Green Lantern is not as bad as they want you to think it is.

Consider how the Green Lantern movie might have been if the makers went on with the original pitch: Jack Black in the starring role as shlubby Ikea employee Jud Plato, who is chosen by the ring when it sees him eat a raw coyote head on Fear Factor. He used his newly found powers to improve his life by making Hispanic green maids to clean up after him and green hotties to feed him grapes while he watches TV. With that in mind, we should ALL be thankful how the Green Lantern movie turned out to be.

Oh yes. It was going to happen at some point

Green Lantern is an earnest attempt to bring the comic book character to the big screen. Save for a few tweaks here and there, Green Lantern remains largely faithful to its comic book origins, something that should please the fans, while trying its best not to alienate mainstream audience. It is a straight retelling of the origin of the first (modern-age) Green Lantern Hal Jordan, and how he gets to become a Green Lantern in the first place. The movie opens with an (obligatory) introduction to Green Lantern Corps, intergalactic police force. GL Corps have split the universe into 3,600 sectors, and appointed one Green Lantern per sector. They have harnessed the green energy of willpower, and forged rings that can wield it. When Abin Sur, a Green Lantern, is wounded while battling an ancient evil known as Parallax, he crash-lands on the nearest inhabited planet, Earth. Abin Sur sends out the ring to select a new recruit, in the form of second-generation test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds). After a brief encounter with the dying Abin Sur, Jordan is quickly chaperoned by the ring to planet Oa, headquarters of the Corps, where he meets other Lanterns: Tomar-Re (voiced by Geoffery Rush), Kilowog (voiced by Michael Clarke Duncan), and Sinestro (Mark Strong, under heaps of prosthetics and makeup). Meanwhile on Earth, while examining the corpse of Abin Sur, scientist Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) is infected by Parallax, mutating Hammond and giving him telepathy and telekinetic powers, at the cost of his sanity.

In Jack Black’s Green Lantern, he would have been called “deady”…

Surely, it’s not without its flaws, but it is not the train wreck the reviews make it seem like. One thing studios need to take note of is that they need to abandon the ‘origins’ format for superhero films. Green Lantern has been unfairly labeled as a Xerox copy of every other superhero film, but isn’t every superhero film in that case, with very, very few notable exceptions, a copy of some superhero film? Green Lantern is not any different, and here we get the standard ‘origins’ story: a. introduction to hero before becoming hero b. hero gets new powers c. hero questions his ability to become, ehem, a hero d. hero fights major villain, reassures himself of his heroic status e. hero kisses girl, flys away, waves at audience. With Green Lantern being second tier comic book character, not as famous as say, Superman and Batman, and with all the heavy history that is part of the Green Lantern mythos, it’s difficult to see how the makers could have done without an origins story.

There’s also the issue of Green Lantern never really facing a real threat. Surely in the comic books Parallax is an indestructible cosmic entity and the manifestation of fear itself and Hammond is a mastermind with telepathic and telekinetic powers, but what the audience see is a dirt cloud and a fat blob. The makers should have learned their lesson from Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer and avoided the “cloud about to destroy Earth” route (even FF had Silver Surfer in it, a worthy opponent). But even then, the fight between Jordan and Parallax is all too brief, and the way Jordan disposes of Parallax triggers the question “why didn’t any other Lantern think of that?” 

The biggest problem with the movie perhaps is the tons of missed opportunities and untapped ideas that the film could (should) have explored further. To begin with, Green Lantern is one of very few superheroes who spend a considerable amount of his time in space. Superman does, but Batman, Iron Man, Spider-man and pretty much every other superhero is bound to Earth. This idea is never ever really explored, except for the brief scene in Oa, even though it could have added a much needed space opera angle to the film. Imagine Jordan as a rookie Lantern being involved in a training mission on a distant planet, or a brief visit to other planets within his sector - I think when we all saw the second trailer we thought this is the angle the filmmakers are going for, sadly this wasn’ t the case with the film, where Green Lantern is bound to Earth the whole time.

Obligatory Blake Lively picture. Hotness.

Then there’s the dynamic between Jordan and Sinestro. The casting of Mark Strong, always an excellent menace, really adds intensity to the character, and I imagined the relationship between both Jordan and Sinestro will be a reverse Obi Wan/Anakin, in which the master falls into evil and the student becomes the hero. Unfortunately, such potential is squandered, Sinestro’s appearance is all too brief and you can sum it up in one sentence: Sinestro doesn’t like Hal. Even this odd sentiment towards humans is never really properly explored and it comes around as forced. Similarly, the relationship between Jordan and Carol Ferris (Blake Lively),who is only there to represent the obligatory love interest, even though both share a much deeper relationship in the comic books that is never really explored here.

