Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Odd Combinations; or, What's a Superhero Movie Made Of?

The other movie that I watched over Thanksgiving break was Thor, a superhero movie based on the Marvel comic.  It was such an odd mishmash of people--Kenneth Branagh directed it, and Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman starred in it, with Anthony Hopkins and Rene Russo in supporting roles.  And because it's such an odd mix, it doesn't seem like it would work very well.

Now, I'm not saying that it's Shakespeare--but it sure was a lot of fun!

The movie tells the story of Thor (Hemsworth), son of Odin (Hopkins), who gets kicked out of his world and loses his magical hammer until he learns how to be worthy of it.  Natalie Portman plays an astrophysicist named Jane who is studying wormholes (they have a fancy academic-sounding name in the movie), and she sees Thor as he travels through this spatial anomaly to get to Earth.  The biggest conflict of the movie, of course, is helping Thor get his hammer back, but there are other side stories, including a disgruntled brother and some not-so-nice frost giants.

Sure, it was kind of corny.  But what sold it for me was the way that the actors were clearly having fun with it.  Hemsworth in particular looked like he was having a blast, playing a Norse god who ends up in 21st-century New Mexico.  His dialogue was hilarious--and delivered and framed in such a way that it was clearly intended to be hilarious in a ridiculous way.  And Portman got to act all giggly and googly-eyed over this guy, which she played perfectly as well.  It isn't a movie to take seriously, but since it doesn't take itself seriously, it's quite a bit of fun.

I also really enjoyed the visual effects, particularly in Thor's homeworld of Asguard.  There's a beautiful rainbow bridge, lots of stars and cool nebular effects, and beautiful buildings.  It does a lot to visually differentiate the Asguardians from regular humans--something that would otherwise be difficult, as they look pretty much the same.

I was surprised at how invested in the characters I was, and when the ending provided the perfect setup for a sequel, I found myself worrying--will this same group of actors be able to come together to make the next movie, too?  Because although it's an odd combination of people, it's a combination that clearly worked well and created a movie that was fun for both them and their viewers.