Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Strange and Terrible Foreboding at the Movie Theatre

In an effort to totally pimp out their upcoming film THE AVENGERS, Marvel has been churning out full length feature trailers, the latest of which was THOR.  As a mild lover of comics with (increasingly apparent) superficial knowledge of these characters, and all the varied story lines, and with no real background knowledge about Thor the god from Norse mythology or Thor the god-turned-superhero from the Marvel universe I somehow still got excited about and felt it necessary to see this movie, mostly due to a slick advertising campaign and my boyish desire to see superheroes kick ass on the big screen.  Most of what I knew about the Marvel incarnation of Thor came from my limited knowledge of The Avengers, which wasn't that much to begin with.  Like most people most of my knowledge is focused around the big names of comics like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, the Hulk and The X-Men.  The Avengers never really interested me because they seem like a team of super hero sellouts who are essentially the bitches of the United States government.  Any team led by a guy named Captain America -the ultimate superhero corporate-culture-representing, overtly-nationalistic douche bag- seemed anathema to the whole idea of what made super heroes cool to begin with.  And then his back up is a drunk in a tin can,  a dude who can shrink to the size of an ant, a chick with wasp wings, a Norse god and the Hulk.  The only awesomeness there is the Hulk.  Even Iron Man is really just a poor man's Batman.  Think about it.  Neither Batman nor Iron Man have any super powers (theoretically since, I suppose, that neither one of them actually exist) but whereas Batman relies on his intense ninja training, impeccable deductive reasoning, and his massive 14 inch dick, Iron Man is useless without his suit which artificially enhances his strength and normal ability to fly (that is: none).  Without the suit Tony Stark is basically anybody's bitch, but Bruce Wayne without the suit can still kick ass with his aforementioned martial arts skills and disproportionally large genitals (which he could also use as a weapon to club his enemies halfway to death as a last resort). 

But I'm really getting off track here.  The point is that Thor has only ever been on the periphery of my consciousness, when he was ever there at all, so when going to see a movie about him I really had no expectations, despite having ample time to go and do some research or read a couple of comics.  I just really couldn't give a fuck.  Plus, why the hell should I have to do extra work to enjoy a movie?  It's up to the filmmaker to give me the pertinent background on this character, and if I didn't understand then it was the director's and the writers' fault, not mine.  I hate movies where you have to read the books to fully understand what was going on (read: HARRY POTTER and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST).  No, academic study was not the answer here.  The answer to enjoying THOR would have to come from a corporate culture that manufactured a product and then used slick, shiny advertising and lots of big explosions and set piece battles to distract me from any major problems with the movie.  Like most problems the key to this one was money.  The more money they spent making THOR the better it would inherently be.  It's simple logic:  the more expensive the movie is to make, the better it will be.  Every movie executive knows that.

After being reeled in by the aforementioned slick advertising campaign and promise of godly ass kicking the decision was made to go and witness Marvel's latest cinematic adaptation.  My old companion Ryebone and I agreed to meet on a Tuesday night, because in an effort to draw in more customers during the week the theatre had implemented a regular half-price Tuesday night deal.  It also so happened that due to a previous engagement I was unable to attend the earlier show and so we ended up going to see THOR in glorious 3D.  I had jut finished showering when Ryebone showed up in a car borrowed from his aunt.  His car was in the garage and so we were stuck driving around in a bright red Toyota Yaris or some such nonsense.  It was a dubious start to the evening, but I said goodbye to my wife, tucked my dick into the Yaris and off we went. 

The theatre was typically busy for a Tuesday night and we bought our overpriced tickets at half price which almost made the sting of paying extra for 3D bearable.  After a brief stop at the concession stand where I bought an ice tea to help replenish my valuable bodily fluids and after Rybone bought a large popcorn and pop after repeated testimonials to the contrary we made our way past the Ticket Guardian who solemnly ripped the bottom off of our tickets, handed us our 3D glasses and directed us to Theatre 5.  Ryebone and I were going through the usual pre-movie chatter, which in this case turned out to be a lot about the relative hotness of Natalie Portman (consensus: pretty fucking hot) and how he'd like to "get up in that ass."  It was at this point about halfway to the hallowed grounds of Theatre 5 that I heard a voice behind me.

