Movie Review: Thor

Simply THORsome!

Thor was always going to be the wild card in the Marvel stable of superhero movies. Could this release pull off a box office win with a relative newcomer leading man, a classical director and still showcase a mystical powered Hero from not another world but actually another ‘realm’? The character isn’t as well known as Spidey or the Hulk so the scriptwriters (and there are five of them) had to create a story which enveloped a Norse mythology lesson wrapped around a modern day backdrop for guy meets girl, world falls apart, guy becomes superhero, guy saves world, girl falls for guy. Well you know the plot. And it still rocks!

Don’t take these thoughts for cynicism. This movie delivers and aside from a couple of ‘why did they do that’ moments, it climbs on every level. Kenneth Branagh has surprised many detractors on this project. Could the man who brought us Frankenstein and The Magic Flute as follow-ups to his 1989 hit Henry V deliver a comic book superhero? He does, and he’s brought the right combination of artistry and superhero action to a script that is also able to bring in the nuances of Norse myth lore. Combine that with some great ‘God meets Humanity’ humour points and we’re loving it. The preview audience were vocal in both their laughter and post screening praise.

So what were those ‘why did they do that’ moments? Simply put, the extensive CGi backdrops under 3D conditions took the fantasy meets realism aspect to the extreme. Sadly under 3D conditions many of the Asgardian sets looked plastic and blurred in comparison to the CGi shots that took place on our big blue planet. Some shots seemed to overplay ‘expanse’. When done once to develop a sense of the backdrop to a story its understood but it was played time and time again with horses riding across Bifröst, the rainbow bridge to Asgard looking like a CGi shot from 20 years ago in what overall was a brilliant special effects movie.

But I can hear you asking the more important question every ‘Home and Away’ viewer wants to know. How did the 6’3” Chris Hemsworth fill the screen? Truth be told he filled the Asgardian armour one pec at a time. And the hammer, lets not forget wielding the Mjölnir like a toy. The special effects just around the use of this superhero tool of trade were superb. After auditioning for Hollywood with his 51 seconds of fame as James T Kirk’s father George in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot, Hemsworth will be happy that this will confirm many encores to come. The Aussie larakin is quite at home in his ‘god of thunder’ boots and this brings the right mix of ‘don’t mess with me’ to his blue eyes and cheeky smile. I think he picked the right mix of character in humour and strength. The voice was perfect for the accent you’d expect from a Norse god. Not quite Neeson and thankfully not at all like Clooney.

Great parts are picked up by actors like Colme Feore as Laufey. Think of this villain as Dr Freeze meets Voldermort. His depth of character in the closeups was incredible. Battling for screen space was the character of Loki. A god of mischief and Thor’s under appreciated younger brother, Tom Hiddleston nailed this character with great presence. Natalie Portman as the love interest Jane Foster shows versatility when combined with her recent role in Black Swan. She delivers the balanced damsel with depth and a vibe that keeps her front and centre to the story while Anthony Hopkins continues his double act of doing the voice over routine combined with King of Asgard, Odin. This keeps the tension of father and son relationships in focus as Thor and Loki fight for affection and acknowledgement from the winner of ‘Dad of the Universe’. Speaking of voice-overs, the role that steals some ‘thunder’ comes from Idris Elba who portrays the gatekeeper of Asgard, Heimdall.

Watch for the cameos we love like Stan the Man Lee and an intro for Hawkeye played by Jeremy Renner (Hurt Locker) from the upcoming Avengers movie. Clark Gregg renews his Shield Agent role to be a key thread in these Avenger themed movies. 

All in all this THOR gets a FOUR out of five popcorns. From the hammer to the shield to the kick the back out of the monster’s skull moments you’re going to love every minute of this movie. It keeps you cheering for the hero, laughing with some classic lines for both comic and literature buffs and at the end it leaves you wanting THOR!

Movie Review: Suckerpunch

Zack Snyder must have a lot of friends in Hollywood. Who else gets to write their ultimate mash-up of child hood fantasies and a secret ‘Spice Girls’ adoration into a script then apply a healthy dose of CGI to breathe life into the concoction? The next Superman reboot director, has definitely played all four aces in this offering and this review will tell you if the recipe fits in the fast food section of the food court or the french cuisine restaurant in Parnell.

The heart of Suckerpunch captures three essential themes in empowerment, survival and sacrifice for the sake of a friend. The underlying story of Baby Doll (Emily Browning) is a journey to freedom via extreme fantasy, with the accompaniment of her gun slinging compatriots of Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). We haven’t seen a lot of the Australian actress Emily Browning since she shared the screen with Jim Carey in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. While she has handled the lead role of this psycho melodrama in a way that definitely captures your attention there wasn’t quite the pull of heart strings as much as soulful glances of the eye that would entice. Another Australian, Abbie Cornish provides an anchor point in the movie as the solid member of the escape team a similar strength she brought to her recent role in Limitless. Supporting roles from Malone, Hudgens and Chung felt more like parts in a girl band than solid characters.

Carla Gugino as Dr Vera Gorski and Oscar Isaac as Blue Jones seem to get more depth of character development and their roles define the journey on a number of levels. Without their roles this would have been a Spice Girls World Tour, however with them this becomes closer to the cerebral maze that Snyder would have wanted.

So what holds this eclectic cast together? The three key ingredients that spring to mind are headed first by the cinemagic feast of fantasy that leads you to meet, a Japanese Darth Vader, dragons and warlocks, then ask yourself how a Mech Warrior ended up on a World War I battlefield? Secondly, the added story thread of Scott Glenn as a Wise Man is a nice link that also adds comic relief with a healthy dose of one liners that are worthy of memorising for that next party scene when you need something profound to say that can’t be questioned. Finally, the soundtrack rocks from the moment the Eurythmics song Sweet Dreams breaks upon the stage to the final rolling credits.

Of course the merit badge that Zach Snyder wears to this performance is as “CGI Employee of the Month” with his performances on 300, Watchmen and lately the dark animated ‘kids’ movie ‘Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole’. This was where the DVD was given its free reign into Snyder’s teen land of fantasy. You enter the video games he played, the dungeons and dragons models on his bookshelf come to life and the model planes he built roar past the screen. You can’t help but think that the female characters were taken out of Dead or Alive to give them a new lease of life in this cinematic composition.

So what does this movie leave you feeling? Firstly it appears you are forced into a space where you are asking was this Vaudeville or Pleasantville. Was Snyder trying to give us a movie to help us forget with a heavy dose of distraction or to provoke a philosophical dialogue over an espresso? My gut feel is the latter and a spoonful of sugar did help the medicine go down. All up a great use of the this media we call home cinema to ask your eye to take in the whole screen and try not to blink. Answering my own question from the start of this review. It was fast food in the food court but the company was great, the variety met a range of tastes and the experience was great value for money.