Thor Movie Review: By Odin’s Beard, T’is a Thor-ough Treat!

If you are reading this, then you’re probably a big Thor fan like me. The God of Thunder has hit Philippine cinemas straight from the pages of Marvel Comics. I am an avid follower of Thor for various reasons. But primarily, my fondness for this character is rooted from the fact that I really enjoy reading Norse Mythology in all its forms. Besides, unlike other favorite comics superheroes, the Thunder God’s story is the only one oozing with godly essence. Here’s my take on this year’s Thor movie, directed by Kenneth Branagh with screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stenz, and Don Payne and based on the comics story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich.

Thor Movie (2011)

I Hate Spoilers, But Thor Told Me to Write Anyway

If you’re not familiar with Marvel Comics’ resident superhero god, here’s the rundown.For centuries, the realm of Asgard – led by the All-Father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) – had waged war against their sworn enemy, the Frost Giants. These monstrous walking popsicles, led by Laufey, wanted to conquer all of the nine realms under the World Tree, also called Yggdrasil. Finally, in 970 A.D., a big battle between the Asgardians and the Frost Giants ensued. Needless to say, the Asgardians (also called Aesir) won the day. As a trophy, Odin seized the Casket of Ancient Winters which provided the power (think of it as the freezer coolant) to the Frost Giants.

Fast forward to the present, all of Asgard was about to witness the ascension of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as successor to Odin. But this most glorious of days was interrupted by a small band of Frost Giants who had deviously entered the city of the gods to retrieve the Casket. And they almost succeeded in obtaining their target had they not been fried to bits by the Destroyer, an indestructible suit of armor created by Odin himself and intended to be the last line of defense of Asgard.

After the dust had settled, the young arrogant Thunder God wanted to know why and how those Frost Giants were able to sneak into the weapons hall of Asgard. Thor proposed an attack on Jotunheim (home world of the Frost Giants) to show the frosties who’s the boss in all the Nine Realms. But Odin ordered Thor to do no such thing as it could ruin the current truce between Asgard and Jotunheim.

Thor stubbornly disobeyed his father’s orders and went to Jotunheim anyway, accompanied by Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Joshua Dallas), and Loki (Tom Hiddleston). In Jotunheim, Thor’s party engaged the Frost Giants in a skirmish, which quickly snowballed into a full-blown battle involving six Asgardians against hordes of frost giants. Armed with his hammer Mjolnir, Thor is simply unbeatable. In the last minute, Odin arrived mounted on his eight-legged steed called Sleipnirthe. The All-Father stopped the fight, brought Thor and his company back to Asgard, and ultimately banished Thor to Midgard – that’s Earth. And that, my friends, is where the Thunder God’s – and Earth’s – troubles have begun.

The Bottom Line

The essence of the story is Thor’s human element. Here’s an arrogant, selfish, vain god cast down to Midgard by his own father Odin who wanted to teach his boy a lesson or two. In short, even gods need some spanking. One isn’t born into whatever he wants to do in life. Oftentimes, we have to lift our own hammers and fight for what we believe is ours for the taking – just watch out for government guys and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents!

I must admit, Thor movie has exceeded my expectations. For the past few months, I was worried that my favorite comicbook character’s jump on the big screen will be the cause of his downfall. Also, it didn’t help me a bit to know that director Kenneth Branagh, while he is a great great actor (remember Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), is best known for his directorial works that focus mainly on Shakespearean plays.

Sure, the way that Asgardians talk to each other would have big similarities to many of the characters in William Shakespeare’s theater pieces, but we’re talking Norse legends here not some cross-eyed lovers or English kings. But after watching Thor movie, I take it all back. All my doubts about Kenneth Branagh’s ability to bring to life one of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Universe are all without substance.

The film was able to seamlessly combine the worlds of gods and mortals into one kickass story. Sir Anthony Hopkins as the All-Father Odin is just phenomenal. Even Hollywood newcomer Chris Hemsworth truly embodies the physical features of the Thunder God and was exceptionally extraordinary as Thor. The supporting cast also delivered. As for Loki, it would seem that Tom Hiddleston was conjured by the gods themselves to play the role. He’s just so convincing.

In terms of visual effects, Thor movie also got everything right. The rendering of the Bifrost bridge was just plain awesome. Plus, the Destroyer armor is truly alive. Costume design is also very impressive. Overall, avid fans will find an instant sense of endearment to this Thor movie adaptation.

On the downside, I think Volstagg was not as huge as he should have been. And I still prefer Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as nurse or medical doctor rather than an astrophysicist. Also, I can’t help but ask where Balder and Tyr are? Perhaps, we’ll see these characters in the sequel. Yes, shameless as it is, Thor is one of those flicks that I would love to have a sequel.