"What movie are you going to see?"

At first I assumed that I was overhearing the typical inane chatter of other movie theatre patrons who never seemed quite concerned enough with the state of Natalie Portman's ass.  Ryebone and I continued on our way until I heard the voice again, closer this time, and I could feel it addressed to the back of my head.  I turned around and the realization slowly dawned on me that we were being engaged in conversation by a complete stranger.  I was immediately on my guard because A) I recently experienced a break-in and assault in my house and was still understandably jumpy and easily startled and B) In my world random well wishers don't just come up to me on the street and start actual conversations beyond "You got the time?"  "Got any spare change?" or "Holy shit, move your car, you just parked on my son!" and other stupid shit like that.  I was immediately on my guard and prepared to attack.

As I turned to face this creepily friendly stranger I became even more creeped out as we were obviously being accosted by some kind of militant, mutant super geek.  He was about the most conspicuous person you could meet in a small town theatre at that time of night.  He was tall -about 6'2" or 6'3"- and so white he was practically glowing.  On top of his greasy, blonde hair sat a cheap fedora that was obviously too small for him and nowhere near as cool as the ones I sometimes wore.  He had on a black t-shirt with some kind of logo or writing on it, and over top of that a black faux leather vest.  His black pants were accented by a hanging chain that ended up in his back pocket and I could only assume was attached to his wallet, a style that gained popularity with yuppie, wanna be teenagers about ten years ago in an effort for middle class white kids to look and feel more "badass."  Unfortunately for them and for my pasty friend that strategy was completely flawed and only served to accent their inherent lameness.  His beady eyes stared at us from behind his glasses with a fevered intensity I could only only attribute to hardcore drug use and prolonged staring at a computer screen teabagging n00bs in some incarnation of Call of Duty which he would later brag about in his blog. 

"THOR," I replied in the steadiest voice I could muster.  What I really meant to say was "What the fuck do you want?"

"That's awesome.  THOR is great.  You guys are in for a real treat."

"Thanks," was all I could think to say.  I could sense that Ryebone was anxious too, and we both consciously quickened our pace to outrun this motherfucker.  We walked into Theatre 5 and The Fedora continued on his way.

"Enjoy the movie, guys," he shot back at us as we went our separate ways. 

"Who was that guy?" Ryebone asked me as we went in to try and find a seat in the semi-crowded theatre.

"No fucking idea."

"Holy shit.  I thought you knew that guy."  Apparently Rybone had not been as concerned as I had at the time because he believed that perhaps through some of my other social connections -perhaps at an ultimate Frisbee tournament or a Dungeons and Dragons game or spoon collecting in Russia or taunting local homeless people to fight over scraps of food or some other activity that Ryebone has imagined as part of his fictitious biography of my life.  Now Ryebone was even more freaked out and I decided to contemplate it further as I went to he bathroom for the obligatory pre-movie piss.  After a particularly ordinary piss (barely a ten count) I went to wash my hands when who should I see but The Fedora who was leaving the bathroom at the same time I was, even though I got the impression he wasn't there for the standard business transaction, but merely to "hang out."  I made a grave error at this point: accidental eye contact.  This is a faux-pas in general, but especially in the men's bathroom where it is common etiquette to:

1) Never talk to anyone else.
2) Never linger too long at the urinal when there are other people beside you.
3)Never make eye contact in any capacity. 

Any and all of these actions could (and should) be interpreted to mean that the offending party wishes to have sex with you, which is fine if you're gay and you enjoy picking up strangers in bathrooms, but highly dangerous if you offend someone who looks like (and possibly is) a Hell's Angel or Charlie Sheen who are both liable to steal your blood and/or shank you.

