Archive for May, 2011

The Review (of the Preview): Thor

May 16, 2011

I know, I know, you’re already saying, “Thor?”  Exactly what conflict partnership value does a Marvel Comics movie about those Fightin’ Asgardians have?

Actually, a little more than I expected, given that  Thor is a breezy, chewing-gum comic-book flick that looks to keep it simple.  Of course with my two quarter-Norwegian lads, the temptation to “Get Viking With It” was great enough in itself.  And with the Avengers movie coming up next year, my whole family needed a bit of brushing up on our Marvel mythology.  I was always more of a science-fiction Super Hero guy over fantasy (more radioactive spiders, less mythic hammers), so I went into Thor with less geek knowledge than in other instances. 

More than anything Thor felt like a cross between Lord of the Rings and Iron Man.  A basic plot about vanity, bloodlust, sacrifice and redemption with some solid performances all around.  Nice to see Natalie Portman in a big-budget film actually doing some acting (reminding me how awful a director George Lucas must be given the performance she gave in the Star Wars prequels).  The violence in all quite cartoonish, with those getting wounded pretty much always healing if they were “the good guys” and the bad guys mostly fracturing apart (gotta love it when the baddies are essentially made of ice).  Perhaps a couple of mild shocks made this film PG-13-worthy (made better for my fellas with some whispered spoilers having seen the movie myself first—still a highly recommended tactic), but, really, this is a PG film.

Is it a tool to build or a weapon to wield? Yeah, pretty much a weapon.

While there’s no Luke throwing down the light saber moment in this film, there are a few nuggets among the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Nordics.  Odin, Norse god king (played quite nicely by Anthony Hopkins, again I haven’t seen him in a solid role in quite some time) speaking of Thor’s hammer as a weapon to destroy or a tool to build.  Thor’s journey also is one on the folly of war for war’s sake.  The climax is an interesting discussion about how one treats “the enemy” and whether genocide, even of those considered “evil” is an acceptable solution.

But, let’s face it, Thor is really about a super-hot, really strong dude who can kick some major ice with a big ole’ hammer—and I’m okay with that, too.  It’s a nice combination of enough lesson-learning that violence in itself is not a good thing not to be harmful to kids, but you can also turn your brain off and enjoy the spectacle.

Is it a tool to build with, or...oh forget it.

What was decidedly NOT okay had nothing to do with the film, but the previews.  I had not thought of this when I saw the movie with my friend the first time, but when my boys and I sat down in the theater, we were greeted by the preview for Columbiana, a new Zoe Saldana flick about an unstable, vengeance-filled hit-woman attempting to avenge what, the death of her parents when she was nine-years-old.  Perfect subject matter for my, well, nine-year-old.  The bra-only jumping of the bones cuts were not my favorite, but the relentless machine gun blasting coupled with tearful, vengeful noting of her parent’s death “right in front of her” – right in front of a Marvel Super Hero movie?  Really?

Sweet dreams, kids! From your friends at Fox

This kind of absolutely thoughtless pairing during programming that will obviously be attracting a young audience is exactly why I only like to have my fellas watch American Idol from DVR.  Not because it enables us to fast forward through the prattle of Randy Jackson or the nails-on-chalkboard condescension of Jennifer Lopez (though that doesn’t hurt) but because I grew tired of having the kids exposed to everything from horror movie previews to the grim tales being told on programs like “Bones.”  Indeed, during the campaign then candidate Obama made this exact point in a debate—one of the times I felt that he best connected with me as a fellow concerned parent (yep, I’ll admit, it wasn’t his economic policies, but Idol that won me over…)

To me, this is one of the most solvable, yet most abused pieces of the entertainment industry—the peddling of very adult stuff concepts during family-oriented fare.  I remember when President Obama mentioned it in the debate, and the camera flashed on Rob Reiner, who shrugged his shoulders and nodded in apparent agreement.  To me, that signified the Hollywood reaction of, “Yeah, you’re right, but what are you going to do?”

Well, what am I going to do, I am now going to think twice about whether my boys are going to see Captain America, and I’ll ask the theater what previews are playing in front of the film.  But, really, this should be an easy fix for the industry, one that shouldn’t require regulation, just a healthy dose of common sense.