Attempted Rational vs. Irrational Entry: Thor

In all, see Thor. See Thor run, see Thor fight. It’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen, although I didn’t spring for 3D because I am cheap and because what’s the point of seeing Thor in fake 3D if I cannot reach out and molest him from my theater seat, but at least I have my imagination. Oh yes.

There. A perfectly legitimate and rational theatrical review.

Yup, loved it.

And I already know what you’re going to say, and I promise that YES, this will actually be a film review and not a sweaty, giggly, ‘omghe’ssocuteMUSCLESANDPRETTYHAIR!!!’ entry. I shall be completely objective in my review.

“Oh no! Your shirt is ruined! TAKE OFF YOUR CLOTHES RIGHT NOW.”

 

As a film, I found Thor to be as enjoyable as Iron Man, the film to which it is inevitably being compared, as both characters will be in The Avengers movie coming out next year.

 
I left the theater having a few questions (or hopes) for the upcoming Avengers film.
 
1. Will Thor be as big a hit as Iron Man? I think there’s a distinct possibility of this. Granted, Thor’s opening day moneywise wasn’t as big as Iron Man, but the overseas gross is already huge, and Chris Hemsworth himself is made of magic and sinew comes with a LOT less baggage than Robert Downey Jr. Even though RDJ is hot a megastar himself right now, a lot of people didn’t care for the politicized, stylized, look of Iron Man as a film overall, and RDJ’s personal history, weirdly enough, turns a lot of people off. I loved Thor, it was well done and seemed to be a big hit. I don’t know if word of mouth will carry Thor as much as Iron Man did, but I found the movies to be equally good in terms of execution and writing; and I personally liked Thor’s cartoonish muscles and pretty hair character more and would do things to him. I do think Iron Man was more accessible as a character, though because he came off as kind of a whore which is also hot. Also, Iron Man was informed a great deal by the political situation in the middle east, which of course is going to tug American heartstrings a little more.
 
1a. If that is the case and Thor is considered as big as Iron Man, will their plot be central to the Avengers movie? I know NOTHING about The Avengers. Marvel was never really my world, because I didn’t read too many comic books as a kid. Anyhoodle, I would dearly like to see a movie where Iron Man and Thor must join forces, possibly after a long bout of making out  an ego clash. Think about it, Thor shows up and literally steals Stark’s thunder; for someone intelligent, who has spent years perfecting a design that just about gets him to the level that Thor is at naturally, that would be galling. At the least, I’d like to see a slow motion naked wrestling match a bit of tension between them. It wouldn’t be out of character for them to clash, given their respective backgrounds–after all, even though Thor matured by the end of his story, what you basically have are two Golden Boys in the same room.
 
I’ve seen little criticism of Thor that seemed genuine, and not sour grapes, being spouted from people who didn’t already have an agenda, or just flat out didnt’ understand the movie. I found the character development compelling; after all, Thor’s a golden boy, he’s never failed or be denied anything. The tantrum he throws when denied the kingship is evidence of this. He also isn’t the brains of Asgard, and is easily manipulated by Loki.
I want to say that Loki came off as much more interesting as a character, but only because I would consider him an appetizer and cover him in cream I recognize the Shakespearean tropes at work. He’s a runty guy with a thin face, a bookish type growing up in a culture that values might. At the very least, his fashion sense is at odds with the rest of Asgard; he favors darker colors to the Asgardians reds and golds. The obvious setup pays off, though, through Hiddleston’s performance. He does not realize his own penchant for duplicity at first, probably only considering himself an opportunist at worst, but once he does, glories in it. And his scheming is born from the worst source of evil: plain old good intentions.
 
Did I know the good guy was going to win? Certainly. But nobody goes into a James Bond film wondering if this is the one where he finally catches a headshot; we go to see the thrills, stunts, pretty people and places. We don’t care where we’re going, we’re along for the ride, and for a film with as many classic tropes as Thor had going on, it’s a joy to see it succeed. Kenneth Branagh uses a light touch when needed, but also knows exactly when to break out the firehose.
 
Chris Hemsworth is definitely the right guy for the job; his combination of physicality and easygoing charm carry him through a few scenes that would otherwise have been weak, and his performance as blustery, overconfident Thor feels natural and not forced. He’s a guy who’s been on top see? I can restrain myself for most of his life, so of course he would think he was the cat’s pajamas in every situation. And when it comes to fighting, he really is.
 
