Vikings and comic book nerds rejoice today, because Marvel Studios' Thor finally hits movie theaters, bringing hammer time to the masses. I swear that's the only hammer time joke I'll make in this article. I can only imagine that during the production of this movie, executives met at some point and batted around the idea to license MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" and put some sort of funky techno version over the end credits. Thankfully, that didn't happen.
What did happen was that Kenneth Branagh made a pretty damned good Thor film, which I have to admit was a bit of a shock. He hadn't directed a film since 2007's remake of Sleuth (which was awful), and then before that was a long string of adaptations of Shakespeare's plays peppered only with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (again, awful) and Dead Again (one of the best modern day murder mystery films ever made). So who would have looked at this guy and said "Yes. He's perfect for Thor." My guess is nearly no one.
Luckily, Hollywood doesn't listen to me, and despite my negative expectations, the movie is a lot more than I expected. They've crammed a lot of Asgard in there, including Sif and the warriors three, tossed in plenty of nods to Thor's history (including his old alter ego), and you've all seen the Destroyer in the trailers. Even the mechanics of Mjolnir, Thor's hammer, are exactly what you'd want to carry over from the comic books. There's a very satisfying metal CLANK every time he pounds someone with that thing. You'll come out of the movie wanting your very own hammer, even if it's made out of cheap plastic.
They managed to pull this off, despite the fact that Thor isn't even Thor for most of the movie. He's stripped of his powers and exiled to Earth, and that's where most of the character development happens. Although there are multiple jumps back to Asgard to see what Loki is up to, this is Thor's film, and it's nice to see a film not think that their spandexed hero needs to be bouncing across the screen every five minutes. Which isn't to say that there's not action when he's not in Thor form. There's plenty of comic book action throughout, just not of the "BAM BIFF KAPOW!" variety.
If you're planning on seeing a movie this weekend, I highly recommend Thor. There's a Chris Hemsworth shirt off scene that leaves will have all of the ladies in the theater, and some of the men, swooning or at least wishing they worked out more. It's one of Marvel's better films that doesn't have "Spider" in the title, and definitely trumps Iron Man 2. If only they'd paid more attention to the Silver Surfer in the second Fantastic Four movie, and at least given us one "FOR MINE IS THE POWER COSMIC!" line.
So, let's check the Summer Superhero Scorecard and see how we're doing. We'll be checking back in throughout the summer to get some final grades, but right now here's how things stack up.
THOR: Solid A. Enjoyable flick with a bit too many nods at the upcoming The Avengers movie. Heavy SHIELD presence, a cameo by another Avenger, and a scene after the credits are a bit too "wink wink" at the camera pull this down from an A+, and it wouldn't have hurt to have meatier roles for Sif and the warriors three. Oh, and Rene Russo is a bit wasted as Thor's mom.
GREEN LANTERN: Prediction - B. Early looks at this put it solidly in the "meh" department, but recent footage from WonderCon and a new trailer have elevated its status considerably. Hell, they put the entire Green Lantern Corps and Oa in here, which I never thought you'd do for a first Lantern film and that's commendable. Green Lantern toy rings are going to be all the rage this summer.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS: Prediction - A-. The early screenshots, images, and casting notices that kept coming out for this film were all of the WTF variety. But then a trailer was released that showed some powerful acting between McAvoy and Fassbender as Xavier and Magneto, and that began convincing people across the internets that this might not be a bad thing.
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER: Prediction - B+. Captain America is one of the most identifiable comic book characters behind icons like Superman and Batman. His iconic stars and stripes outfit and that round shield are embedded in the minds of comic fanboys and fangirls everywhere, and that's why I feel like this film will fall just short of the mark. At least they're heavy on the WWII origin story, which might be the saving grace. But you know eventually he'll be frozen in ice and turn up in The Avengers.
AND THE WINNER IS…. THE INCREDIBLES: Extreme A+. Despite all of the big names, the expensive CGI, and the high profile DC and Marvel films coming out this summer, The Incredibles just can't be beat. It just came out on Blu-ray where it looks extremely stellar, and the set it packed with incredible (pun intended) extras. Put this on a screen somewhere, and everyone will stop what they're doing and watch. But as sharp as the picture is, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 ES surround sound will be what blows people away from this set. I caught some audio nuances in here that I completely missed in the theater the first time around.
The set carries over all of the previous DVD extras, but also adds a lot of new stuff. Two commentaries are included, one from director Brad Bird and producer John Walker, which is the most impressive as they break down the characters and genesis of the project, and another one from a group of Pixar animators, which is also fun and informative … and makes you want to work there. There's also a very nice HD featurette called "The Incredibles Revisited," which reassembles the core team and has them reflecting on what it took to bring this movie to life. Sadly it's only 22 minutes long, but it's the best extra in the eight hours of included material of the entire set, and it's just impossible not to love Brad Bird and his enthusiasm here. Pick this up and realize just how high the bar has been set for what a superhero movie should be. Then remember that Disney bought Marvel. So what does the future hold?