Thor (2011) Movie Review
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I saw the after credit scene that played at the end of Iron Man 2…which I’m sure wasn’t Marvel’s intended reaction. For those who have not seen this scene (you must have a life and/or a girlfriend) S.H.I.E.L.D. AgentCoulson arrives in the New Mexico desert to discover a massive crater. At the base of this crater is Mjolnir the magical hammer wielded by the Norse god of thunder Thor. This little teaser solidified Marvel Studio’s commitment into bringing to life their massive superhero team The Avengers and their next major action blockbuster would in fact be an adaptation of Thor.
As a massive comic book fan, I somehow feel obligated to see every comic book film adaptation. But I didn’t have this sense of commitment to the Thor movie. Like any good Marvel Zombie I’m a massive Avengers fan which just happens to be the only place that I’m familiar with Thor as a character at all. I’ve never had any real interest in The God of Thunder nor in any of his solo adventures. To be honest, I think I own more copies of Howard The Duck than any issues of The Mighty Thor. Most Marvel heroes are strictly based on scientific theory, but Thor on the other hand is deeply rooted in magic, fantasy, and Norse Mythology. Thor is an outsider even to the superhero genre and I expected this to be a major obstacle in turning this comic hero into a flesh and blood character on film. It’s difficult to take Thor seriously when one of his major villains is The Wrecker, a thug with a mystically powered crowbar.
For those of you who know nothing of the comic, the film tells the heroic journey of the powerful yet arrogant warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who’s quest to impress his father has sparked a massive war between the gods of Asgard and the world of the Frost Giants (Yes, I realize how campy that sounds). Angered by his son’s reckless pursuit of bloodshed, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) turns his son mortal and banishes him to Earth. While stranded in New Mexico, Thor is taken in by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her peers. As Thor becomes humbled by the human world his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) sees this as an opportunity to gain the throne of Asgard. In order to return his father to his rightful place as king, Thor must learn the error of his ways and save the people of Earth as well as Asgard.
Thor is surprisingly directed by Kenneth Branagh who has made a career for himself in adapting Shakespearean plays into critically acclaimed feature films. I have to admit this was a clever decision by Marvel Studios. Thor has an Elizabethan tongue and Branagh knows how to capture this over the top dialogue without it coming across as too campy. With his respected artistic background, Branagh was able round up a fantastic supporting cast. But in this sea of talented actors newcomer ChrisHemsworth, who plays the title character, does not get overshadowed. Hemsworth succeeds in making Thor a likable yet flawed protagonist. The most memorable performance of the film is given by Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s villainous brother. Loki is a sympathetic foe and is by far the most complex of the film, his actions are shrouded in mystery and his motivations are just as fascinating. The strong performances of the cast helps to hide some of the shortcomings of the script.
As much as I enjoyed this film…it isn’t perfect. The Jack Kirby inspired art design of Asgard is breathtaking but the other sets feel limited in scope. Another major flaw is Branagh’s inability to film an exciting action scene. Too much of it is dependent on CGI, which takes me right out of the moment. It’s difficult to build tension when the surrounding threats are completely fabricated. The second act also feels a bit rushed and the transition between the douchey Thor to heroic Thor never feels fully developed.
Despite its flaws, Thor steps away from the generic mold of most super hero origin films. It fully embraces its more outlandish fantasy elements to make a shockingly entertaining summer flick. Well done, Marvel… now don’t screw up The Avengers.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10