On PZ Myers’s blog, he criticized the film for not spending enough time developing Thor’s character between the ‘I’m a golden boy!’ and ‘I’m humbled!’ points on his character arc. I didn’t see that at all. What I saw was someone who, once they had failed, was almost relieved to be free of responsibility. And it’s not like he didn’t have some bad moments; one minute he’s flying around using Mjolnir as everything from a helicopter to a club and smashing things to bits, and the next he’s tied to a hospital bed with that most nefarious of evil weapons, plastic zip-ties, and getting hit by Natalie Portman’s jeep. Who wouldn’t be freaked and humbled by that? Thor’s not a brains guy, as I said; the whole source of his overconfidence is his CARTOONISH HOT BODY AND PRETTY SMILE strength. Couple that with Mjolnir not recognizing him, and it’s no wonder he can suddenly empathize.
 
I found that kind of inspiring, the idea that empathy and gentleness are not things that must be learned, but that they are inherent to humanity (or whatever the space vikings are) and sometimes waiting to be expressed in the right moment. Sure, he needs some practice, which he gets in the form of guidance from Stellan Skarsgard. (BTW, **KIND OF SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY** there’s a scene where Skarsgard, playing Erik Solveig, claims he and Thor got drunk and got into a fight; reading between the lines, I’m sure he THOUGHT he was in a fight, and that Thor was kind enough to let him get in a few hits before letting the boilermakers they were drinking end the matter). **END OF NOT REALLY SPOILER** I could also be filling in some blanks myself, and there really was some lazy storytelling, but to be fair, if you’re comparing Thor and Stark’s character ars, well one of those two starts out a MUCH bigger asshole than the other. Just saying.
 
I also have to say I really liked the fight scenes. When Thor is in Godmode, he’s literally awesome. But when he’s a man, his fighting is useless against a new kind of foe: hospital orderlies and thorazine. I hate in movies when someone goes through psyche ward orderlies like they’re made out of cotton candy– those are the people who do this shit for a living, and don’t mess around. Sure, he fights his way to Mjolnir later, but he’s figured himself out; the old methods he used are just as efficient against humans as they are against frost giants.
 
In all, see Thor. See Thor run, see Thor fight. It’s definitely worth seeing on the big screen, although I didn’t spring for 3D because I am cheap and because what’s the point of seeing Thor in fake 3D if I cannot reach out and molest him from my theater seat, but at least I have my imagination. Oh yes.
 
There. A perfectly legitimate and rational theatrical review.
 
 
 
 

The Big ‘Preacher’ Post

Originally, it was a film, with James Marsden set to star. Then, it was an HBO series, which would have honeslty been the BEST way to adapt such a broad story without cutting out details or screwing around with the characters too much. Then it was a film again, with Sam Mendes, of American Beauty fame, set to direct. Now he’s off the project and the last thing heard was Joe Carnahan, of Smokin’ Aces, saying he would like a crack at it while doing press for The A-Team.

If you aren’t already familiar with Garth Ennis’s brilliant graphic novel, then read further. If you are and don’t need an intro, skip on down to the meaty bits of the post.

Preacher is a series written by Irish writer Garth Ennis, who before Preacher was most famous for his work on Hellblazer, a book that starred John Constantine. Constantine is one of my FAVORITE series ever, and on another day I’ll do a post about that. But today is for Preacher.

In Preacher, young man of God Jesse Custer has lost his faith and sets out on a quest to find and question God concerning the state of the world. That’s really the absolute bare bones of the story, and it’s so hard to write that without going into all the juicy story bits that make this series so awesome and ruining it for first-time readers. There is nothing about this series–well, there’s violence, and ADULT SITUATIONS– that isn’t well-told, fascinating, and though-provoking. A freak occurrence with a divine presence means that Custer is imbued with the Word of God, meaning no one, providing they speak his language, can refuse his direct orders. Such a power in the wrong hands would be a huge disaster, but as Custer is a humanist with his own strict moral code (‘Don’t take no shit off fools, and be one of the good guys, because there’s way too many of the bad) he does not take advantage of this power and only uses it in times of real need.

In high school, someone recommended the book to me for all the wrong reasons, and I didn’t read it. Their stance was ‘it’s awesome because it’s violent and he goes around kicking ass.’ That’s definitely true, violence surrounds Custer the way that small birds and animals surround a Disney heroine–not because he seeks it out, but because its drawn to him. I wish I’d read this brilliant dissection of masculinity and American values years ago, but at least I’ve read it now.

Custer is joined on his quest by his girlfriend Tulip, a gun-toting chick  who is a walking case of Awesome,  and drunken reprobate Cassidy, an Irish vampire almost a hundred years old with dark shadows in his past but a rakish, devil-may-care attitude that you can’t help but be drawn to.  Cassidy’s optimism about the US and how many opportunities the country affords is one of the most interesting things about the book, and makes you remember all the stuff you want America to be, rather than all the stuff that it is.