Also, the powers of Green Lantern. What we saw on the screen was good, really good as a matter of fact, that I wish there was more of it. That bit where Green Lantern assembles a machine gun turret out of nothing? I wanted to see that, done with all sorts of weapons, over and over again. There’s no limit to what Green Lantern can imagine, and this should have been the case with the makers.

Ryan Reynolds is somewhat on restraint here, not going full wise-cracking charmer (you will notice that some parts from the trailer didn’t make it to the final cut, and it’s easy to see why). But whenever the mood threatens to get too serious, it is up to Reynolds to throw a joke in to break the mood (check out the scene where Hal recites the “oath” for the first time and how it compares to Spider-man using his webshooters for the first time). It works with other superheroes like Iron Man or Spider-man, but in the comic books Hal is more of a serious man, and while Reynolds’ antics will be a general crowd pleaser I am sure it will displease the fans. The casting of Reynolds as Hal Jordan prompted a lot of negative fan reaction when it was first announced, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role.

The one thing Green Lantern excels in is effects. The costume update makes sense within the context of the story (after all, who needs fabric when you can create a costume out of energy) and the result is visually dazzling. Equally amazing are the realization of Green Lantern’s powers. What could have turned out to be second rate effects turns out to be one of the coolest superpowers to ever grace the big screen (if only they put more of it on the screen). The realization of Oa will draw comparisons to Thor’s Asgard, both being the fantastical realm of the summer to check out. Make no mistake: it is no Pandora, but it is decently realized, although it at times suffers from Star Wars prequels green screen effect. The biggest let down is Parallax, and I’m surprised the makers weren’t able to make a better job with it, given the number of films with cloud-about-to-consume-the-planet kind of effect (Fifth Element anyone?). 

This being a movie by director Martin Campbell, the man single-handedly responsible for resuscitating the James Bond franchise TWICE (GoldenEye in 1995 and Casino Royale in 2006) and the modern invention of Zorro, I expected more. Green Lantern may not have the emotional complexity of The Dark Knight, but it is solid summer entertainment at its best.

Verdict? Those who like their superhero movie meal peppered with a philosophical subtext should steer away from this and watch X-Men: First Class instead. But those in for a night of no-brainer heroics, swear yourselves in to the Corps.   

X-Men: First Class, or how I stopped worrying about continuity and loved the film…

I have to admit: at some point during the last year, I was certainly set on NOT seeing this film. And I’ll tell you why.

Plans to make a (fifth) X-Men movie about the early years of everyone’s favorite team of mutant superheroes have been making the rounds of the Internet for some time now. At its inception, this was going to be a Gossip Girl style spin-off featuring younger versions of the same characters everyone is familiar with from the main X-Men films. I thought, well, it’s the age of Harry Potter and Twilight, so, why not? Might as well make a good buck out of it. But then things got down the hill from there.

To begin with, the new film was not going to feature ANY of the characters from the previous films, save for Professor X of course. Not only is this not in line with the comic book continuity, where the “first class” is comprised of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Beast and Angel, it also didn’t make much sense to me when it came to the movie continuity. Instead, the new film would feature a whole new set of mutants: Havoc, a mutant who has the ability to absorb energy and discharge it; who is also the younger brother of Cyclops in the comic books and joins the X-Men much later, and a whole bunch of other mutants (to be mentioned later, in details) who appear much, much later in the comic books after X-Men debut. The only surviving member from the ‘original’ first class is Beast, however in this new film he’s already assumed his ‘feral’ form, an element that has also been introduced later on in the comic books. Also, the origin of the character Mystique from the previous X-Men films have been completely rewritten: here she is a childhood friend of Professor X and also a member of the X-Men. So at first glance, this was nothing more than a greedy attempt to milk the last drop out of the X-Men franchise without going for the traditional ‘reboot’ path every other comic book film has been going for (since, with the X-Men comic books, you have literally thousands of characters, so you can just go for a whole new set) while desecrating everything that the comic books and the previous films has stood for.

Oh, and Professor X has hair. 

Hair.

