The electric Norseman

When I was a kid, all I knew about Thor was he had long blond hair and big muscles and he carried a huge hammer and he was a god. My fantasy life took over from there. To be honest, I had just as big a crush on his  nemesis, brother Loki, whose horns and lackadaisical villainy were seductive.

Those roles are almost reversed in Thor, the new live action film that kicks off the summer movie season. One look at bearded, impossibly over-muscled Aussie Chris Hemsworth as Thor and you’ll believe in at least one god.

Some mythologies are inherently more receptive to cinematic expression than others, and it was a stroke of genius to hire Kenneth Branagh to direct this. He gives the story a Shakespearean scope, with Loki playing Iago to Thor’s Othello. He also knows something of character development, humanizing Loki and making the bigger-than-life characters relatable.

There are some slow parts, and the opening is a visual muddle that doesn’t benefit from the 3-D add-on, especially when the special effects themselves are so impressive. The penultimate battle, with a hulking robot called The Destroyer, has a primal urgency that sneaks up on you. And the art direction is a glorious fantasia of otherworldly grandeur. It’s almost as pretty to look at as Thor himself. Almost.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Opens today in wide release.
Three stars

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Movie Monday: ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ in wide release

‘Adjustment Bureau’ portrays God as bureaucrat. That’s its best quality

At the risk of being accused of picking nits, the first thing among the many that bothers me about The Adjustment Bureau is that a key plot point involves a former congressman and current Wall Street big-wig traveling through New York City by bus. Now, in a movie that deals with angels, fate and magic doors, the details of transportation may seem miniscule, but that’s the problem: If you want me to buy the big stuff, you have to convince me in the details. There’s a reason monkeys pick nits out of their fur: They are annoying.

So is, ultimately, The Adjustment Bureau. As a movie, it’s neither fish nor fowl: Does it want to be a chick flick, about how a romance between an ambitious politician (Matt Damon) and a free-spirited dancer (Emily Blunt) can overcome fate itself? Or is it a sci-fi action film with Matrix-like ambitions to reveal the One Big Secret: That what we think of as free will is actually an intense heavenly bureaucracy of angels wearing fedoras and God as a CEO who meddles in individual lives?

The script, based on a Phillip K. Dick story, is too gadabout for its own good. There are echoes of Men in Black, but not the humor. (The joke of MiB is that the agents look like clichés of spies; apparently, the best angels can do to disguise themselves in 2011 America is dress like 1950s G-Men, or extras who wondered off the set of Mad Men.)

Read the entire review here.

 

—  Rich Lopez