Friday, January 20, 2012

Almighty Thor (2011)

I wanted to begin this review by saying a few words about The Asylum, but those words escape me. If you're unaware, The Asylum is a small film studio in Hollywood that has not only brought us goofy monster movies with titles like Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, but has gained notoriety due to the sheer amount of "mockbusters" they've made over the years. Mockbusters — low-budget movies with titles and plots that copycat high-profile Hollywood productions, produced to siphon a little cash off the mainstream recognition of the big summer releases — make up the bulk of The Asylum's output, to the point that they've practically become the studio's calling card.

I'm having a hard time summing up just how I feel about The Asylum because I simply cannot believe that a company has managed to find even a tiny amount of success by doing nothing more than ripping off mainstream movies. The Asylum's reputation actually proceeded itself in my case, as the first thing I'd ever heard about them was that their mockbusters were all terrible. Dummy me just had to watch some of them, just to see if that was true. And guess what? The movies I've seen really sucked. I've reviewed their knockoffs of Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity in the past, both of which lived up to The Asylum's reputation and were indeed rather awful. But I just couldn't leave well enough alone and I sat down to watch a third one.

I don't shy away from acknowledging that I like superheroes, so I'll confess that I was drawn to The Asylum's knockoff of Thor. I enjoyed the mainstream movie, and the idea of The Asylum doing its own spin on the character (going as far as to actually use Thor, since Norse mythology is public domain) both intrigued me and worried me. I was intrigued because I wanted to see how they'd pull it off, and worried because I was convinced they'd screw the whole thing up somehow. And I figure if I was going to watch this movie, I might as well make the most of it and write about it here. Yeah, I sat through The Asylum's Almighty Thor and you poor saps are going to have to sit there and read all my gripes about it.

As the movie begins, the demon god Loki (Richard Grieco) leads an assault on Asgard in search of the Hammer of Invincibility. Before he can claim the Hammer, however, Loki is confronted by Odin (Kevin Nash) and his sons, Thor (Cody Deal) and Baldir (Jess Allen). Odin and Baldir are killed in the ensuing struggle, but not before Odin tossed the Hammer through a mystical portal leading to an unknown location within the land the Norse gods call "Midgard." With the warrior princess Járnsaxa (Patricia Velásquez) aiding him, Thor ventures into modern-day Los Angeles to retrieve the Hammer before Loki can acquire it and destroy the universe.

It's not often I say this about movies, but I actually kinda regret having watched Almighty Thor. The movie is that bad. You know the movie you're watching is bad when the only redeeming feature of the whole thing is the song that plays over the closing credits. I mean, I knew going in that the movie wouldn't turn out well, but holy crap. This is actually the worst of the three Asylum movies I've seen thus far, and that's saying a lot.

Sitting at the helm of this disaster is Christopher Ray, the son of prolific exploitation filmmaker Fred Olen Ray. And just like his father, Ray isn't a very good director. His work is just awful; the whole movie is just plain boring. Ray doesn't do a single thing to make it worth watching. The effects are ugly, the cinematography is lazy, and the fight scenes are about as unexciting as they could get. He couldn't even secure any decent locations to film at; Asgard looks more like some random California state park rather than a majestic fantasy land, while if I didn't know any better, I'd swear that Los Angeles was nothing but back alleys and warehouses.

And I have to talk about the special effects for a second. The Asylum couldn't possibly match the effects seen in the mainstream Thor, but it's almost amazing to see just how bad the mockbuster's effects are. For starter's Odin's castle likes like it was just added into each shot with Photoshop. There's also the butt-ugly dragon/dog things that Loki sets loose, but the most embarrassing of it all is the scene where Loki somehow sends Thor to Hell. It's painfully obvious that the actor is standing in front of a green screen while crew members shine red and yellow lights on him. Even that wouldn't be so bad if the CGI used to represent Hell didn't look painfully fake.

The movie also suffers from a crappy script penned by Erik Estenberg. He apparently doesn't care much about even the simple basics of Norse mythology, since it seems like the only things that even remotely come close to it are the names of the characters. He couldn't even be bothered to use the "Mjolnir" name for either of the hammers Thor wields during the movie. There's also the lousy dialogue and the feeling that some scenes end up repeating themselves.

And then there's how Estenberg writes Thor. The Thor seen here is an impetuous twit who constantly makes stupid choices and has to be bailed out by Jámsaxa (and she even kicks his ass once!). Estenberg even writes a scene where Thor opens fire with an Uzi during a fight with Loki. Yes, Thor brandishes a machine gun in this movie, and it isn't anywhere near as awesome as I wish it were.

I also didn't quite understand why Estenberg chose to have a last-minute scene where it appears that Thor and Jámsaxa were intended to be love interests. By the end of the movie they've supposedly fallen for one another, but outside of a few quick lines of dialogue near the end of the movie, you'd never know it. There's absolutely nothing that would build to it, and the actors have no chemistry together anyway. The whole thing feels like it got slapped on there after the fact in a poor attempt to add some pathos onto the climax.

Bringing up the rear is the cast, who are all pretty awful. Cody Deal stars in the title role, and plays Thor as an annoying, whiny brat. He's constantly bitching about something, and when you combine that with my earlier complaints, it makes Deal practically intolerable. In the supporting role of Jámsaxa, Patricia Velásquez is obviously trying to overcome the awful material. The sad part is that she's dull as dishwater and leaves no impression whatsoever.

This brings us to Richard Grieco, playing the villainous Loki. One would get the impression while watching the movie that he's realized his career has hit rock bottom, since he doesn't seem to give a damn about any of it. If he put forth any less effort, he'd just be standing there. It feels like he's just going through the motions, as if he's depressed that his career after leaving 21 Jump Street has gone so downhill that he's stuck doing crap like this.

As bad as Almighty Thor is, its ineptitude is only exacerbated by the fact that it's boring. I actually felt like stopping the movie halfway through so I could go take a nap or find some other constructive way to waste my time. It's such an awful movie that it makes me want to rethink my opinion of the mainstream Thor for having spawned it. So yeah, I guess it goes without saying that Almighty Thor gets one star on the scale. After this, I want to avoid watching any more Asylum mockbusters for as long as I can. But knowing my luck, I'll probably end up watching one next week. And I'm sure it'll suck, too.

Final Rating: *