Direction / Design / Effects

Thor

Thor has acclaimed thespian/writer/director Kenneth Branagh at the helm in large part due to Branagh’s past achievements working with Shakespearean lore, of which the story of Thor carries many shades. Like Green Lantern, Thor also takes place on two worlds: Earth, and the mystical realm of Norse Gods known as “Asgard”. The task Branagh and his crew have undertaken is challenging: they have to bring a fictional realm to life, make it feel believable, and juxtapose that realm against Earth while not having our home planet feel drab or boring. Thor also boasts non-human characters that must be brought to life, such as the Frost Giants and The Destroyer armor – both of which are seen wreaking havoc upon our hero in the Thor trailer.

So far it looks like Branagh and Co. have done a pretty good job. The look and set design of Asgard is pretty inspired, and after a lot of early worries about the science-meets-magic aesthetic of the Asgardian decorum, armor and weapons, nothing in the Thor trailer looked to “plasticky” to me. Thanks to good cinematography and sound editing, the battle scenes look to have properly simulated the physics of the world Thor inhabits, which speaks to something old and Medieval, yet totally new and unique at the same time.

On the other hand, there is a portion of the film which is set in the American Midwest, with Thor roaming around sans his powers, weapons and armor, and despite scenes of The Destroyer blowing stuff up in the desert or Thor kicking S.H.I.E.L.D. agent ass, there still is the danger that the middle third of the movie will have little to offer in terms of visual splendor or awesome effects – or anything besides “character development” for that matter. I can’t say for certain, but it certainly is a worry. Regardless, the sight of Thor’s hammer Mjolnir crackling with thunder before he smacks it down and lays waste to everything around him is pretty freaking awesome.

Green Lantern

The Green Lantern movie has director Martin Campbell at the helm, leading an award-winning crew of  cinematographers, costume/production designers, artists, makeup and effects gurus. The challenge Campbell and his team are facing is daunting: they must create a multiple races of  CGI aliens (The Green Lantern Corps), at least one alien world (Oa) and visual effects that range from the CGI projections of a Lantern’s power ring, to the complex makeup required for supporting players like the villainous Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) and militant Lantern, Sinestro (Mark Strong). Oh, and they have to make all of these fantastical characters, worlds and powers not feel silly.

While we only get brief glimpses in the trailer, so far Campbell and Co. look to have done the job half-right. Oa looks good, the CGI characters (Kilowog, Tomar-Re) look fairly good, the makeup on Sinestro and Hector Hammond looks spectacular, as do the ring projection effects – but Ryan Reynolds’ CGI Green Lantern costume is still highly debatable.

There’s still plenty of time until the release date of Green Lantern and Campbell and his team are no doubt going to be polishing things up until the last minute. As for direction: Campbell is a solid helmer, but while Casino Royale successfully relaunched James Bond, films like Edge of Darkness, Golden Eye, The Mask (and Legend) of Zorro and Vertical Limit were all simply solid – not spectacular. Green Lantern is not a guaranteed hit.

VERDICT: Looking at the track record I would say Branagh is the better director, but Green Lantern’s design and effects are certainly more complicated. I would have to call this one a tie.

Continue to overall impression and tone…

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