Friday, June 15, 2012
People like to praise certain blockbusters as old fashioned, and while there's not a specific definition for this type of film, it usually implies a traditional storyline, rollicking action, well-built characters, and often a moral core. Thor, arguably the hardest sell in the Marvel franchise, takes it a step further with its old school agenda, and I don't just mean director Kenneth Branagh's infusion of Shakespearian themes. Instead, examine the way this film is structured. It opens with a 30 minute introduction of Thor's world, Asgard, and the conflict with another planet occupied by dangerous frost giants. Rather than saving its epic battle sequence for the end, Thor reverses things and does it at the beginning. Not to go into the details, except to say that Thor dishonors his father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and is banished to earth. This hammer-wielding Herculean hero is loud, vain, and charming, and he's essentially on earth to learn a lesson of humility. The film balances scenes on earth with those in Asgard, where Thor's duplicitous half-brother Loki is unfolding his elaborate scheme to gain recognition. The old fashioned sensibility lies in this structure. We have a hero who must learn his lesson and his brother who is using this opportunity to gain power. They are on a collision course towards each other, one that is crucial for the storyline in the proceeding Avengers tale. The old fashioned innocence of Thor also lies in the fact that Branagh does not feel the need to wow the audience with an enormous, action-packed conclusion. He literally seems bored with a giant robot sent to earth by Loki. He then wraps things up nicely with a big yet brief clash between Thor and Loki filled with bright special effects that would be right at home in an 80s action film. This film doesn't follow rules that I feel guys like Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich have made requisite for action movies these days. Thor himself may not be the mightiest superhero, but his tale is more than welcome in an age where telling a story has been lost in the shuffle of technological distractions.