On the other hand, it wasn’t easy to ignore the talents attached to the project. You’ve got Matthew Vaughn, director of Kick-Ass who at some point was mooted to direct X-Men: The Last Stand at the helm as director, Bryan Singer, true father of the X-Men movie franchise as producer, and the blessing of every comic book creator currently in the business. Then look at the cast attached. James McAvoy (of Last King Of Scotland and Atonement fame) as Professor X, Inglourious Basterd Michael Fassbender as Magneto, the always dependable Kevin Bacon as the villain of the piece, Sebastian Shaw. And the news that this will be a retro “James Bond style” espionage thriller set in the swingin’ 60s. And then the first trailer hits the web, and I see McAvoy and Fassbender chewing their scenes together, and with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War playing a pivotal role, I think I might be giving it a second chance after all. “If only they got things right” was my only regret.

X-Men: First Class is actually the amalgam of 2 different projects that have been lingering in development hell now, the first being the aforementioned ‘First Class’ movie and the second being a Magneto origins story, Wolverine style. The later would have traced Magneto’s early years in Nazi concentration camps, his first encounter (and subsequent friendship) with Professor X, and eventually becoming the archnemsis everyone is familiar with. Seeing how “well” things turned out for Wolverine, the producers wisely decided that X-Men work better as a team and merged the 2 projects together. And the result was this film. First Class opens with a familiar scene: young Magneto being taken away from his parents by Nazi soldiers, whom he overcome when his powers manifest for the first time and he tears down a metal gate, knocking them off. It is essentially the same opening of the first X-Men movie. Then, Magneto is taken away to be examined upon by one Dr. Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), who tries to reproduce Magneto’s powers. This is a scene that lasts for 10 minutes, is entirely in German, and ends in a very dark, gruesome manner, reminiscent of the opening of Inglourious Basterds. Its purpose, other than to establish the motives of one of the main characters for the rest of the movie, is to send a message: this is not a kid’s movie. This is a character-driven piece, albeit a very dark one.

20 years later, and Magneto, in very much Connery-era 007 fashion, is tracking down his former Nazi tormentors. Schmidt is now Sebastian Shaw, a Bondesque villain and leader of Hellfire Club, a secret society of mutants bent on world domination by jumpstarting World War III between America and Russia (as explained by Professor X in a Cold War era PSA style sequence). He is joined by fellow (evil) mutants Azazel (Jason Flemyng), a mutant who can teleport (and it’s worth noting that in the comic books, he’s actually Satan of this world), Riptide (Álex González), a mutant who can create tornados, and Emma Frost, AKA The White Queen (played by the aptly named January Jones), a telepath who can also transform her body into solid diamond (they got the effects right this time after the shoddy effect in Origins: Wolverine).

CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) intercepts Shaw’s plans and seek’s advice of Professor X (James McAvoy), who’s just published a thesis on human mutation. Moira introduces Professor X to CIA, and convinces them that Shaw and his troupe of mutants are a real threat. Professor X, Moira and the CIA track Shaw down, arriving in time to stop Magneto, who had attacked Shaw, from drowning as Shaw escapes, and both Professor X and Magneto embark on a mission to assemble a team of (good) mutants to stand up against Shaw’s (resulting in one of the best cameos in film ever). Enter the new recruits: Havoc (Lucas Till), a mutant who can absorb energy and discharge it as blasts, Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), a mutant who can emit ultrasonic screams that allow him to fly, Darwin (Edi Gathegi), a mutant who can evolve/devolve to adapt to the situation, and Angel Salvadore (Zoë Kravitz), a mutant with housefly wings who can also spit fireballs out of her mouth (who comes up with that stuff?), joined by Beast (Nicolas Hoult, the kid from About A Boy), a mutant with super-strength/genius, and Mystique (a HAWT Jennifer Lawrence), a shapeshifter and also Professor X’s longlife friend.

One of the biggest problems of X-Men: First Class is that it replaces everyone’s favorite mutants with B-list of unknowns with powers that are just slightly different variations on what we’ve seen in the series already. Nobody knows who these mutants are, and those who do, don’t really care about what happens to them (when one of the characters are offed half way into the film, I found myself quite indifferent about it).

