Thursday, September 27, 2012


All Dressed Up: How Costume Enhances Acting
                Special effects have been seen as either enhancing or taking away plot, good acting, or dialogue from a movie. In the movie, Thor, the crew works hard to create authentic costumes that incorporate Viking mythology and Marvel-like design in a realistic, modern way. The special effect of costume adds believability without replacing good acting. This is evident in three exemplary characters—King Laufey, Loki, and Thor.
                The costumes of the frost giants needed to be unique and intimidating to create believability. Colm Feore plays the king of the frost giants, Laufey, and participated in several hours of makeup to get his costume looking believable. His costume and makeup was made to look as real as possible without having to do computer effects, which may fabricate the look and degrade the acting for himself and other actors. In Understanding Movies, the author points out the downfall to working in front of a green screen instead of an actual actor: “Acting is often cold and mechanical, with none of the human subtleties that can be found in scenes where performers are actually interacting” (Giannetti 34).  Creating authentic costumes gives the actors the ability to be on set with each other and interact person-to-person. This adds to the believability of the movie. Colm Feore’s eyes were even actually red on set—a detail that livens the realistic acting. The director of the movie, Kenneth Branagh, knows that “audiences are incredibly sophisticated—you can’t fool them or make cheap synthetic versions of things” (Kenneth Branagh, Special Features on Thor). The materials used in costume were authentic and not digitally enhanced. When Colm Feore acted the part on set, he was able to take on the character depicted through costume and even manipulate his voice to match the costume and role he was stepping into. Some might suggest the costume is unexpected and strange, but that is what brings the comic-book character to life.
                Loki also proves that the costumes enhance acting in the movie. The character of Loki is played by Tom Hiddleston. He says the framing of the armor forced him to stand up tall and assume the stance of a true warrior. Even though he would be drenched with sweat because of layers of thick fabric and a helmet, he admits that there is no “wearing jeans and a t-shirt” to diminish the professional set (Tom Hiddleston, Special Features on Thor ).  Once a warrior and then a villain, Loki’s costume changed from no helmet, to helmet and septor. When he overtook the throne, a horned helmet and septor were added to his costume to better convey the evil brother part. If he looked like other warriors, he may be unintimidating, but his distinct costume propels the cunning king in Tom Hiddleston’s acting to come out. Hiddleston plays this part better in costume because the helmet curves around his face in such a way that he has to tilt his chin down and look up through his helmet. This gives a sinister glare that helps him get in the mindset of the mischievous brother. This enhances his acting and creates a believable character.
                Lastly, Thor’s costume is an essential piece in creating a realistic portrayal of the Marvel star. Re-inventing a comic book character calls for compromise and creativity. For example, the cape of Thor in comics would be used as a weapon in fighting and have a mind of its own, but the movie needed to make the cape functional and fit the actor, Chris Hemsworth’s, physique. Also, the cape needed to not overwhelm his stature, nor make him look small. Stomping around set with a red, authentic cape and solid upright armor enhances his acting because it makes him believe, as well as others on set and viewers on the big screen, that he is Marvel’s Thor brought to life in modern day. The red cape is a symbol of the God-like grace of Thor. This adds to Thor’s credibility and when we see him, we see his power and grace. The costume of Thor would not be complete without his hammer. The hammer helps him act with the power of Thor. Throwing around the Hammer gives Chris Hemsworth conviction that he is the authoritative character and his conviction is translated into believable acting. In some movies the props replace acting, but not in this case. The hammer prop in Thor is a tool for great acting and believability.
                Altogether, Thor, is a movie that makes science-fiction believable. It is credible because it draws from stories of Marvel books and Viking mythology, without creating a forged look. The director understood that audiences’ needs to be convinced. Therefore, he created authentic costumes and relied on tangible props instead of computer-created people or material. The evil villain of King Laufey is original and the actor connects with the character by being in the costume. Loki’s sinister glare is created through the dimensions of his helmet, and his intimidation is enhanced through a horned helmet and septor. The actor playing Thor exudes his God-like grace simply by putting on the red cape and holding the mighty hammer. Costumes may have the potential to create rigidity, distraction, or discomfort in an actor to take away from the acting. However, in Thor, we see how actors are able to literally step into character by wearing authentic, pliable, and functional costumes.  However, the costume and makeup is time-consuming and many people may not like the way the costumes were done in Thor, therefore it receives a rating of 3/5.

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