"You're really going to enjoy THOR," The Fedora reiterated as we left the bathroom and again went our separate ways, breaking the first rule of bathroom etiquette.

"I hope so," I replied thinking about the 3D ticket price I had half paid for, hoping not to be as terribly disappointed as I was with CLASH OF THE TITANS.

"You will."

As I sat down beside Ryebone in Theatre 5 again I was now thoroughly freaked out.  What were the odds that I would encounter this blonde, vest-wearing freak once let alone twice in the same night?  And why the hell did he seem so zoned in on me?  I had little time to ponder this as I looked at the entrance to the theatre in horror.  The Fedora was now IN MY THEATRE!  And what was he holding?  Pizza!  I know that they sell pizza at the theatre, but everybody knows it's just for show.  I mean with the number of people who buy pizza at the movies they must go through maybe one pizza every three months.  Plus my bespectacled friend already seemed greasy enough.  The last thing he needed was another slice of pizza.  I hadn't been in close enough proximity to him for an extended period, but he just looked like the kind of guy who in his early twenties had not outgrown the human teenage male biological imperative to produce as much grease and sweat as possible so that when you put a bunch of them together in a confined space for any length of time you get that oppressive, air-thickening, moist cloud of dankness that you can almost feel on the back of your throat when you breath in like on a really humid day.

Now, of course, I was convinced that The Fedora was stalking us.  The first thing that popped into my mind -as I'm sure it would for any sane person- was that Ryebone and I were being targeted for abduction like the suave French guy did with those teenage chicks in TAKEN.  Unlike them, however, I couldn't count on Liam Neeson to save me because odds were he was off making kick-ass movies and performing great deeds to be spoken of for generations to come.  I figured a full on Neeson rescue was anywhere around 20% on an average day, which didn't bode well for me.  Luckily it was at about this time that the movie started and distracted me from my possibly very dark, Neeson-less future.

THOR itself is an easy one to encapsulate in five words or less (or, in this case, five words exactly): it was what it was.  It was a short and sweet summer blockbuster superhero action movie that was building up towards THE AVENGERS due out next year.  Knowing that Kenneth Branaugh was involved in any capacity (this time as director and general Shakespeare expert) you know to expect a certain level of awesomeness that the Bran-meister will not dip below, and so it was theoretically impossible for THOR to suck total goat balls.  While THOR never approached goat-junk-suctioning levels, neither did it achieve the heights of grandeur I have come to expect from Marvel (with the exception of THE PUNISHER, DAREDEVIL, SPIDER-MAN 3, X-3, FANTASTIC FOUR, FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER, and ELECTRA)  The acting was as good, with a lot of high calibre actors like Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Natalie Portman, and Ray Stevenson (fuck you, he was great in Rome).  Kat Dennings did a great job as the comic relief, who disappeared three quarters of the way into the film for some reason.  Chris Hemsworth did a great job as Thor himself, both as the arrogant lord of the manor and as the fallen god who learns a painful lesson in humility.  I didn't even realize that I had seen Hemsworth before as Kirk's father in J.J. Abrams' STAR TREK reboot.  It's not really relevant, I was just surprised.

The plot of THOR was sufficiently complex yet not as epic in scale as I was hoping it would be.  Thankfully Branaugh was allowed to go in a slightly different direction here and was not forced to use the IRON MAN blue print (eg. arrogant protagonist wishing to mend the error of his ways and make up for past transgressions).  I suppose the heart of the story is really a relationship triangle between three people: Thor (Hemsworth), Odin (Hopkins) and Loki (a sufficiently slimey Tom Hiddleson).  I suppose we have Branaugh's Shakspearean experience to thank for some of the themes that ran through THOR: the tension between father and son, betrayal by those seemingly closest to you, fighting for royal rights, and mistaken identity.  While Thor's arrogance and sense of entitlement in some ways mirror Tony Stark's there has been a concerted effort to distinguish all the Marvel characters, I assume in anticipation of their on-screen mash-up, THE AVENGERS.  Despite his arrogance, Thor is a lot more laid back and playful than Stark and is concerned with being a man of action rather than a man of thought then action.

