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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Anyone else seen this yet? I went and had a look this afternoon through the 3D goggles conveniently provided with my ticket. I give it, um, about three out of five stars. It was a lot of fun, with some nice humorous moments, and it certainly looked good. Asgard was visually impressive; Loki was suitably badass as the main villain; the human characters (Jane Foster et al.); were likeable; and Anthony Hopkins made a convincing Odin. Most of the characters, especially the big three of Thor, Odin, and Loki, looked pretty much as I'd have imagined them. I was perfectly happy with Heimdall's skin colour - Asgardians seem to differ among themselves quite a bit in such characteristics, especially since we were given a clearly Asiatic Hogun the Grim. It's a pity that there's been some apparently racist backlash about Heimdall's portrayal by Idris Elba.

On the other hand, the character development was pretty thin and unconvincing even for a superhero movie: the idea that Thor learned to be less arrogant and headstrong so quickly was more told to us than really shown.

Oh, and the Destroyer proved to be a disappointingly incompetent secondary villain, despite appearing intimidating in the trailer. As all fans of the franchise know, the Destroyer should be more than Thor's match in raw power and weaponry - in the comics it once even destroyed Mjolnir with its disintegrator ray. When confronted by it, Thor should be forced to do something, y'know, heroic: something that takes him beyond himself or that requires real resourcefulness. In this version ... well, not so much.

Of course, see below, the movies can create their own continuity, but even without any background knowledge I think I would have found the Destroyer a tad disappointing, in my role as a general aficianado of supervillainry - especially after it gets a big build up.

If you do go and see Thor, remember to stay until the credits are over for a final scene that puts things in a somewhat new light.

Anyway, I also saw the X-Men: First Class trailer. I've watched this before, on YouTube, like most of the rest of the world, but I've gotta say that it looks even better on the big screen. I'm looking forward to seeing the whole thing in a few weeks' time. This movie absolutely plays hell with the continuity of the comics, but I don't really care about that: movies and movie series can have their own separate continuities as long as they do something interesting with the characters and mythos that they're based on. In that respect, an X-Men movie set back in the early 1960s - at the time when the team was actually created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby - should have a lot of possibilities. And I'm not the first to say it ... but it looks at the moment as if Michael Fassbender is going to steal the show.


mathewvaridel87 said...

Seen it. I give it 3.5/5.

I thought the fight scenes were fantastic. There are a lot of action movies where the director just makes the scene look like mayhem and you don't know what's going on. Or it's too coordinated and basic so that it's uninteresting (I thought some of the scenes in Iron Man 2 was like that). This had a great balance and a really good pace. I got into it.

Some of the shots of Asgard are visually stunning as well.

Personally, I found the dialogue the hardest to get through. I know one-lines are going to happen in action and comic book movies but I thought this had consistently cliched dialogue. I found myself cringing a lot.

With that said, I had a good time.

I'd note that I have never read anything by Marvel but I've recently (with Thor giving me a helpful nudge) decided to pick up some of the Ultimate X-Men and The Ultimates to see if I'll enjoy them. Waiting for them to be delivered.

Jason Streitfeld said...

I had no background knowledge, didn't see the trailers, and so had no expectations at all about the Destroyer, and I was not disappointed by how it was handled.

I agree about the character development being sometimes thin and unconvincing. But I think I still liked this more than you, and it's probably because of our different expectations.

I used to give stars to films, but now I don't like doing that so much. But if I had to, I might give Thor four out of five. Maybe a second viewing will bring it down half a star (I can't imagine giving it more), but for now I'm comfortable giving it four. I've written a spoiler-free review, too.

Anonymous said...

So you're OK with Olivier doing Othello in blackface?

Just asking.

Shatterface said...

I enjoyed Thor on the whole, though it reminded me of the He Man and the Masters of the Universe movie at times.

Tom Hiddleston was outstanding as Loki. I can't wait to see him again in The Avengers.

Russell Blackford said...

Mathew,this is also a good time to have a look at the main X-Men continuity. A new writer (Kieron Gillen) has just taken over on Uncanny X-Men, the core book, and there's a good jumping on point if you can get hold of his first three issues: 534.1, 535, and 536, all of which came out in a flurry in April.