But the team, the megalomanic villain are just plot fillings for what this movie is truly about: the story of the friendship between Professor X and Magneto, one that is destined to end in tragedy. I couldn’t think of a better casting for a young Professor X/Magneto than McAvoy/Fassbender, and the chemistry between both is spot-on. After two entries in the series that were pure blasts, no brains, First Class is a return to what we all loved about the first X-Men film: the verbal jousts between Professor X and Magneto, the underlying philosophy about minorities rights, and themes of self-accepting and fitting into society. And for those who are worried that First Class is heavy on philosophy, it doesn’t skimp on action either. It is also notable to say that the X-Men series takes a pretty dark turn with this entry. Blood is spilt, clothes are dropped, and the F-word is growled, albeit once.

So maybe First Class doesn’t make much sense in the comic book/cinematic universe of X-Men, but it certainly bears the mark of a great X-Men film, and it does try to tie the loose ends, in a way. Let’s put it this way: if X-Men was Star Wars then X-Men: First Class is what the Star Wars prequel trilogy SHOULD have been. If you are not bothered by continuity and a fan of X-Men, this film will easily make its way among your top films of the year. If you are one of those people who like their movies sticking to the comic book canon, don’t let this get in the way of enjoying a great film.

And hey, it’s good to see the traditional yellow/blue jumpsuits from the comic books on the big screen. Take that, Bryan Singer.

Barbara Gordon IS the New Batgirl. WTF DC Comics?

If you are a true Batman fan growing up in the 90s then you will know the little tale of Barbara Gordon. Barbara Gordon is the daughter of Gotham City’s Police Commissioner and Batman ally James Gordon. By day she’s a librarian, by night, she puts on a suit and becomes Batgirl.

In Alan Moore’s one-shot story “The Killing Joke”, arguably one of the best Batman stories ever written, illustrated and even lettered, and the basis for every Joker interpretation in mainstream media for the past 2 decades or so, Barbara Gordon is shot by the Joker in the stomach at point blank, in an attempt to drive her father into madness, and as a result is paralyzed waist down.


But this was not the end for Barbara Gordon, it was merely the beginning. From her wheelchair, she assumes the persona of ‘Oracle’, a tech-whizz who’s been providing intel for Batman and every other major superhero in the DC universe. Gordon became a rolemodel for women, people with disabilities and women with disabilities.


Not anymore, I guess.

Details of the much-awaited DC comics ‘reboot’ have been leaking gradually, and today we got our first glimpse of the Batgirl #1 cover. And guess who’s on the cover? Barbara Gordon, on both feet, in full costume. It remains to be seen if DC will be addressing such drastic change in the character, or simply continuing forward as though she had never been paralyzed.

Barbara Gordon’s handicap has been an integral part of the Batman legacy. It’s a reminder of many things: the level of madness the Joker is capable of, the kind of loss you become susceptible to when you are working too closely with homicidal maniacs such as those who inhabit Gotham city, and the good nature of James Gordon’s character. It was one of those moments in comic book history when things got really, REALLY dark. And remember, this was 1988, before comic book publishers adopted the (obnoxious) habit of periodically offing one of their main characters to generate buzz. And don’t bring up the whole Jason Todd thing, readers actually voted for Jason Todd to be offed. You know, they might as well bring back Jason Todd from the dead.

Oh wait, they already did…

The Most Convoluted Piece Of Cinematic Dialogue Ever Written? AKA My rant about The Matrix Revolutions

Normally, when an actor exits a film series, whether due to natural causes (AKA death) or personal choice, and is replaced by another actor, the switchover is handled in a very subtle, almost barely noticeable manner on screen. A simple reintroduction of the character by name will probably do.

Not the Wachowski brothers.

When actress Gloria Foster, who played the Oracle in the first part of the Matrix trilogy, died before the completion of her filming for the third, The Matrix Revolutions, she was replaced by actress Mary Alice who, frankly speaking, looks nothing like her.

Morgan Freeman was unavailable at the time.

The Wachowskis could have overcome this hurdle by simply starting the scene where the new Oracle is first reintroduced by having someone say “Oracle,” or “you will meet the Oracle now”, even though it wasn’t necessary in the first place (how many old, black, chain smoking women have you seen in the Matrix films?)

However, not only did the Wachowskis decide to make the sudden change in appearance very obvious, it also resulted in one of the most convoluted, ridiculous and frankly speaking, pointless, pieces of conversation that have ever graced the big screen, offering no real explanation to what happened and at the same time not just letting it go.

Here’s the scene from the script, you can judge for yourselves: 

ORACLE
Morpheus, Trinity. Thank you for coming.

