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Dapper Dan’s SuperMovies Column

First of all, I didn’t invite Tim. Apparently I promised I would, but then got it in my head that he didn’t want to go, and so I went to the press screening of Thor by myself. I wore 3-D glasses. I chewed gum. The popcorn line was too long, so there was no popcorn.

Thor! It was supposed to be good. It’s not. It’s not unwatchable like those two Fantastic Four movies, but it’s pretty lame. Here’s the deal (oh, right, SPOILER ALERT!): Thor is arrogant and is banished from Asgard to New Mexico, where he is rescued by Jane Foster and co. Natalie Portman plays Jane like a ditzy schoolgirl, but she doesn’t have much to work with, so it’s not her fault. She was good in Black Swan, though! Anyhow, Loki conspires to take over Asgard, blah blah blah, The Destroyer is sent to Earth to kill Thor, who recovers his hammer just in time to beat him, and then return to Asgard to beat Loki. S.H.I.E.L.D. is in the film, as is one Avenger, and there are allusions to Bruce Banner, and of course, Samuel L. Jackson makes an appearance. Oh, and there is tons of father/son/brother stuff that seems like an attempt at seriousness but rings hollow because we have nothing invested in the relationships. (Note to screenwriters: You have to set up the relationship with some backstory before ending it. Otherwise it’s just a plot mechanism. Which is the point. Sorry I brought it up.) The end.

Phew. Now look, I have no attachment to these characters, though I certainly like Jack Kirby’s Thor, and also Walt Simonson’s, and the recent Matt Fraction issues were a hoot. It’s not like I was looking for some perfect version of Thor and co., but an entertaining movie would be nice. It seems to me the best thing you can do with this stuff is make it grand and colorful and cosmic. Also, as a friend pointed out, Thor is kinda girly with his blond do and floppy garb. I mean, he’s a hippy dude with a hammer. But here he’s a muscle dude with no discernible charisma and not an ounce of femininity. One of the running jokes in the film (because, post-Iron Man, there have to be running jokes—which becomes a problem when no one in the movie has any comedic timing) is that Thor is soooooo hot.

So anyway, the biggest problem (aside from the above, which are big problems, but ones that can be solved with a toke or two if you were so inclined) is that the whole thing looks blah, and this cannot be solved with a toke. Or even a bong hit. Needless to say, no one took our Comics Comics Contest seriously. The colors are all dull bronzes, concrete grays, and muddy greens. The rainbow bridge has no rainbow, but rather seems more like a flickering data-stream from the Matrix. The Asgardian architecture, so nuttily psychedelic in the old comics, is here more like Frank Gehry on steroids. And the costumes are, as per usual with these things, trying to be “realistic.” They’re indistinguishable from Game of Thrones, which is indistinguishable from Lord of the Rings, etc. All this “realism” has worn thin. What happened to color? Also, dudes, the 3-D makes the movie look worse. Was it added later? Must’ve been. Because of all the dimensional layers the fight scenes are very difficult to understand, all the stuff on earth is hard to “read,” and the tones are all darkened. Bad idea. Cameron had it right with the only-slightly-better-because-it-knew-it-was-silly Avatar: Bright fucking colors and wide shots! The only good thing to look at in Thor was Destroyer, and that’s probably because it’s pretty much exactly Jack Kirby’s design, he’s supposed to be metallic (so the gray is OK), and the scale (Destroyer = Biiiig) works.

And so, with nothing much to look at… well… there’s not much left. Our protagonists are dull; our plot is rote. The only bright spot in the movie is Stellan Skarsgard as a scientist and mentor to Portman. My favorite movie with Skarsgard remains The Glass House, in which he plays an evil guy in an awesome glass house who adopts and then tries to kill Leelee Sobieski for her money. Skarsgard always looks like he’s slightly drunk and about to hit on you, your girlfriend, and your cousin. And that totally works. It’s entertaining. He’s the same here: A scientist of no particular purpose, he just kinda looks on and smirks, dispenses advice, and seem immune to Thor’s hotness. He’s more focused on the waitress at the diner. Or he is in my mind.

Oh, Stan Lee makes an appearance, too. Jack Kirby, who co-created the comic book with Lee but really built the “property” and invented the look and mythology of the thing (that’s pretty well established now) gets a “special thanks” at the very end of the credits (and I mean the very end), along with Simonson, and a few others. [UPDATE: Heidi points out the Lee, Kirby and Lieber get co-creator creds at the beginning of the credit roll — I must’ve blinked] Nice! I wouldn’t expect much more from Marvel, and won’t sour this edition of the DDSMC by dwelling, but I will gently guide you again to this article by Michael Dean on Marvel’s treatment of Kirby and this interview (parts 1 and 2) by Mark Hebert from 1969. Hey guys! Remember Jack Kirby! No use shouting. No one is listening.

