Friday, May 6, 2011

Kenneth Branagh: Conventional Crossing of the Comic Book and Celluloid (Thor)

The comic book/super hero adaptation has become a cross to bear in our culture. What was once masculine hero worship and fanboy devotion has become a ridiculous fixation on pop culture exploitation. Burton and Nolan's Batmans, Donner and Singer's Supermans, Raimi's Spider Mans and Singer's X-Mens wowed us visually while touching something resonant in our minds and hearts. The recent exhumation of every caped curmudgeon is growing old. Like any picture, visuals aren't enough to hold up a movie-a strong script and inspired direction are mandatory for any project to work.

So comes the thud of Marvel's Thor, a great comic transposed to the screen like skidmarked knickers aired out to dry. The over the top use of CGI is not suroprising, and while some of the commotion is diverting, none of it is breathtaking. The screenplay is limp and lazy, Chris Hemsworth uninteresting in the title role, and Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard and Renee Russo all wasted in paper thin roles. The transition from sombre, FX heavy world of the Gods to plainsville USA where the pratfalls are played up is jarring and annoying. There is no emotion, no great stake, about why we should care. Neither is there joy de vivre in the dudsy workmanlike production.

So from what began as a generic screenplay dominoed into an uneasy fit as director for the wonderfully gifted Kenneth Branagh. The greatest Shakespearean actor of our time, also an underrated cinematic powerhouse, Branagh is an ill fit for this type of film. You can see how he would be attracted to the Shakespearean elements of Thor's origin story, but the parts don't make a whole. The uneven result of the proceedings is unabetted tedium.

So here's hoping that this ineffectual bore of bombast does get eaten up by the explosion hungry masses in order to fund the real Branagh film.

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