I’m Mighty Thor

Back in the late sixties when I first discovered the wonderful world of Marvel Comics, it was not only their terrific and varied artwork, their primal human insights, and their action which caught my eye.

Mainly, it was their humor.

From Peter Parker to J. Jonah Jameson to Doc Ock to The Silver Surfer to Ant Man (and his alter-ego Giant Man) to Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Captain America and Bucky to Iron Man to the Avengers to The Hulk to The Thing to The Fantastic Four to Doctor Strange to blind superhero Daredevil to Kid Colt, Outlaw to The Ghost Rider to, yes, The Mighty Thor – the great, late Stan Lee kept it all fun.

I mean, would the hyper-serious DC brand (Superman, Batman) ever have produced a comic takeoff on its own superheroes like “Not Brand Echhh?”  Could a young DC reader have joined anything like The Merry Marvel Marching Society (MMMS)?

Jon Favreau understood this when he directed “Iron Man.”  Combining his innate humor with that of Robert Downey, Jr., was exactly the right way to translate a Marvel property to film.

Which was why I cringed when I saw that Marvel Productions had handed the first (and likely last) of the “The Mighty Thor” franchise to Kenneth Branagh.  If you’ve ever viewed Branagh’s work, you know that he never fulfilled his early promise to be the next Olivier due to one major failing.

He takes himself too seriously.

For example, the trap in “Hamlet” – a version of which had Branagh as both director and lead actor – is to play the “melancholy Dane” as, well, melancholy.  In “Henry V,” also acted in and directed by Branagh, it’s to portray the reformed ne’er-do-well turned ruler as the utterly heroic, dyed-in-the-wool Englishman who leads his hundred to victory over the French ten thousand by pure dint of intensity.  In both cases, Branagh planted both feet firmly in the center of those errors.

There’s a whole school of film work which takes itself so seriously that it believes when it deigns to allow a moment to be humorous, we, the audience, will howl with gratitude.  What they never seem to realize is that we’re so uninterested by then that it’s lucky if it garners a smile.  Branagh is a master of that kind of work.

Now, “Thor” has a lot of problems.  I mean, any film which makes Anthony Hopkins look even vaguely pedestrian is not healthy at its core.  The screenplay is all over the universe, with only one character of any substance (the tormented villain, Loki), a rather denigrating take on not only Middle America but even our scientists, utterly overblown CGI and creature effects (what the heck was that whirling bronze cannon thing which propelled the Asgardians through the cosmos?) and a complete lack of decision about whether this was Star Wars or Star Man.

Okay, I did sort of like The Gatekeeper, but it was mainly because he seemed as befuddled about what was going on as I.

But the worst problem of all is “Thor”‘s humorlessness.  It’s not only anti-Marvel, it’s anti-audience.  And as anyone in the business knows, you’d better know your audience.  Even in my current incarnation doing website videos and marketing videos, every choice I make is based in my assessment of and empathy with the audience for which that particular film is geared.

So, Mr. Branagh, I, as a Member Emeritus of The Merry Marvel Marching Society hereby declaim your butchery of one of Marvel’s most beloved properties. In “Not Brand Echhh!” the takeoff version was “The Mighty Sore.”  Well, that’s me.

After grinding my teeth through your film, I’m Mighty Thor.

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