Battle: Los Angeles – Kickass Man-versus-Aliens Flick (Just Don’t Mind the Cliché Parts)

Battle: Los Angeles is an alien science fiction war movie that has got grimy US Marines, extraterrestrial cephalopods, alien technology, burning buildings, zapped freeways, and all of endangered humanity mixed in one big entertaining pot. It’s basically Starship Troopers meets Black Hawk Down meets District 9. I’d also add that this film reminds me a lot of Top Gun, only this time the poster boys are not from the Navy, but rather from the Marine Corps. I just can’t imagine what more can a sci-fi action movie junkie ask for. Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Darkness Falls and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), the film is the perfect capper to a busy week – if you love sci-fi action stuff.

Aaron Eckhart as Ssgt. Nantz

Just a Bit of a Spoiler Part

The movie starts off with news footage and documentaries about early and recent UFO sightings from all over the planet. Finally, on August 2011, a formation of what looked like meteors is seen approaching Earth’s atmosphere. While all this is happening, the elements assigned to Camp Pendleton (the primary Marine Corps Base in Southern California) are busy going about their daily routines like running, smelling the flowers in the shop, playing golf in the dead of the night, and getting drunk on the golf course.

Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (played by Aaron Eckhart) is among these fine Marines. But as a veteran who’s hounded by a traumatic experience where he lost many men in his company during his last tour, he feels that he’s no longer an effective member of the corps. Besides, his age is an indication that he has become too old for his career (as implied by younger Marines leaving him behind during a morning run). Reluctantly, his immediate superior approves his early discharge.

Unfortunately for Ssgt. Nantz, the UFO sightings turn out to be an alien invasion and it is happening on the same day that his discharge from the service is approved. As a veteran Marine, he’s called back to service even before he can take off his uniform. Ssgt. Nantz is assigned to a new squad headed by a young lieutenant fresh from officer school. The staff sergeant has to fight not only to save Los Angeles from the aliens, but also to redeem his honor in the eyes of the young Marines under him who all have learned about his disastrous past.

After scouring part of Los Angeles to look for civilian survivors, Ssgt. Nantz’ squad are holed up in a police station where their extraction by helicopter has been set. Here, they find survivors Joe Rincon (Michael Peña), his son, a little girl, and a veterinarian named Michelle (Bridget Moynahan). US Air Force Technical Sergeant Elena Santos (Michelle Rodriguez) plus two or three others from her team also arrives in the scene and ultimately joins the Marine squad in the fight.

Bottom Line

Critics say that Battle: Los Angeles is an overused mankind-versus-aliens formula. You know, humans coming in as underdogs with primitive technology but eventually defeating the alien invaders on the very last minute. Some also criticize the shaky close-quarter shots that bring to mind reality TV or YouTube style of filming. There are parts where even I can’t help but imagine the cameraman busy scratching his nose rather than focusing on the scenes. But most viewers tend to disagree with what critics have to say. The film debuted with gross ticket sales of $13.4 million and it presently holds the highest opening-day record for 2011.

If you can get over the cliché part, I’d dare say that this alien science fiction war movie is a gripping tale about humanity’s survival. Battle: Los Angeles really entertains. You do not have to waste precious brain neurons just to enjoy this movie, yet you won’t feel ripped off after it’s over. The action scenes and big explosions pop right off the screen and I don’t remember a part where the story gets bogged down by blah-blah-blahs – except when Ssgt. Nantz was giving his rallying speech to his remaining Marines, particularly to a teary-eyed Corporal Jason Lockett (Cory Hardrict) whose brother was among those killed during Ssgt. Nantz’ previous deployment. Overall, this is old-fashioned straightforward alien science fiction war movie with lots and lots of action in it. ‘Nuff said, just go get a ticket and a bucket of popcorn.

Green Lantern Movie Trailer Launched

Green Lantern movie trailer debuted this week and marks the coming out party for the Emerald Warriors on the big screen. Ryan Reynolds plays the role of Hal Jordan, a test pilot who would later on become Green Lantern, with jurisdiction mainly in and around Space Sector 2814 (where Earth belongs). Hal Jordan received his power ring from an ill-fated alien Green Lantern named Abin Sur, whose spaceship crash landed on Earth. Green Lantern is based on a comic book published by DC Comics.

Entertainment Tonight aired the official first showing of the Green Lantern movie trailer. Fans can view the official trailer on iTunes Movie Trailers.

Apart from Hal Jordan, other favorite Green Lanterns who will make their first appearances include Sinestro (played by Mark Strong), Kilowog, and Tomar-Re. It would appear that the first scenes of the movie involving the transformation of Hal Jordan into the Green Lantern share strong similarities with the 2009 full-length animated feature film Green Lantern: First Flight. But any comparison between the two stops at Hal Jordan receiving his power ring from the dying Abin Sur. For one, the movie’s main scoundrel who receives the business end of the Emerald Warrior’s fist or boot is Hector Hammond (played by Peter Sarsgaard).

The Green Lantern movie is directed by Martin Campbell, who also directed the Mask of Zorro and Casino Royale. Starting Wednesday this week, movie theaters will show the Green Lantern Movie trailer right before the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I preview, also distributed by Warner Bros.