Isabel and I missed all of the major summer blockbusters this year. I don't think we made it to a single showing...but thanks to the miracle of motion-picture-by-post, we can bask in the summer cinema straight through this frigid fall.
First up was Thor. This movie was...okay. It's kind of like Iron Man meets John Travolta's Michael...I wouldn't be surprised if that's how they pitched the film.
I give Kenneth Brannagh credit for spreading out Asgard scenes. It would have been very easy to make the mistake of the live action He-Man movie and give us five minutes of another dimension and then trap us in a California suburb...even for the climactic battle scene.
The movie also had a much more evenly distributed humor than the Ed Norton Hulk movie. That film took itself so seriously that every punchline felt like a suckerpunch instead. Thor recognized the absurdity of its premise and, for the most part, kept detraction in check by anticipating the audience's incredulity.
Really, the main problem I had with this movie was Natalie Portman...or maybe it was just her character. She was reduced to an object for Thor to fall in love with so he could learn humility...even though Thor already has a perfectly reasonable and much more plausible love interest back in Asgard.
I never got a sense of Portman's character. I never understood why she fell in love with Thor other than the fact that he has a Nordic track body and can fly. Maybe that's sufficient reasons for a young woman to fall in love with a pagan god...but I would have liked some kind of character-based attraction. Maybe she was a myth-geek when she was a kid...maybe she has a deceased lover who had similar quirks...maybe her last boyfriend was really pompous, so Thor's newfound humility restores her faith in men...er...male beings.
Personally, though, I would have done away with her character altogether. Thor's problem is that he is too immature to be a good king. Good kingship is modeled in the film by Odin -- the All-Father. Odin banishes Thor because Thor has endangered the Asgardians by instigating a war with the Frost Giants. Innocents will suffer, Odin warns.
The movie wants to suggest that Thor's romantic love for Natalie Portman is what humbles him. I suppose that works...but it seems to me that the film could have made this point more elegantly by having Thor befriend a child. Thus, Thor would have learned the paternal care...the patriarchal worry that Odin expriences. This would have given Thor a taste of what it is to be the All-Father. It would have also eliminated countless ridiculous scenes of Portman ogling Thor and getting all girly-girly on screen.
I think Isabel at one point asked Natalie Portman to get some self-respect.
Maybe she didn't say that though.
It seems like something she might have said.
The kid story arc would have also reinforced issues of faith -- the kid who immediately believes in Thor even while the adults are skeptical would have modeled only a child-like trust. Plus, a good-hearted kid would have enabled the film to contrast an honest child-like sense of awe with Thor's childishness.
Final assessment: Thor was okay. It didn't reinvent the super-hero movie, and it didn't break the super-hero movie. To put it another way, Isabel didn't fall asleep.