The plot involves some supernatural struggle between the Asgardians and some dudes called the Frost Giants because they're big and frosty.  There's no love lost between these two peoples and Thor decides to stir some shit up by going to visit the Frost Giants to keep them in line.  What follows is a kick-ass battle that shows how awesome the Asgardians are and how shitty the Frost Giants actually are.  The only thing the Frost Giants had going for them (despite being ten feet tall) was their superior numbers, like the Zerg.  After this shit-stirring Odin banishes his son Thor to Earth (surprise!) to learn humility before he's allowed back to Asgard and all the immortal pussy he can get his hands on.  In the meantime he has to settle (?) for Natalie Portman, an astrophysicist (or whatever) who is trying to prove the existence of wormholes, theoretically so she could go back in time and play both her and Mila Kunis's parts in BLACK SWAN thereby resulting in a paradoxically better lesbian scene and exploding the brains of the entire human male population on Earth.  What follows is the weakest part of the film, because there's a not-really-love story that drags on which is at least made better with some comic relief from Kat Dennings and Hemsworth's medieval-mannered Thor and balls to the wall fight scene where even without his powers Thor stomps a whole team of S.H.I.E.L.D agents with little trouble.  Meanwhile Loki (who turns out to be a Frost Giant - but normal size for some reason) is revealed to be a total asshole who set this whole thing in motion in order to A) Banish Thor, who could kick his ass royally, B) Kill -or maybe not- Odin who could also fuck up his shit royally, and C) Commit mas genocide by destroying an entire planet full of Vulcans Frost Giants.  Eventually Thor proves that he's a great guy, gets back his magic hammer Mjolnir which gives him super ass-kicking powers and proceeds to beat the shit out of Loki and cut off the only means of returning to Earth to finally bone Natalie Portman.

With the movie finally over and the typical Marvel after-the-credits-extra-scene carefully observed Ryebone and I left the theatre.  I kept a close eye on The Fedora as Ryebone went to the bathroom to drain the lizard.  I advised him to "watch his corn hole" and he assured me that my waning would be heeded.  That left me to wait in the hallway outside Theatre 5 as people crowded past me in.  But me, I was focused on one person and one person only: The Fedora who was standing in the middle of the hall with a group of about four other dudes.  Even from thirty feet away I could hear him going on about how great THOR was.  The fact that he was lingering after the movie only served to enhance my paranoia about being kidnapped and sold as a sex slave to a Middle Eastern oil baron and as Ryebone exited the bathroom I felt sure that our time was up.  It became my immediate mandate to make sure that grease-face and his goonies didn't get behind us so they couldn't get the drop on us.  Luckily my fears were assuaged as we approached the geek-gang and they disbanded and headed towards the exit well ahead of us. 

Upon reaching home I bid Ryebone farewell as he was off to Hawaii for two weeks with some friends the next day.  He tells people he went on vacation, but he's actually going because I told him the smoke monster from Lost didn't exist so he went to get photo evidence and maybe a stool sample.  As I entered the house I did one more visual sweep to make double sure I hadn't been followed and listened closely for the unmistakable jangle of a chain attached to somebody's wallet nestled safely next to his ass.  Deeming it safe I entered my own Asgardian realm of solitude (AKA my house), went to bed and fell into a fitful sleep where erotic dreams of myself and Natalie Portman in increasingly depraved situations were constantly interrupted by shadowy figures dressed in fedoras and reeking of pizza, Ryebone dressed only in a lei and grass skirt dancing wildly, and the laughing head of Chris Hemsworth.  Much like THOR, not the worst I've ever had.

(PS For anybody that gives a shit (ie. no one) I would rank THOR a solid 7/10 = One Head in a Winged Helmet Laughing Heartily as it Crushed It's Enemy's Head With a Swinging Hammer)