The Best Movie Critic + Thor

Point/Counterpoint: Thor

Hi guys, Ben here. We’re going to try something a little different today on the Movie Advocate. After seeing Thor last weekend, Justin and I decided that our points of view on the movie were different enough that it might be more fun to give you some hot writer-on-writer action rather than two boring ol’ traditional reviews. Let us know if you enjoy the format, and we can definitely do this again in the future.

Ben: I’d like to start by just start by discussing our overall takes on the movie. What your expectations were, and how well you thought the movie delivered.

Justin: Overall I liked Thor quite a bit. As a big fan of the comics, I thought that Branagh and company did a fantastic job capturing the spirit of Thor. Let me also just say that I am shocked that the powers that be actually made a 150 million dollar Thor movie. Maybe it wasn't entirely perfect, but I honestly think this is about the best Thor movie that could have been made without completely alienating everyone but the most hardcore of Thor fans. I also think that there's a lot to like for people who are just getting their first taste of Thor. The action scenes were exciting, Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman have good chemistry, and it's different enough from other superhero movies that it feels fresh.
Ben: You’re definitely the more comic book literate of the two of us by a mile. I went into Thor having 0% prior experience with the character, and more than a little skeptical about how a Norse god would fit into the worldly street smart vibe of the movie universe Marvel has cultivated in the lead up to next years Avengers movie. What’s interesting is that while I think the Thor mythology, back story, and all the Asgard stuff ended up shoehorned very uncomfortably into the Marvel movie universe, I can already see how the Thor character himself might be used really effectively as straight man foil to Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark. Thor as played by Chris Hemsworth will make a great second stringer in Avengers, where he doesn’t need a story arc for the movie to succeed.

I have mixed feelings about Thor as a stand alone movie, though. I’m really surprised to read some internet critics who think that Thor will be compelling to comic book fans and non-comic book fans alike. The contrast between Asgard’s high fantasy, Lord of the Rings Jr. vibe and the wise-cracking, culture savvy, self aware earthbound characters was jarring in the movie’s first hour. Thor’s scope is dangerously broad, but in a weird way, the movie felt really small. If you think about it, almost every scene in the movie takes place in one of five locations: 2 on earth, 2 in Asgard, and one on the frost giant planet. So even though Thor's story spans the galaxy, it feels a lot cheaper than, say, the Iron Man movies, which have a great sense of tempo and scale. I’m going to completely contradict myself, however. I thought Branagh finally figured out how to balance these disparate elements in the movie’s final half hour. That’s when things start moving really quick, and oddly where most of the movie’s fish out of water jokes show up. When Thor’s buddies, the Warriors Three, show up in New Mexico, the movie lets its freak flag fly a little more. That, coupled with the fact that I really appreciate that we live in a world where a multi-million dollar Hollywood blockbuster features something called a Rainbow Bridge as one of it’s major locations and plot mechanisms, makes Thor kind of a win in my book too. Barely. It’s a schlockfest, and the movies endless canted angle shots drove me f’ing crazy. But I really love that Rainbow Bridge.

Justin: We're definitely in agreement about the overuse of canted angles. They almost made the movie feel like The Real World: Asgard. I didn't find the differences between the Asgard and Earth scenes to be as jarring as you did. To be fair though, that's my favorite thing about the Thor mythos. I love that Thor adventures can happen in Asgard, on Earth, or in space. I think it helped that the screenwriters were able to make the through line fairly easy to follow. It's not like the parts on Earth were totally separate from the parts on Asgard, it was easy (for me, at least) to buy as a single story. I'm glad that the Warriors Three were handled as well as they were. My one minor compliant there is that Volstagg should have been fatter. I'm glad you liked the rainbow bridge. I definitely would have preferred if it was like they literally walked across a rainbow like in the comic, but I'm not sure that would fly for the majority of the audience.
What impressed me the most though was how well the tone was nailed in this movie. It definitely felt like this was the same universe as Iron Man. I'm so incredibly grateful that the studio didn't decided to do a grim and gritty Thor. That would have been a complete nightmare. Iron Man is still the Marvel movie to beat, but I felt this was a comfortable second to that. I did like Thor much better than Iron Man 2.

Ben: Ooooo, I don’t know about that. I’m a bit of an Iron Man 2 apologist in general, but I think that movie has the edge on Thor just on Robert Downy Jr.’s smarm-charm alone. I wonder what a Thor movie that didn’t have to tie in to the Avengers movie would have looked like. That’s kind of a catch-22, as they probably wouldn’t have ever made a Thor movie if it weren’t for Avengers, but if there wasn’t any need to make Thor believable in the same universe as Iron Man I think they could have gone a lot freakier with the whole thing. The best parts of Thor almost had the manic sugar-high fun and borderline irreverence of something like the Wachowskis' Speed Racer movie. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that I think I would have enjoyed a funnier, freakier Thor movie. Thor isn’t dark and he isn’t very compelling, but he is weird. I wish they could have exploited that more in the movie. Then again, my ideal Thor movie probably would have made about as much money as Speed Racer, so…

Justin: ... so back to my point that Marvel made the best Thor movie that they could have made. Don't get me wrong, my ideal Thor movie would probably be the Beta Ray Bill arc that kicked off Walt Simonson's run on the comic - but I can't see that ever happening EVER. What we have isn't exactly what I'd call lowest common denominator Thor. That would be a discredit to how good this movie actually is. What we've got is a very solid summer movie that is accessible and worth seeing. Out of the group that we went to the theater with, I think I enjoyed it the most. And I think my opinion of it has actually grown in reflecting on it. I don't think anyone was expecting Thor to do gangbusters at the box office. It did pretty well opening weekend and seems to have a lot of good will. I'm guessing that we'll probably be able to see Thor in the theater through June and maybe even July. I didn't have huge expectations going into Thor. I thought that at best it would be about what we got. At worst, I thought this would be a mind-blowing failure. Like the superhero equivalent of Heaven's Gate or The Cotton Club. My hope is that now that the origin business is out of the way that the next Thor movie will be unbelievably amazing. After all, superhero movie sequels are usually (with the exception of Iron Man 2) better than the originals.

Ben: I suppose my concluding thought about Thor is a reiteration of my amazement that this movie exists at all. The Marvel comic movies have been working toward The Avengers since Iron Man. However, one of the biggest issues with The Avengers is how in hell you sell Thor as a character that would exist in this universe. Unlike Hawkeye, Ant Man, etc. you can’t just give Thor a quick 3-minute back story at the beginning of the Avengers movie. It would be laughable. But no studio in their right mind would have ever pushed a Marvel Thor movie through production if it weren’t for the planned Avengers flick. So what you end up with is a multi-million dollar sci-fi epic that exists only because it sets up a character for a different multi-million dollar blockbuster that doesn’t even exist yet. It’s a strange world we live in.

Justin: Oroborus though it may be, Thor is fun. I'm honestly not sure how it would be possible to not have just a little bit of fun watching Thor. Even if you hate it, there's still a lot of ridiculous nonsense to look at and enjoy. I had a great Thor time and enjoyed it on the most sincere of levels. You're either going to have as good of a time as I did watching Thor, or you're going to have a good time making fun of it. Get thee to the mead hall first though.
Verily bitches.

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Point/Counterpoint: Thor + Thor