As promised here is my movie of the week post. Be sure to become a fan of “Righteous Prick” on Facebook.
Last night I went to see Thor. Marvel is obviously running out of it’s top tier superheros (Spider Man, The Hulk, Iron Man, X Men – if I am wrong on any of these I don’t really care comic book nerds – I just know that Batman is DC Comics) so they have now turned to Thor – a character who is basically a Rider of Rohan equipped with a giant mallet. In other words, if Gallagher were from Norway you would have Thor. It doesn’t seem like it would make for a good comic book, let alone a good movie. I am not familiar with the comic book in any way, other than knowing it exists, but the movie is barely passable summer entertainment. But it still passes.
The Cast, The Director & Why Natalie Portman Should Give Her Oscar Back
One of the biggest positives of the movie is its cast. Stringer Bell, Will Hunting’s professor, Hannibal Lecter and the Black Swan are all in this movie. The star of the movie is a big Australian actor, who was presumably discovered at a Thunder Down Under show. He is actually pretty good for what the movie is. He is strong, has pretty good comedic timing and looks like Brad Pitt’s slightly uglier brother who lifted weights to compensate for being the uglier brother in the Pitt household. I expect the actor, whose name is Chris Hemsworth, to pass Dwayne Johnson soon as the go-to-actor for underachieving action films. That said, the acting is actually quite solid, perhaps because the director, Kenneth Branagh, is a famed Shakespearean actor and well-respected guy who probably uses the world “craft” to describe acting.
Sidebar – Kenneth Branagh
Quick moment – why is Kenneth Branagh directing Thor? The man was nominated for several Oscars for Henry V 20 years ago! He was even great in the second Harry Potter! This would be like Jerry Sloan (Hall of Fame Utah Jazz coach emeritus – if you are not a regular reader of my blog) going to coach in the WNBA this Summer, but not even for a Spider Man/Seattle Storm level WNBA team – they won the title last year – I had to look it up obviously, but for a shitty WNBA team – presumably all of them that did not win the title).
But there is one noticeably weak performance/character in the movie – Natalie Portman’s astrophysicist character. The last time I believed a female scientist less was when Denise Richards played a nuclear scientist in a James Bond Movie. The difference is that the Denise Richards character, whose name was Christmas, provided one of the greatest lines to end a movie since Gone With the Wind (“I thought Christmas only came once a a year…”). Natalie Portman’s character had no such value. Her acting was poor, but to her defense, the writing of her character was even worse. The only thing of value that she did was when she ran in slow motion in a tank top and the theater giggled with glee as we watched what was one of the benefits of Ms. Portman’s then early pregnancy. But let’s discuss Ms. Portman briefly
Sidebar – Natalie Portman’s Oscar
There are two types of Oscar winners/nominees. Those who are worthy “every year” of an Oscar and those that get “lucky.” In the “every year” category are actors like Tom Hanks, Russel Crowe, Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Meryl Streep and Kate Winslet – they always do good work and have confidence and taste that always has them trying to pick quality roles. Then there are the “lucky” nominees and winners, which include people like Forrest Whitaker, Cuba Gooding Jr, Jamie Foxx, Kim Basinger, Marisa Tomei and now topping that list – Natalie Portman. Her three movies after Black Swan have been a terrible romantic film (No Strings Attached), a terrible comedy (Your Highness – I was told it was terrible) and an action movie that appeared to have terrible potential (Thor). This is not the career of someone with Oscar pedigree – they are the choices of someone who is desperate to work and got lucky with Black Swan, which called for someone pretty, small and pouty. Based on that, Shaq has a claim for a supporting actor nomination from Blue Chips for playing a large, black, basketball player.
So my advice for acting nominations is that the Academy take into account the potential of the actor (or their track record). DiCaprio has done a dozen excellent films, but is one Oscar short of Cuba Gooding Jr. Matt Damon has never won an acting award, but Forrest Whitaker has one, which he followed up with the movie Vantage Point – one of the 15 worst films and performances of the last 10 years. Giving Oscars to actors like Natalie Portman is the same as giving Ron Artest a citizenship award. She may seem like she deserves it, but next thing you know she is face raking you at midcourt with No Strings Attached.
The movie was filmed in New Mexico, but after the 18 minutes of footage that take place on actual land, I think the rest was filmed on an Apple computer. As much as I wanted to roll my eyes at this, the truth is that some of the fight sequences were extremely entertaining, not in small part due to the underused villains – the Ice Giants (or whatever the hell they were called) who were cool and menacing. But for a big time Summer movie that is heavily reliant on special effects, the effects were barely aiiiiight for me.
If I had to give the movie a grade it would probably be around C+ (although my joy in eating Goobers during the movie made me feel like it was more of a B- last night). The star is good and the humorous moments in the movie are actually enjoyable (better than the tortured hammering you over the head style of humor in a Michael Bay movie). But at the end of the movie I was just left feeling like “that’s it?” There was no origin story of the superhero because he already has his powers. The story of Thor is “how did this awesome hero come to Earth,” which is less interesting than “how did this average person become a hero,” which is usually the story of superhero movies. To put it in non-comic book movie terms, everyone wants to see the sex tape that made Kim Kardashian famous, but no one wants to see Kim Kardashian talking with clothes on now that she is famous (ok, to be honest of course I do, but you get my point). That is more the fault of the source material I am guessing, but they still made the movie so some of the blame lies with them. If you can catch this movie for $6 in NYC by seeing a pre-noon show at an AMC Theater then do it. Otherwise wait for Netflix or HBO.
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