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Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Time Event
1:16p
Thor
On Sunday the 8th, we got to see "Thor", the latest Marvel Studios adaptation of one of their comic-book properties. I'm not the huge fan of J. Michael Straczynski that some are, but I have to say I like what he and Mark Protosevich did with the storyline, as turned into a screenplay by Ashley Miller,  Zack Stentz, and Don Payne; as realized by director Kenneth Branagh. 

The adaptation of course relies heavily on the Thor comic, created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Larry Lieber, and starts off in Asgard with the impulsive Thor (Chris Hemsworth) being banished by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), until he learns some humility.  This is a result of a deadly prank played by the jealous Loki (Tom Hiddleston), that ends up going badly wrong for all concerned.

On Earth, the befuddled thunder god is picked up by scientists Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and  Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) who are investigating the strange phenomena associated with the god's transit to earth, and who at first think he's a loon they found wandering in the New Mexico desert. I liked this recasting of Jane Foster, who, in the comics as the "nurse" working for "Dr. Donald Blake," I always thought was one of the weakest of the Marvel love-interests--she never had much individual character, and existed pretty much solely to be threatened by vastly more powerful beings after Thor. (True, that's the job of most comic-book "girlfriends," but one could imagine Spider-Man's Mary Jane coshing Doc Ock or the Green Goblin if she got a chance; with villains in the league of giants, trolls, and evil gods, about all Jane got to do was cower--.)  We thought Portman did a good job in the role, nicely balancing frustration in her work with facination with the mystery man. The role of Selvig (Skarsgard) to the story as Foster's mentor/adviser was also a good one.

Hemsworth looks as much like the recent comic incarnations of Thor as an human can,and was decent in the role. The real stand-out performance was Hiddleston as Loki, who handles his part as a deeply conflicted antagonist excellently. The major roles are rounded out by Hopkin's Odin, which was a surprisingly good choice, Colm Feore as the treacherous Laufey, and Clark Gregg as "Agent Coulson", the non-super SHIELD agent who's investigating the fall of Thor's hammer in the desert. Coulson's very good as the low-keyed G-man and contrasts nicely with the flamboyant characters around him.

I liked the actors who were cast as Thor's "posse", Shieldmaiden Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three; Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Josh Dallas), and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), who are there largely to play back-up for the big man, but did a good job and looked like they were having fun with the parts. (When a SHIELD agent describes them as "Xena, Jackie Chan, and Robin Hood," the audience gave a good laugh.)

CGI gave a good rendering of "Eternal Asgard" that harked back to the Kirby-esque superscientific days of impossibly tall towers, gravity-defying buttresses, and incomprensible giant machines. I was glad to see that the credits gave thanks to some of the other important writers and artists, like Walt Simonson and Marie Severin, among others, who shaped the Thor comic over the years.

I would rate this one of the best comic book adaptations to date, with a literate and complex story that still had the "cosmic" feel to it. 

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