Anyhow, assuming this edition of DDSMC won’t get me banned from press screenings, I’ll be with you all summer long from one Super Movie to the next. Maybe I’ll invite Tim next time. Maybe.


6 Responses to Dapper Dan’s SuperMovies Column

  1. patford says:

    Stan in his own words from The Origins Of Marvel
    Comics :

    "The only one who could top the heroes we already had would
    be a Super-God, but I didn't think the world was quite ready for that
    concept yet. So it was back to the ol' drawing board.
    I must have gone through a dozen pencils and a thousand sheets of
    paper in the days that followed, making notes and sketches, listing
    names and titles, and jotting down every type of superpower I could
    think of. But I kept coming back to the same ludicrous idea: the
    only way to top the others would be with a Super-God.
    As far as I can remember, Norse mythology always turned me on.
    There was something about those mighty, horn helmeted Vikings and their tales of Valhalla, of Ragnarok, of the Aesir, the Fire Demons,
    and the immortal, eternal Asgard, home of the gods. If ever there
    was a rich lode of material into which Marvel might dip, it was there—and we would mine it."

    Stan then goes into a Freudian digression:

    "Myself when born was christened Stanley Martin Lieber— truly an appellation
    to conjure with. It had rhythm, a vitality, a lyricism all it's own. I still remember one of my earliest purchases being a little rubber
    stamp with my name on it, which I promptly stamped on every book and
    paper I owned— and even on some I didn't."

    Back to Stan's account of his creation of Thor:

    "Historians of the future will wish to note that Larry Lieber acquiesced when asked if he'd pen a new superhero strip for the greater glory of Marveldom. Let the record show that Jack Kirby did likewise when offered the illustrating chore."

    Jim Woodring on ex-comic book writers, and Jack Kirby:

    I don't know what it would be like to work in a good animation studio.
    I worked for a company that produced low grade junk, the worst of the worst.
    I stayed there for six or seven years because the money was good, and I worked with people I really liked.
    The writers hated our (the artists) guts. They were very pretentious, self important guys. The stuff they produced was the most sub-literate drivel, stupid empty headed crap. And they were so proud of it. So full of themselves, incredibly pompous wind bags. Most of them were anxiety-ridden types who strew a bunch of misery around.

    Every Monday Jack would saunter in with a thick stack under his arm. All the in-house cartoonists would gather to look at them one by one, and pore over them. Jack was treated with great respect because he was an elder and a legend, but the awed admiration we all demonstrated for his work was not polite deference. His drawings were inspirational to all of us. He was like a wild spraying geyser of the substance we struggled pitifully to evoke in driblets. Even those among us who had never read super hero comics and saw Jack without his aura, so to speak, stood in awe of him. He was more than a master; he was the comic book impulse incarnate.
    We loved to draw him out in conversation because he was completely unpredictable: his mind was nimble and unfettered by convention. I never heard him tell an anecdote that was not heavily spiced with benign absurdity. As with his drawing there was something precociously fragile about his sledgehammer approach to storytelling. One sensed that a hard life had made Jack tough, but that the great child's heart of which he was the custodian had been sheltered and saved at all costs, and that this heart was the force that drove him.
    He seemed interested in us, too. When my son was born the Kirbys gave him a magnificent rattle, which we still have.

  2. HeidiMacD says:

    Dan:

    One thing, Kirby was credited twice in the credits, once up near the top where it was mentioned that the character was created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber, and then in the special thanks you mention. Not that it helps with all the bad deeds you mention, but just for the record.

    Otherwise I liked it a bit more than you (hot Thor is a FINE running gag) but shared most of your qualms as well.

  3. ChanceFiveash says:

    I thought Thor was just fine. But then again I don't watch films like this with a critical eye. When I want serious cinema I'll watch an Eric Rohmer film. Thor is Thor and nothing more.

  4. Joe McCulloch says:

    So what did you make of the trailer for Tarsem Singh's "Immortals"? Still pretty amber-hued, but Mickey Rourke appears to be wearing a chromium beetle he slew and hollowed out…

  5. Dan Nadel says:

    I didn't get a trailer. Bummer. But that sounds gooooood.

  6. davidbrothers says:

    It looked like more of a bunny rabbit helmet to me, which is even funnier. Trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VdONYkKFmQ

    It strikes me as 300 (or Spartacus or whatever) after overdosing on viagra and Redbull. The female lead from Slumdog Millionaire's in it, and Mickey Rourke gives off this great "Oh, am I shooting a movie? Haha, whatever" vibe in the trailer. I dunno if it'll be any good, but that shot of aerial combat is pretty crazy.

    I pretty much agree with you on the look of the Marvel pictures. Realism was cute in Spider-Man and X-Men, back when this new wave of comics movies was fresh, but now I want something with some personality.

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