Is it possible for a superhero picture to move too slowly? I didn’t think so, until I watched Kenneth Branagh’s newest directorial effort, Thor: a beautifully crafted picture with vivid imagery and brilliant actions sequences, that ultimately suffers from an intolerable pacing. There’s nothing wrong with slowing things down, in fact it’s almost always preferred. But when it comes to the superhero genre, I think it’s in the pictures benefit to be upbeat, while still developing its characters. Well, Thor does neither by forgetting its characters motives and desires after the first 15 minutes. And that’s a shame. Because there’s nothing worse than watching people on screen that we just quite frankly, don’t care about.
Written by Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz, Thor revolves, around, well, Thor (hence the title) – an arrogant, though proficient warrior whose frivolous actions have exalted an ancient war. Convulsively he gets banished from the magical realm of Asgard by his father who deems him unfit for the throne. Now, exiled from the only world he’s ever known, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must live down on Earth, with humans, while still protecting them from the dangers of his past life.
Surprisingly enough as soon as Thor arrives on Earth, the film becomes progressively more engrossing. Branagh does a nice job balancing some astonishing action sequences with witty dialogue. It’s refreshing to see a comic-book film transformed onto the big screen with some natural elegance, and most of all, with some fun. Now in days the protagonist of all these types of pictures is so bruiting and unrelateable, that we have a hard time caring for them.
That’s exactly what makes Thor such a mishmash of a film. All of the scenes set on Earth are exhilarating, but the picture is interwoven with a dry, methodical counter part – as it shows life on Asgard without Thor, and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), a manipulating brother who feels he’s been ousted by society since birth. Beautiful as those scenes may be, it drags the film down, with its awful dialogue that feels ripped straight out of Shakespearean play.
Still, in a blockbuster point-of-view you can do farther worse than this. Chris Hemsworth, who plays Thor, is excellent here. He’s far more composed, and subtle in his performance than expected. Natalie Portman, who appears in about every other movie these days, is perfectly acceptable – and the romance between her and Thor is believable enough to not get worked up over. The rest of the cast, most notably Anthony Hopkins, Kat Dennings, and Clark Gregg, are compelling, despite some of the dialogue that has been given to them.
Early on in the film there’s a crucial encounter between Thor and his father Odin (Hopkins) – It went something like this “Son, a wise king never seeks out war, but must always be read for it” – That monologue, coming so early on the film, is a tease. Because not once after that 2 minute spurt of brilliance is there a scene with more poignancy and wisdom than that. You could chalk that up the lack of dedication by the writers who appear to be more focused on merely creating a transitional film (that will ultimately lead us to The Avengers) rather than producing a dignified, individual effort.
Still, when it’s all said and done Thor is a good time. It’s funny, entertaining, and its final 25 minutes are very compelling. But in a day and age where the super-hero genre has gone way up in quality (i.e. ~ The Dark Knight, Iron Man, Spider Man 2) Thor is not even close. It’s too calculated and sluggish to be anything more than an amiable origin story with beautiful cinematography and often exhilarating action sequences.
As for the 3D ~ Well let’s just say you don’t need to pay the extra surcharge for a dimmer picture.