They look at one another, unable to recognize the woman. The woman sighs.

ORACLE (CONT’D)
One thing I have learned in all my years is that nothing ever works out the way you want it to.

TRINITY
Who are you?

ORACLE
I’m the Oracle.

Neither believes it.

ORACLE
I wish there was an easy way to get through this but there ain’t. I’m sorry this had to happen. I’m sorry I couldn’t be sitting here like you remember me. But it wasn’t meant to be.

TRINITY
What happened?

ORACLE
I made a choice and that choice cost me more than I wanted to.

MORPHEUS
What choice?

ORACLE
To help you. To guide Neo. Now, since the real test for any choice is having to make the same choice again, knowing full well that it might cost, I guess I feel pretty good about that choice ‘cause here I am, at it again.

Hands up if you have an idea what just happened there.

On a different note, having just watched (part of) The Matrix Revolutions on TV, it makes me realize (again) how much of a wasted opportunity this film is. Programs giving birth to programs? Neo’s powers seeping through to the real world? Morpheus and co. in sweats for the entire second half of the film? It seems the Wachowskis have forgotten the first rule of movie making: K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

Here’s the trailer for The Matrix Revolutions to remind you just how bad it was:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhoaoTZJSX4

This is a preview of the work I am doing for the motion graphic novel Bottlecap. I have converted it into pages using Manga Studio, but originally each panel has been drawn individually . It’s also my first proper brush with panel transition. This sequence will be used as the trailer for the graphic novel.

Marvel’s master plan (and my review of Thor)

I admire what Marvel studios are doing with their movies. Up until 2008, every superhero existed in a universe of their own when it came to movies (apart from the occasional nod), whereas in the comic books, this is not and has never been the case. It is not unlikely to see a superhero guest appearing in another superhero’s book, or two superheroes sharing a story arc together, or a “crossover event” which, if you can tell from the name, is when a single story crosses over several series, in an attempt by the publisher to make you buy every comic book they publish instead of a single character series.

In the comic books, Superman and Batman are best friends, and they are part of the “Justice League of America”, which also includes Green Lantern (movie coming out this year), Wonder Woman (TV series out soon), the Flash, among other lesser known heroes. In the movies, however, the best we ever got of one superhero referencing another is Batman joking “that’s why Superman works alone” in Batman & Robin. As for Marvel equivalent, there is the “Avengers”, which included, at different times, no less than Spider-man, Wolverine, Iron Man, Captain America, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk and Thor, with other heroes guest appearing from time to time. Unfortunately, when it came to the films, the worlds of these heroes remained pretty much isolated: Wolverine was part of X-Men, Spider-man had his own movie, Fantastic Four has their own movie and none of these heroes even mentioned the mere existence of the others.

Part of the problem Marvel faced is that the cinematic rights for these characters were scattered among several studios. Fox owned X-Men and Fantastic Four, Columbia owned Spider-man, and Universal owned Hulk (the first film at least), a problem that DC doesn’t have since DC itself is owned by Time Warner, also owner of Warner Bros., the film studio that has been producing all movie based on DC Comics property for the past 3 decades. Marvel neatly overcame this hurdle by beginning to produce its own films, under the label of Marvel Studios, borrowing characters from Marvel’s vast vault that are not currently owned by other studios. But it was only in 2008, when Marvel’s first self-developed film, Iron Man, came out, when Marvel’s master plan became apparent. A post-credits scene featuring Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury asking Tony Stark, Iron Man’s alter-ego, if he would want to join the ‘Avengers Initiative’. Since then, Marvel’s plans have been steadily progressing towards an Avengers film, introducing the characters in separate features first (such as Incredible Hulk in 2008, Thor and the upcoming Captain America movie) before bringing them together in an Avengers movie, slated for a 2012 release.

The other problem is, of course, the co-existence of these heroes together. It is difficult to imagine how a super-powered alien or a cosmic ranger would exist in a gritty, realistic world such as the one crafted by Christopher Nolan in his Batman films. As for Marvel’s Avengers, most of its team members had ‘science’ based powers: Iron Man built a mechanical suit that enhanced his strength, Hulk’s powers were triggered by nuclear radiation and Captain America got his powers after he was injected by a steroid like super-soldier serum. The only exception, the superhero who was certainly going to give Marvel the biggest pain, and the one who is so difficult to connect to the rest of the lot, let alone turn into a movie to begin with, was Thor. And it’s not difficult to see why.

