Quick Movie Review: Thor (2011)

I feel like a bad geek. Three pretty well regarded comic book movies came out this summer and I didn’t see any of them in theaters. Younger me would be in there opening weekend, if not at a midnight showing. Ah well, I’m a dad now, I guess that counts as a good enough excuse. Anyway, the wife and I finally got around to watching Thor the other night after the DVD sat around from Netflix for a while (bumping down to one at a time has been rough).

The movie was good. The cast was fun and interesting, but what else would you expect from a Kenneth Branagh film starring Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Natalie Portman, Ray Stevenson, Kat Dennings and Skellan Skarsgard? Even Chris Hemmsworth who I knew nothing of did a good job with the character of Thor, balancing out the brash warrior and “needing to learn a lesson about life” student.

I think what kept me from loving the movie stems from the fact that I just read and flipped through a big stack of Thor comics from the late 70s/early 80s and discovered that nearly every Thor story is the same: something big and evil happens, Thor rushes in and Loki tends to be behind it. Meanwhile, Odin’s usually being tricked or is asleep and the god of thunder deals with some small human problems that are supposed to show how good of a guy he is while also not really posing any kind of danger. I’m sure there are plenty of Thor stories that don’t follow this model, but I was surprised to see how many of them do.

So, with those in my head, I wasn’t surprised to see a movie where Loki was ultimately the bad guy, Odin sat out most of the movie and Thor wound up proving how good of a guy he can be. It was interesting watching the movie with the missus though as she’s never read anything having to do with the characters and yet she called Loki as a bad guy about 10 minutes in. It made me realize that the uninitiated would definitely go into this movie differently than the comic fans and would possibly enjoy it more, but I also thought it was interesting that it was kind of “on the page” as it was.

As far as the Marvel movie universe building goes, it was fun to see Hawkeye have his scene and the SPOILER appearance of Nick Fury and the Cosmic Cube at the end of the movie. I’m not sure what to believe when it comes to the Avengers movie, but it would be rad to see that come into play. If so, it’s pretty cool that the ante will truly be upped.

At the end of the day, I liked the movie, but thanks to my recent reading adventure was already keyed onto the story. I think, had I watched it when it came out or maybe even a few months from now, I’d dig it more. At the end of the day, it’s a solid movie with a great cast, some really fun and funny moments, maybe not as much action as the Thor movie in my mind had, but a great appearance by the Destroyer and some cool looking Frost Giant battles. Plus, watching a guy beat bad guy ass with a hammer just never gets old. Now, when do the Warriors Three and Sif get their own movie? That, I want to see.

Avengers 1963

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently unearthed my disc of Avengers comics. I lucked out a few years ago and was given this by a former colleague, but never really dug into it and looked around. Today I decided to try and get past my Silver Age bias (I generally think the stories are childish, overwritten and boring) and just dive right in. The discs are broken up by decade and then year so you can just click through and read spread scans of each comic in chronological order. The Avengers first came together in late 1963, so this will be the easiest entry in this series as there were only two issues and then the addition of 1999’s Avengers #1.5 written by Roger Stern and drawn by Bruce Timm. Of course, the first two issues were written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby. 

I will say for the most part that my bias has been at least partly correct. The stories are very over written and childish, but that’s because they were written for kids, so I can’t really hold that against them. I’m not a huge fan of Lee’s writing, but you can’t deny the man’s ability to whip up crazy ass ideas at the drop of the hat. #1 not only has Ant-Man, Wasp, Thor, Hulk and Iron Man coming together thanks to Loki altering a teen radio club transmission, but also Hulk running away and joining the circus under the guise of a robot. Wha? The robot really got me as it comes out of nowhere, but it made me smile, so mission accomplished.

Issue #1.5 is really fun as you don’t get to see Timm draw much and especially not Marvel characters. He does a sick job of combining his own familiar style with Kirby’s (especially those squared-off fingers I love so much). Plus, Doctor Doom is in it for Timm to play with. Lots of fun all around.

The second issue chronologically introduced Giant-Man into the Avengers (though Stern included him in #1.5). Instead of going up against an existing Marvel villain, the Avengers fought the Space Phantom impersonating each of them. I’ve encountered Space Phantom a time or two in my interactions with Marvel and I’ve always been fascinated by what it must be like for the people he impersonates being thrust into limbo. Heck, I’d like to write a mini story about the first guy SP sent there. Anyway, by the end of this issue, Hulk quits the team because he didn’t like how people talked about him when the Space Phantom took his place.

So, after just two real old school issues of Avengers, I’m hooked enough to keep going. I’m looking forward to actually reading the Captain America issue as well as his Kooky Quartet issues. The writing can be difficult to slog through, but anytime I notice the words are explaining the exact action being shown in the panel, I move onto the next one. A few side notes I want to mention. I love how boy-crazy the Wasp is in these issues and how over it Hank Pym is. That guy’s always been kind of a dick, hasn’t he? I also liked how Thor and Hulk argued about clothing as Thor doesn’t like Hulk walking around in purple shorts. Finally, I’m a little bummed out by Kirby’s art in these two issues. Mind you, it’s not bad, but the scripts don’t give him a lot to work with and the backgrounds are basic colors. But hey, dude was busy.  The closest we get to that crazy Kirby machinery that I know and love from books like OMAC and the Fourth World books. He’s only on the book full time until issue #8 and then does layouts for Don Heck to draw in #14-17, so I’m not sure if he’ll really get to let loose or not.

I already loved the Avengers as a team, so now I’m pretty excited to work my way through 40-odd years of their comics (though I do wish the West Coast Avengers were included just to be complete). I’m especially excited to read through the classic 70s and 80s stuff and then the really weird pre-Heroes Reborn stuff. I’m sure it won’t all be gravy, but them’s the breaks when it comes to comics.