"Aaargh! What's in your Wallet?" Anthony Hopkins plays a king in "Thor."

I decided to take a break from all the documentaries that I have been critiquing lately for something more mainstream.  A friend told me that I might like “Thor.”  Since “Thor” was directed by Kenneth Branagh (he of the Shakespeare adaptations) my thought was that even though “Thor” was based on a comic book, it might, at least, be a more literary comic book movie.

I decided that since “Thor” is a tent pole movie (translation: a studio sank a ton of money into it) I should go all the way.   To this end, I paid the extra four dollar premium, that 3D movies now carry, and went to the 11:20 am show at the AMC Loews Kips Bay multiplex (570 2nd Ave.) located next to the, sadly closed, Borders.  For those who do not know, at all AMC theatres, shows before noon are only six dollars (except for “Thor” in 3-D, which was ten dollars).

Anticipating an ear splitting soundtrack I brought earplugs.  Even with the earplugs, “Thor” was really loud.  I guess that this is appropriate for a story about a tough Norwegian from 965 A.D.

While “Thor” was not a bad movie, I felt, while watching it, that I had already seen it.  For example, a few weeks back I reviewed the movie “True Legend,” which was essentially the same story as “Thor.”  Both stories are about main characters high up in their respective government’s hierarchies.  Through a series of circumstances both characters are banished and must find their way home.  Both stories have evil brothers who seek to rule in place of our heroes.   Being an evil brother is not a low risk occupation, something to which these two films can attest.

The story of “Thor” also involves a king’s son who, upon taking power, wages war against another culture (gee, no relation to recent American history there).  The latter story, I believe, actually has its roots in the oldest surviving play, “The Persians,” written by the Greek playwright Aeschylus and first performed in 472 B.C.

There are other influences at work.  “Thor” features an older king who is losing his grip (“King Lear”), while the King Arthur “sword in the stone” legend comes into play in the form of Thor’s heavy hammer that no one can lift, save for the rightful king.  Could this, by any chance, be Thor?  All of these overly familiar elements made the story drag.

“Thor” is also, partially, a “fish out of water” story.  Thor and his 965 A.D. Norwegian sidekicks wind up in modern day New Mexico.  The film could have had more fun with this idea than it does.  I hate to be cynical, but the Viking-like getups of these Norwegians, set against a modern setting, kept reminding me of those Capital One commercials.  I half expected one of the characters to turn to the camera and say, “What’s in your wallet?”

For all of “Thor’s” special effects and 3-D the film’s best effect is the beautiful Natalie Portman. Portman plays a scientist who befriends Thor while the non-understanding U.S. government tries to lift Thor’s hammer and the story veers in the direction of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and “ET.”  Yes, Thor definitely needs to “phone home.”

So, “Thor” is an ambitious CGI (computer graphics imaging), hearing aid inducing film, with an all too familiar story.   Maybe “Thor” is more for fans of the comic book or for those less familiar with this type of story.

Thor, Director Kenneth Branagh, 2011, Paramount Pictures, 115 minutes, rated PG-13


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on May 26, 2011, in New. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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