Thor (2011)

(In theaters, May 2011) I went into this film not understanding why it existed, and came out of it just as baffled.  Granted, I’m not a fan of the comic-book character: I don’t even recall reading an issue of the source material.  But unlike better comic-book movies, Thor has no point, no thematic depth and no reason for existing other than setting up the upcoming Avengers film.  (At best, those looking for a message will find out that it’s anti-adoption agitprop.)  As the film sets up its background in the fantasyland of Asgard, I found myself wishing that the film could go back to Earth, to Natalie Portman (as little as she has to do here) and to something I could care about.  Otherwise, it’s all pompous accents, aliens, palace intrigue and invented mythologies that (I’m guessing) teenagers will love a lot more than I do.  Am I losing the ability to care about fantasy movies?  Maybe, but it’s not as if Thor gives me any reason to care.  I’ll grant at least one thing, though: it’s got a certain visual style, and some of the Asgard sequences are pretty.  Chris Hemsworth is also very good in the title role: Few other actors could have pulled the arch dialogue and regal bearing without looking ridiculous.  Otherwise, it’s more interesting to see how the film exists in continuity with the other Marvel-universe movies, from the return appearance of a few SHIELD agents to Jeremy Renner’s cameo as Hawkeye to the now-requisite post-credit sequence.  While I wouldn’t go as far as calling Thor dull or uninvolving, it does feel like a low-expectation, low-results kind of film: the scaled-back main-street fight scene is a clear example of that.  Thor does brings back to mind the kind of underwhelming comic-book films that we used to get before filmmakers realized that they had to put some depth into it.  To say that Kevin Branagh is behind it all almost boggles the mind.

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