Gillen's opening story arc will conclude with issues 537 (this month) and 538, so it's possible to get a sample that is pretty self-contained and self-explanatory to see how the continuity looks and works these days, with the expanded X-Men nation (which includes some of the supervillains) now based on an island off the coast of San Francisco.

mathewvaridel87 said...

I see that they're doing this point one initiative for a lot of the long running comic book series. Looks like a good time to jump on. Thanks, Russell.

ColinGavaghan said...

Plus points:

1. Hemsworth looked the part, so much so that my good lady almost forgave them for not casting True Blood's Alexander Skarsgård in the role.

2. His namesake, Stellan Skarsgård, was good as (oddly enough, another) Erik. In fact, I thought his relationship with Thor deserved more screen time. The scientist who grew up with the old folk tales, being confronted with the real Thor, was a more interesting dramatic device than just another love interest.

3. Tom Hiddleston's Loki was fine; sympathetic enough to be a plausible deceiver.

4. The fight scenes were indeed well choreographed & shot.

5. The Destroyer looked exactly right, as did the hi-tech Rainbow Bridge & King Laufey.

A few down sides from my PoV:

1. As Russell says, Thor's transition from an egotistical hot-head to a hero willing to lay down his life for his friends happened ridiculously quickly, without any real explanation. I know it's hard to do character development in a 2-hour superhero movie, but it is possible up to a point (q.v. Spiderman, Wolverine in the first X-Men, even Ed Norton's Bruce Banner)

1a. And given that he was such an egotistical hothead, why was the all-wise Odin all set to hand him the crown - well, staff - of Asgard anyway?

2. He fell in love with Natalie Portman implausibly quickly. (Actually, no, scratch that, I suppose any of us could do so ...)

2a. And Sif wasn't bothered? Ok, fair enough, the retconned Sif is less of a lovesick puppy, maybe that's no bad thing.

3. The Warriors 3 were really a bit rubbish. Apart from a throwaway line about Volstagg's gluttony, they weren't fleshed out in any way. And they just looked sort of ... lame.

4. Looking for the southern aurora in New Mexico? Really??

Max More said...

I would give Thor somewhere between a 3.0 and 3.5 out of 5. I agree with most of your comments (and those of other comment writers). However, I don't understand why you say that those who complain about a black Heimdall are racist. True, Idris Elba was superb in the part (whereas the Asian Hogun was only so-so). Despite being superb, the choice to cast a black man for a north European race of Gods is just silly. If someone were to cast a white actor as an African god, I'd have the same problem.

Although I agree with you that Thor beat the Destroyer way too easily, I still enjoyed the Gort-like force -- the sound of his annihilation beam was a perfect, scouring, searing sound.

I love Natalie Portman, but found her Jane Foster flat and surprisingly uninteresting.

Was worried that Asgard would look cheesy, but it came across pretty well (could have been done with better graphics though). Anthony Hopkins wasn't enough of an all-father asshole for my liking, but was okay. Hiddleston as Loki I liked.

Yes, things happened very implausibly too fast, like Thor falling in love with Jane, and Thor's ultra-fast redemption.

Overall, a lot of fun. Yes, the X-Men First Class trailer looks promising. I'm just worried that Captain America will disappoint. I was never a huge CA fan, but have come to like the character very much over the last few years (going back to Mark Waid's run on the character).

Atheists Assemble! (Is that right?)

Russell Blackford said...

Max, I can see why someone might say that it's illogical for the Asgardians to be "racially" diverse - and that they should all look Norse. But it's not as if there's no in-universe reason why that might not be so - Asgard within the diegesis isn't really that much like Viking-era Scandinavia.

And when people start campaigning to boycott the film over this issue it starts to look like more than a theoretical point to do with the purity of Stan Lee/Jack Kirby's vision of things in the 1960s ...

I mean, it's not like two X-Men fans arguing over whether Rogue should not should not love Gambit more than Magneto... (I'm rooting for Magneto, but that's just me).