occupy my attention and instincts to expand on what I’m seeing and think about the world enough to not dislike it. I’d say this ends up slightly below halfway in my overall list. I’m just guessing at this point, but if I had to guess, that’s where it would go.
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Tomorrow we start Captain America: The First Avenger.