Thor is based on his Norse mythology counterpart. In the comic books, Thor IS the god of thunder, he does live in Asgard, an off-world fantasy realm that exists among the stars and is connected to our world via a “rainbow bridge”. And he does wield “Mjolnir”, an all-too-powerful magic hammer. Which all doesn’t fit very well among mechanical biosuits and super serums and radiation. In the comic books, may be they are easy to combine, but in a movie, that would be a serious shift in tone by current movie standards.

So how did Marvel approach Thor? They could have simply excluded the character from the Avengers roster, or re-written the origin to make it fit Marvel’s cinematic universe (for instance, one of the many character iterations is that he is a delusional mental patient). Instead, Marvel took the difficult path. Those of you who sat through the end credits of Iron Man 2 must have already seen the post-credits sequence showing SPOILER ALERT! Thor’s hammer Mjolnir landing in New Mexico, so we already knew Marvel was going to be faithful to the true origin of the character. The movie Thor is indeed the god of thunder, and does live in realm of Asgard, neatly depicted here as more of an other dimension rather than a realm, accessible via a wormhole, somewhat bridging the gap between science and magic. Anyone vaguely familiar with the comic books knows how the story should probably go like: Thor’s father, Odin, king of Asgard, decides his son needs to be taught humility and consequently banishes Thor to planet Earth. Although, unlike the comic books, movie Thor doesn’t lose memories of his ‘god-hood’, and doesn’t have a secret identity (although there’s a nod to the secret identity, Donald Blake, being the ex-boyfriend of Natalie Portman’s character).

Which is perhaps the film’s biggest flaw. The whole thing feels rushed, much more a prelude to the upcoming Avengers movie rather than a movie on its own. The movie opens to a ceremony in which Thor (Chris Hemsworth) prepares to ascend the throne of Asgard. The ceremony is interruped by an attack by the Frost Giants, old enemies of Thor’s father and king of Asgard Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Against Odin’s order, and persuaded by his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor travels to the homeland of the Frost Giants, thus breaking a truce between both realms and putting Asgard at the risk of war. As punishment, Odin strips Thor of his godly power and exiles him to Earth, together with his hammer, which is now protected by a spell that allows only the worthy to be able to wield it. From this point onward, it’s pretty straight forward fare: Thor attempts to retrieve the hammer, which is discovered by locals and confiscated by S.H.I.E.L.D. (agent Coulson from Iron Man movies finally gets some screen time), while at the same time Loki reveals his plans to dispose his brother and become king of Asgard.

Key points in the character’s origin are reduced to few minute montages to fit the dense back story within the 2 hours mark: Thor’s defiance, banishment, his encounter, and later on, his brief romance with Jane Foster (played by Natalie Portman whose character has been rewritten completely as an astrophysicist), tracking down Mjolnir, his eventual “revelation”, and becoming Thor again, his initiation as an Avenger, and so on. These events take place at such a rapid pace, as if the makers are trying to tell us what we should know about Thor in preparation for the Avengers film rather than engage us or give us a film that stands on its own.

The film also serves as an introduction to other characters, namely Loki, who is, without giving away too much of the plot, is bound to be a major player in the Avengers film (stay until the end of the credits to know why). Also featured is archer and Avengers veteran Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), sans costume, in a blink-and-you-will-miss-it sequence.

Chris Hemsworth is suprisingly likeable as Thor, managing to strike that balance between arrogant all too powerful god and noble warrior, and makes the character’s transition less clunky (Robert Downey Jr. should feel slightly threatened now). Hopkins is being Hopkins (the man can read a phone book and make it sound regal), and Hiddleston is sometimes over the top but generally ok as the god of mischief. Natalie Portman plays Foster as geeky and quirky, although she never really gets enough time to invest in her character, hopefully Avengers will allow for more character development.

The movie manages to strike a delicate balance between action, comedy, romance and faux-Shakespearean family drama. Asgard is beautifully rendered, the verbal jousts between Thor, Odin and Loki reek of the Bard. When Thor falls to Earth, the tone shifts to comedy, with Thor being in a fish-out-of-water kind of situation, without ever getting ridiculous.   

So what do I make out of Thor? It is solid entertainment, but I wish it would have been a longer film. I am sure when the DVD comes out there will be a lot of material that had to be left on the cutting room floor. Otherwise, we will have to wait until Avengers come out to see more of Thor which is in about a year anyway.