Saturday, April 30, 2011

Superhero Movies

I've just been to see the new Thor movie, in (yet fucking again) 3D. And this after reading a review of the same film from one of my dearest friends, over here: Woland's Cat Reviews Thor.

It's not a good review. And viewed in one light, I can't really blame him. He's right when he observes that it's hard to get worked up when you know the main characters are fundamentally indestructible. And yeah, there's a lot of silly physics wedged into the storyline to explain the silly comicbook mythology of Marvel.

On the other hand -- it's a bloody superhero movie, innit? If you didn't go along expecting capes and CGI, lots of crashy, boomy fight sequences, trashing of scenery and improbable plotlines, what the hell were you doing there in the first place?

I can explain easily why I was there: I have two boys who love comics. And since Genghis had his weekly bass lesson at 1000, and the session for Thor began at 1045, it was easy to make the connection. I packed the Mau-Mau in the car as well, to give Natalie the morning on her own, and I even arranged for a couple of lasses from the ju-jitsu class (who are also comic junkies) to come along. Made for a nice trip all round, really.

And what did I get? Well, I got to see Natalie's new handmade violin. Genghis gets his lessons from a luthier who is himself a bassplayer, and the man in question is slowly, painstakingly, handcrafting a fiddle for Nat. Today it was fully assembled, though not yet varnished -- and honestly, the tone was amazing: rich and full. The instrument produces a huge sound, yet the tones are clean and pure. Once it's all done, it's going to sound fantastic. As it should... not a cheap toy at all. On the other hand, by selling off all the other fiddles that have come to a halt in our house over the last five years, Natalie has almost filled the bill already. And the sound of this new beast is so astonishingly good -- I had no idea the difference would be so great!

I also picked up a bunch of dark chocolate coated macadaemia nuts from the Coco Bean, as an anniversary present. Because yes, today Nat and I have been married for seventeen years. How the hell did that happen? I'm damned if I know.

They're good mac nuts. And I couldn't do a whole lot else: she's on call for obstetrics this weekend. That's how it goes.

The movie? Oh, well. Actually, it was pretty credible. It looked great, of course. And with Ken Branagh directing, what could easily have been a leaden-footed mass of posturing exposition actually moved along reasonably well. Of course it's all basically an origin story, a setup for forthcoming sequels and for the planned 'Avengers' flicks - but it didn't do too badly.

I was particularly impressed by the dialogue from Thor and the Asgardians in general. In the old Marvel comics, the characters speak in hyperdramatic bad Elizabethan, full of "thee" and "thou" and "thy" and hammy images. In the film, the language was -- just formal enough to be impressive, just off-kilter enough to be suggestive of an older form, and still quite clear. Nice work.

Thor's fighting technique was another pleasant surprise. Whoever blocked out the fight sequences understood that the character is meant to be tremendously powerful: he came across as a very direct fighter with a few canny moves, but mainly reliant on speed, strength, endurance, and a fuck-off big hammer in one hand. Anybody else remember the Spiderman stuff from way way back -- Nicholad Hammond, I think? They made that Spiderman a kind of kung fu fighter, which was just bloody stupid. It would have been easy to give Hemworth a different fighting style - one more appropriate to an armored medieval warrior. But someone understood, and allowed the combat to help build the character.

Would I see it again? Nahh. I bloody hate 3D. An hour or two in those goddam Buddy Holly glasses, and my eyes are red, weeping pissholes. The movie's not worth it. But we'll pick it up on DVD, and I'll probably sit through it again with the kids.

Hemworth did well. He had the right combination of cockiness and gravitas. He could possibly go on to be a real player. And the man doing Loki was effective in his role too. Natalie Portman was... wasted, really, as Jane Foster, Thor's Earthside squeeze. But hell, it's a paycheque, and she played her part as effectively as always. Anthony Hopkins was a natural as Odin - fair casting there, and points to Branagh for getting Hopkins into a comicbook flick.

We rounded the day off with a bite of lunch, and a trip to the secondhand bookstore. Then we came home, and the girls went back to their family while I sat down with mine. Played a fine game of Scrabble with Nat and Jake... and now everybody's in bed, so it's to work, to work for me.