Viking Cinema

Just saw Thor, which was a lot of fun. Tom Hiddleston really stole the movie as Loki (and the script gave him a nicely ambiguous role to play). Jotunheim looked cool. (Well, it looked like a cross between Mordor and the White Witch’s palace, but that seems about right.) The cameos for Straczynski and Lee were a hoot. And the post-credits sequence promises more good fun to come. (I have a comment on the post-credits sequence, but since it’d be a spoiler for those who haven’t seen Thor yet, I’ll put it in the comments section.)

Thor poster

My only real gripes were: a) Natalie Portman seemed a bit lackluster – closer to her Star Wars performance than to her much better V for Vendetta and (I gather) Black Swan performances.

And b) why can’t they bother to pronounce Norse names correctly? I can see why they might not want to depart from the familiar pronunciation of “Odin,” but why not go authentic for “Heimdall,” “Jotunheim,” “Mjöllnir,” etc.? (Still, at least they didn’t have the Asgardians massacring Elizabethan English the way the comics do. Just how hard is it to learn the differences between “ye” and “you,” “thou” and “thee,” and “doth” and “dost”?)

While we’re on the subject of things Norse-related, I recently recalled, in a comment thread on how the filming of Tolkien’s Silmaterial might be handled, the short animated film of Beowulf from 1998, voiced by inter alia Derek Jacobi and Joseph Fiennes. It’s the most faithful adaptation of Beowulf I know of, and I think the animation style is beautiful. Check it out:

And now, back to Thor:



12 Responses to Viking Cinema

  1. Roderick May 16, 2011 at 12:42 am #

    Re the post-credits scene in Thor: I’ve seen some online comments that describe Erik Selvig in that scene as “possessed” by Loki. That strikes me as too strong; I think Loki is just planting suggestions in Selvig’s mind. But I can see why Selvig’s smile at the end might be interpreted as supporting a stronger connection.

  2. Gary Chartier May 16, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    Interesting. I confess I thought Portman did a far better job here than in Star Wars.

    • Brandon May 16, 2011 at 10:07 am #

      Portman should never have agreed to do the new SW trilogy. The scripts and direction were so awful that none of the actors came off well. The full-length criticisms of “confusedmatthew”, Red Letter Media, and the Phantom Editor get into exactly why those flicks are so bad. When Javier Bardem accepted the Oscar for his “No Country for Old Men” role, he thanked the editors for using the best footage. There was no good footage in the new trilogy because the director didn’t work hard enough to get it. And the writer didn’t create good enough material to make his actors look good (quite unlike the original trilogy).
      Portman was great in “Black Swan” and “Closer”, among others. McGregor has been great in everything. Christensen, who was bloody cover-your-eyes awful in the SW trilogy, was great as Steve Glass in “Shattered Glass”, and as Bob Dylan in “Factory Girl”. It’s not an accident that these actors give great performances when Lucas isn’t involved.

      • Roderick May 16, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

        @Gary: I agree that Portman was better in Thor than in Star Wars. I just meant that on the spectrum from her Star Wars work to her, e.g., V for Vendetta work, her Thor work was clsoer to the former than to the latter end.

        @Brandon: Yup, I agree that Lucas is to blame for all that. You can tell he’s not focused on the actors from listening to his dvd commentaries. It’s no coincidence that Empire Strikes Back, the best of the Star Wars movies IMHO, was directed (and written) by someone else. His best work comes from generating ideas and then letting other people implement them. Case in point: Indiana Jones (both the movies and the tv show).

        As I wrote here about V for Vendetta:

        This film also settles, at least for me, the question whether Natalie Portman’s relatively poor acting in the Star Wars prequels was her fault or Lucas’s. Like Lauren Bacall — compare To Have and Have Not with Key Largo, or compare the first and second versions of The Big Sleep — Portman needs an actor’s director to bring out her talent, and an actor’s director Lucas is not.

        • Gary Chartier May 16, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

          On Lucas: why, oh why, didn’t he pay Larry Kasdan to clean up the scripts for EpsI-III and get someone, anyone, other than himself to direct? I really do think he’s got a great creative imagination; he envisions excellent stories. But he writes bad dialogue and directs woodenly. Sigh . . . .

          On Thor v. Star Wars: I guess my point was that I found Portman’s work much, much better in Thor.

        • Brandon May 17, 2011 at 9:11 am #

          Lucas had to resign from the DGA because they wanted him to use opening credits in Star Wars. As a result, he is unable to hire DGA members, which is most directors. That’s why he couldn’t bring Irvin Kershner back to do ROTJ (Kershner offered to resign his DGA membership but Lucas wouldn’t go that far). Lucas also prefers to work a 9-5 schedule when directing, which isn’t always conducive to the kind of hard work necessary to get the best footage.
          Lucas did use script doctors, one of them being Tom Stoppard, on the new trilogy. I think in that case he insisted on writing the stuff primarily himself.

  3. dennis May 16, 2011 at 11:24 am #

    That WOULD be a great way to present the First and Second Ages. It would even allow for presentation of the really hard to film stuff like the Music of the Ainur and the creation of Ea.

    • Roderick May 16, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

      The same outfit also made animated versions of Moby-Dick and Gawain and the Green Knight.

  4. Bob Kaercher May 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    I was really prepared for Thor to totally stink–elements like the Frost Giants or the Rainbow Bridge could really turn into a disaster of overflowing cheese fondue if placed in the wrong hands. I was really quite surpised by how much I liked it. I even went for a second viewing and took my wife and son, both of whom really enjoyed it, too.

    Considering what Portman had to work with, being the romantic inerest who bats her eyelashes and gets gushy whenever the hero is around, I thought she crafted a nice little performance.

    A lot of credit goes to Kenneth Branagh, I think. His Shakespearean background definitely served the film quite well.

    • Roderick May 19, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

      elements like the Frost Giants or the Rainbow Bridge could really turn into a disaster of overflowing cheese fondue if placed in the wrong hands

      If only they could have looked like this:


      • Brandon May 19, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

        That’s approximately how they treated the Fantastic Four.

        • Roderick May 21, 2011 at 2:03 am #

          You weren’t impressed by the incredible CGI they used on Ben Grimm?

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