Scene 2: Tonsberg, Norway, 965 AD; Establishing Asgard
We meet the Frost Giants, who apparently travel via power from the Ice Casket. Why is it called a “casket”? I can remember being very confused by that in early viewings, until I just shrugged and said, okay, it’s called a casket, but there’s no body inside. And precisely now, because I don’t like “I don’t know,” I googled it. Hmph! According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions — they actually list it as the first definition — is “a small chest or box (as for jewels).” Who knew? OK, maybe you did. I would think maybe that’s a British-English thing or something vice American-English…but Webster is the dude who wanted to make our language into “American,” without the “-English” after it, and introduced a lot of the little differences between the two varieties that we have now. So I guess it’s just an I’m-ignorant thing.
Onward. Using this…casket…I’ll have to work on this…they make a lot of ice and kill humans with it. Why did they attack Midgard? Is there any particular reason this battle takes place specifically in Norway? They “threatened to plunge the mortal world [not just Norway] into a new ice age.” It doesn’t really matter I guess, but that’s why they call this an obsession.
Asgardians come down, led by Odin who has two eyes and brown hair in his beard and looks pretty darn mighty.
And here we get to what disappoints me about the fight scenes with the Frost Giants. It’s shot darkly and quickly. Dark…maybe makes it feel moodier, scarier? Or were they concerned the costuming and CGI wouldn’t stand up as well if more brightly lit? The fast cut thing is common now in movies especially. I mostly can’t stand Jason Bourne fight scenes for that reason. You can tell it’s stunningly choreographed and you want to catch every move but it’s so fast I have no clue what’s going on. My brain is just beginning to process something and it’s two cuts later already. Here it’s less an issue than it is in the bigger scene later, but I guess I just prefer to see exactly what’s happening, see faces and reactions and body language, rather than just see whole-lotta-fightin’-and-mayhem.
The shot where you see the masses of them lined up, that’s nice. Has a good, epic feel to it. CGI crowd stuff has gotten quite good.
So, the Asgardians win, and Odin takes the casket, “the source of their power,” and he takes it by its handles on the side (maybe important to note he safely does this, compared to what happens when Loki handles it later). Odin’s got one nasty-looking eye now. The eye I think is done very very well, not too graphic, but you know that’s one horrible injury and had to have hurt like heck.
“The last great war ended and we withdrew from the other worlds and returned to the realm eternal, Asgard.” There’s a nice transition to Asgard, but it’s also confusing. What the heck is Asgard? It seems to be kind of planety but not really. How does this world…realm…function? What’s up with that one building on the right that’s kind of floating in the air in multiple pieces? How do people get to it? The only way I ever saw anyone travel on Asgard was by foot or by horse. More on this later…and maybe Thor 2 will give us the answers.
[Edit: OK, after starting to watch with the commentary track a second time — Branagh refers to Asgard as being on an asteroid. Okay…since when do asteroids have rivers and waterfalls and snow-capped mountains? And…atmosphere? All right, all right, it’s a magical asteroid I guess…but I’d still like a real-ish explanation.]
[By the way, is “we withdrew,” and later, “we have fallen into man’s myths and legends,” further evidence that the “17” were unrelated?]
I read some reviews online criticizing the heavy CGI feel of the Asgard establishing shots. I agree. I’ve seen TV shows do that more realistically. Maybe they were going for unrealistic, kind of “surrealistic”? Maybe they couldn’t build a decent model of the floating-in-multiple-pieces building? So to me, the impression created is, yeah, it’s beautiful and grand and awe-inspiring…and I don’t believe it exists.
Ah, but now things start picking up!