Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sunday Best: Top 25 Superhero Movies of All Time #22 - THOR

I thought it was a very interesting choice to hire director Kenneth Bragnagh to bring to life Marvel's god of Thunder.  But upon reflection, the story of Thor is very Shakespearean.

You can feel the threads of Henry IV and Prince Hal.  You can also see the Machiavellian moves of Richard III.  And there is the twisted relationship of Othello and Iago.

But ultimately, the story is about fathers and sons and the relationship between brothers.

That is what makes Thor work more than anything else.  It touches on the universal family experience in the crazy cosmic setting of Asgard.

One of the things that makes the story work so well is that for the first half, Loki is clearly cast as the main hero.  In most modern stories, the brash and arrogant bully would get his comeuppance and the younger, smarter, and more sensitive son would be raised up by the father.  Thor is not a good person when the film starts.  It is one of the reasons casting Chris Hemsworth was an excellent choice.  He brought a manly charisma to the part that I believe is often overlooked when compared to fellow Marvel actor Robert Downey Jr.

But this allows for some real character development.  When Thor is sent to Earth, there are some fun "fish out of water" sequences, but not much changed.  It is when he finally learns some humility that we can see him start the path of the hero.  If you've seen the movie, watch it again and notice the performance of Hemsworth at the beginning of the movie and the end.  Observe the subtleties of voice and body he uses.

And of course this is the movie that introduced us to Tom Hiddleston.  While it wouldn't be until his turn in The Avengers that he would truly shine, we can see the seeds of that performance here.  Hiddleston's Loki is duplicitous and manipulative, but there is always an element of sympathy in him.

The production design is also gorgeous.  Cheesy things like the Rainbow Bridge could have appeared hokey as heck, but it feels tangibly logical to this world.  Asgard works as a strange amalgam of the mythical and the mechanical.  And though the world is alien, it carries with it a beauty that makes you want to spend more time there.

Some people complained about the quipy nature of the dialogue.  But in a movie about gods coming to our world, that humor helps ease the audience into the absurdity of the plot.

Others complained that Natalie Portman's Jane Foster was too gaga over Thor.  But it was actually kind of refreshing to see a simple womanly attraction to the uber-masculine presence of Thor.  This in no way took away from her independence or genius as a scientist.  I do not understand why people think a woman in love is somehow weaker.  As Willow from Buffy the Vampire Slayer said, "Love makes you do the wacky."

And I could not end this without talking about the score.  Patrick Doyle give the best musical theme that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has.  I was so sad to see that it wasn't used in the sequel.  But Doyle's score is bold, epic, and distinctive.  It is a shame that they do not employ his iconic taste to the other Marvel heroes.

Kenneth Bragnagh gave us a fine super hero film in Thor.  And he brought a bit of mythic wonder to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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