Pros: Fast Paced and Action packed
Cons: About as deep as a puddle, Portman is wasted here
I was very worried about Thor. The last Kenneth Branagh directed movie that I watched was the awful Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on DVD a couple of months back, the acting was so over the top and the music so very intrusive that the whole thing just fell apart as a huge pompous mess.
Nonetheless Branagh is a good fit for the world of Thor with its flowery language and realms of gods and mortals, the man bought Shakespeare to the masses before Leonardo DiCaprio was even in Critters 3 so the man knows epic and olde worlde.
The four minute leaked trailer from San Diego comic con last summer also was not promising, looking more like an overblown sci-fi channel original movie than a proper cinematic experience. I am happy and relieved to report then that Thor is very enjoyable and entertaining with a capital E.
The film begins with a trio of scientists including Jane Foster played by Natalie Portman investigating an atmospheric phenomenon in the New Mexico desert. They unfortunately run over Thor as he stumbles out of a sandstorm, we then flashback to see how he gets there.
In the realm of Asgard, Thor and his brother Loki are the sons of Odin played by Anthony Hopkins, Thor is about to take over as ruler of Asgard as Odin will shortly fall into Odin sleep, a period of long rest where he essentially regenerates. After a ceremony is interrupted by a trio of frost giants, the headstrong and proud Thor brashly secretly declares war on the land of the frost giants and causes a huge mess. Odin is incensed and banishes Thor to midgard or Earth as it is known to us mortals to live as a human and he is understandably mistaken for someone who is mentally ill. Thor must become worthy of becoming ruler of Asgard and pull his mighty hammer from the rock it is embedded in whilst learning compassion for his fellow man. Meanwhile his brother Loki reveals a few secrets of his own and it is clear that not all is as it seems regarding the circumstances around Thor’s banishment.
There could have been a ton of camp injected into this movie. The scenes in Asgard could have easily fallen into some kind of glam rock nightmare like something out of Flash Gordon. I mean the means of travelling between dimensions is known as a rainbow bridge for gods sake. Its handled well though and at several times during these scenes I found myself thinking ‘that is cool’ especially during the battle with the frost giants where Thor really unleashes his full powers and even the dreaded rainbow bridge is visually stunning.
Chris Hemsworth as Thor is a star, he was great in those opening moments of Star Trek as Kirk’s dad where we got a taste of his charisma and acting ability and thus far his two other turns in front of he camera in Cabin in the Woods and the Red Dawn remake have been shelved due to MGM’s financial trouble but if this hits then we could be seeing them sooner rather than later. Hemsworth handles the action hero stuff and the fish out of water comedy with ease and is also capable of making the audience swoon with his romance with Portman’s character who is strangely bland here. He should have a long career ahead of him if Thor is a big hit. The rest of the cast are more than adequate without ever really getting a chance to step up apart from Tom Hiddleston as Loki, the very definition of a sniveling villain without ever going on grandstanding form.
Unlike previous Marvel studios movies I never found myself looking at my watch here, the film flies by, in fact its almost too fast I was shocked to discover that it was just under two hours long when it felt like an hour and twenty. There is also SHIELD related stuff in this movie but it does not feel shoehorned in the way that it did in Iron Man 2, here it feels necessary to the plot of the film and very obviously after the end credits has stuff that will lead directly into The Avengers.
If I had to have a complaint about this film and the Marvel films in general its that they don’t seem to have much in the way of directorial flair or style. Much as I was worried about it, I would have loved for Branagh to inject a bit more stage style acting and grandstanding in to proceedings here, especially in the Asgard scenes. The story of fathers and sons and the difficult relationships they have is very Shakespearean and smacks of a missed opportunity. Once we get past The Avengers maybe Marvel will let directors cut loose a little more. You can’t hire Shane Black for Iron Man 3 and not let him loose with the smart mouth dialogue after all.
Will Thor be a big success? Its hard to say.At this point the character seems more of an outsider than Iron Man or even Daredevil in terms of his fame level. One things is for sure, In a summer of comic based properties, Thor has set the bar high