Since the story is a quest, a goodly amount of meandering is done, but there is never a part of the book that’s boring or worth skipping. Their journey takes the group from Texas, to France, to New York City, to New Orleans, to Monument Valley in Utah, and everywhere in between. It’s a sweeping epic at the same time as an incisive character piece.

Which is why adapting it has hit so many roadblocks.

Originally, it was a film, with James Marsden set to star. Then, it was an HBO series, which would have honeslty been the BEST way to adapt such a broad story without cutting out details or screwing around with the characters too much. Then it was a film again, with Sam Mendes, of American Beauty fame, set to direct. Now he’s off the project and the last thing heard was Joe Carnahan, of Smokin’ Aces, saying he would like a crack at it while doing press for The A-Team.

This, but Christina Hendricks. Curse you, lack of Photoshop skillz!

Which is nice, but totally wrong.

What I think is necessary for the film to work on the same level as the book is to get a great dramatic director who can bring the right level of emotional weight to the story, and have to work hard to do the action. Don’t get an action director and expect them to be able to deal with the depth of the material. Edgar Wright would be great, especially since the entire series is an outsider’s view of the US. Michael Apted, who has a long history of drama and action, would also be ideal, if he were interested in the project.And there are oodles of other young directors with a firm grasp of both emotional resonance and drama that could do a decent job.

And just because I’ve been wanting to do this for years, here is my dream cast for a Preacher movie, if there ever is one.

Cassidy – Ideally I’d like Robert Carlyle for this, even though he’s Scottish. If he’s not available find an unknown, not some 19-year old, someone with some mileage under their belt. Cassidy’s some some messed up things, and although he’s nigh-indestructable he really needs to project that he’s been around for as long as the century.

Tulip – Christina Hendricks. I like her because she can turn from innocent, All-American sweetness to icy badass on a dime. That kind of range is important, but there’s a lot of area in-between that someone playing Tulip needs to inhabit. Tulip is strong, but she’s been scared, she’s been angry, she’s been petulant. This is a job for a real actress, not a model who’s just getting into acting. I’m sure there are other blondes out there who’d want this role, but I’m definitely biased as i’ve seen her as a badass and would like to see more in that way. No, I have not seen Mad Men yet.

Jody – This is a tough one. Ideally I’d like Woody Harrelson since he played a psychopath with such chilling presence in Natural Born Killers. And Jody is an older man, he’s not some 30-something. He’s got miles on him too, and whoever plays him has to bring that to the role. Every moment he’s on screen the viewer should be imagining Jody as a child perfecting the art of putting nails through the eyes of a puppy or something. And he HAS to be on screen. Other possibles would be Bruce Willis (come on, it’d be great!) or Ray Stevenson from the recent Punisher movie and Rome, but only if they can do decent Texan accents. Whoever is chosen, it has to be someone who can do both serial killer and twisted father figure, since Jody raised Jesse, though they were never close.

Jesse Custer – this is a difficult one. In the books, Jesse is only in his early twenties, but I’ve always read him as someone approaching thirty just because he’s so level-headed and sure of himself. I thought Timothy Olyphant might be right after loving him in Deadwood so much, but his accent left a little to be desired. There’s probably an undiscovered twenty-something out there who can play this– just please steer clear of stunt-casting. No Jake Gyllenhaal, no Toby Maguire, no Anton Yelchin. EDIT: Oh man, Justin Theroux would be GREAT for this, IF he can do a Texan accent.

Herr Starr – Oo, man, this is a tough one. Except not, because ever since Christophe Waltz wandered onto the scene, he is MEANT to play Herr Starr. It’s important for whoever plays Starr to remember that the character really wants to make the world a better place, no matter who he has to kill to do it.

I’m a little surprised that the Preacher movie has been dragged to screen by now, if only because

A. Studios will greenlight anything printed in panels these days, no matter the content, ie Kick-Ass.

B. Manly men are all the rage now–Clive Owen, Gerard Butler, Colin Ferrell– and yet there aren’t any real American manly men. I mean there are a few, but none come immediately to mind. Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark are many, but both have daddy issues. Perhaps that’s the exact reason–macho AMerican men come off as dickhead bullies, as characters out of Team America: World Police.

If Preacher gets made, and done right, maybe that’d change? I am totally a feminist in many ways, but I do like to watch  Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson, Bruce Lee movies. . . Perhaps Johan Hex will give a good indication as to whether or not Preacher will be made, or how well it’ll be done. I won’t see Jonah Hex, not until the release the DVD version where they’ve cut and pasted Megan Fox out of it, but I’ll still keep an eye on the buzz.