As you’ve probably gathered by now, Thor is one of the better Marvel comics adaptations, in that it’s directed by someone with a more … let’s say it … Shakespearean take on the source material – Kenneth Branagh – and it’s faithful enough to the original comic to keep the fanboys onboard. I think if it has a trump card it’s the clever way it expects you to take the portentous, echoey Norse mythology scenes seriously, and then expects you to giggle at the fish-out-of-water scenes down on Earth, when Thor is stripped of his powers and banished to New Mexico in order to fall in love with Natalie Portman. Such mood-swings are dangerous in a big, fat film like Thor, But somehow, Branagh and his team of screenwriters pull this off. It’s almost two films for the price of one. Chris Hemsworth, an Australian beefcake whom I understand was in Home & Away, fills out the role of Thor very well, both physically (he’s like two Jamie Bambers squashed together) and in terms of the light comedy.
It’s a set-up story, with lots of set-up to set up – cue: portentous voiceover from Anthony Hopkins’ Odin – and it carefully tees up The Avengers, which is coming soon to a cinema near you. But for me, it was ruined. By the 3D.
I have nothing against 3D per se. It enhances Pixar movies. And in Pina it finds its true calling: bringing clarity and depth to physical artforms. But being chucked at every new blockbuster, as it now is, can only devalue it as a gimmick. Apparently the non-CGI footage in Thor was shot in 2D, and put through the machine in post-production. This, I think I’m right in saying, is what happened with Clash Of The Titans and I’m sure countless others leaping pathetically onto the bandwagon. I hate the way it’s becoming a default setting for noisy action movies. In fact, I admire any big blockbuster that feels confident enough in its own 2D merits to put itself out there naked, as it were. The 3D in Tron: Legacy was horrible, and detracted from the film. And I had the same demoralising feeling when I watched Thor, at the huge Odeon Leicester Square no less. The glasses were fresh from the packet, so my bad time wasn’t as a result of smeary lenses. It was the 3D itself: murky and blurry, and impossible to follow during fast-cut action sequences. Unlike in Pina, it subtracted clarity and depth. Result.
Why would a studio do this to its own product? It’s vandalism. I don’t much like putting on eyewear in a cinema, but when the 3D is good, you are transported away from the plastic wrapped round your head. I am told that 10% of us have a minor eye defect that means we can’t “translate” modern 3D anyway. I’m not one of those people, as I can appreciate the effect; I just don’t like it. Millions of dollars will have been spent creating the parallel fantasy universe of Asgard for Thor, but it is a dark world, and dark worlds become muddy and indistinct through 3D specs. Subtle effects still work well, such as floating fragments of ash or snow. (The best bit of Avatar in 3D was when the flecks of ash came down after they blew up a tree. The rest … well, I could take it or leave it. Actually, I saw Avatar in 2D on Sky Movies: it gained nothing from the third dimension except the ability to deceive with smoke and mirrors; in 2D it was just a so-so jungle movie.)
Can we just stop this now, then, please? Thor is not a bad movie. It’s actually a “solid” three-stars. But I have yet to see it in a form I can truly appreciate it in. Better wait for it to come on telly, then.