REVIEW: Thor [2011]

Score: 6/10 | ★ ★ ½


Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 115 minutes | Release Date: May 6th, 2011 (USA)
Studio: Marvel Studios / Paramount Pictures
Director(s): Kenneth Branagh
Writer(s): Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne /
J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich (story) / Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby (comic book)

“Unworthy of the loved ones you’ve betrayed”

Considering the extent of my knowledge on Thor pertains to the fantasy that Vincent D’Onofrio was he in Adventures in Babysitting, you will not be getting any grand breakdown comparison of the film with the comics. I just don’t know anything about the source material, much like all the DC and Marvel films coming out the past decade—I simply didn’t start reading comics until college and by then it was just graphic novels. So my entry into the world of Asgard came from a different sort of direction, one of the Shakespearean background of director Kenneth Branagh, a man so steeped in the playwright that his offer to direct can be nothing but inspired. To me this meant that there could be some great Greek tragedy elements at play, a massive power play for control of a kingdom, and the exile of a God to live amongst man as punishment for some unforgivable act of hubris. Surprisingly, all this was included and more as the Norse God’s tale unfolded both ingrained with Branagh’s oeuvre and the universe created to soon encompass the whole of The Avengers team. It’s largely a set-up for things to come, but as an origin story, you can’t ask for much more.

The filmmakers allow us to ground ourselves on Earth to start—a smart move since anyone who has been following the Marvel films might be a bit turned off to find themselves face to face with a veritable Mt. Olympus, throwing them off both in continuity and excitement, (unfortunately mythology just doesn’t ring with the same intrigue as it did in my youth). We meet a pair of scientists, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and Stellan Skarsgård’s Erik Selvig, with their intern Darcy (Kat Dennings), as they come upon an electromagnetic aberration in the night’s sky. We are unaware of what’s happening until a man smashes into their car window, bringing the tornado-like action to a halt as the humans investigate further. It is here that we cut to the heavens and learn of King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and his two sons, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), both precocious boys working towards the throne. We discover a past battle with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, a truce made to end their quarrel, and a current trespass leading to the arrogant actions of a young man too stubborn for patience.

And so it is with the blatant disregard for authority that Thor takes his brother and friends to the ice world to pick a fight full of revenge; a miscalculation brought on by the Prince’s short fuse and one that strips him of his powers and hammer, his father exiling him to Earth. But the elderly man had a reason for this action; you can see the wheels turning as he also sends the hammer down, a beacon of untapped potential, yearning to once again find a worthy soul to wield. Unfortunately for Thor, he is not yet such a man. His time as a mortal must be used to eradicate his temper, to clear his mind for strategy, and once and for all discover a capacity for forgiveness and selflessness necessary to rule over the Nine Realms of space. So he must learn humility and the preciousness of life alongside the trio of kind-hearted people who have taken him in, must battle the urge to go after S.H.I.E.L.D. once they quarantine his landing site, and find the patience to wait and see what the future holds.

Between the magic-induced vision of Loki relaying lies to play on his brother’s trust, the arrival of his merry-men, (Ray Stevenson in a fat suit as Volstagg, the most self-deprecating I’ve ever seen him; Tadanobu Asano as Hogun; Josh Dallas as Fandral; and Jaimie Alexander as Sif), and the Klaatu-esque Destroyer sent down to kill them all, we watch this petulant boy become a man—perhaps too quickly. If I were to fault the film in anyway, it is that this evolution of character happens way too fast. Hemsworth is fantastic as Thor, a hulking giant of a man who earns respect from both friend and foe alike, but his hot-headed portrayal at the start is way too well constructed to give way to a diplomatic leader filled with love that he soon becomes. Who knew he only had to fail once in his life to automatically find inner strength to rise above pettiness? I’ll bet the King wished he knew he could have forgone all the hardships that occur once Thor is gone and his Odin-sleep/hibernation crops up at the absolute worst time ever. But then we may never have seen Loki morph into a formidable villain, torn between two worlds, his means for approval too excessive to exist in either.

And this is pretty much what Thor succeeds in doing, creating characters to be used in future franchise installments and the forthcoming Avengers—the post-credits sequence a blatant set-up, even directed by Joss Whedon himself, the man helming its production. Hemsworth is found to be very capable as a leading action hero; Hiddleston excels at playing both the misunderstood magician wanting to find a place in his family and the evil, conniving antagonist that wins out; and even a small, uncredited cameo from a certain archer is thrown in for good measure. Clark Gregg continues to exude the essence of government agent with his Coulson; Colm Feore rediscovers his great ability for playing creepy villainous monsters with his blue and angular King Laufey of Jotunheim; and Idris Elba is a welcome supporting piece as Heimdallur, the guard of Asgard’s borders and a powerful man with great knowledge whom you can imagine will play a larger role in the continuing saga of the Thunder God. If anything, the only real weak link comes from Natalie Portman, miscast after flooding the scene with Oscar-worthy turns. She just isn’t quite ‘every girl’ enough and I’d almost have cast Dennings in her role instead. But nonetheless, the film lays groundwork and manages to entertain with summer blockbuster action. Frankly, that’s all I was hoping for.


photography:
[1] Left to right: Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in THOR, from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment.
[2] Left to right: Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) in THOR, from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment.
[3] Anthony Hopkins stars as Odin in Paramount Pictures’ Thor (2011)

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