By Linc Leifeste | May 6, 2011
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne (screenplay)
J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Protosevich (story)
Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby (characters)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo
Let me start off by saying that I didn’t go into Thor with very high expectations. I was somewhat intrigued by Kenneth Branagh directing and I’ve been impressed with Marvel finally getting their film act together after years of disappointment (anyone remember that abysmal Captain America movie from back in 1990?) but the whole muscle-bound bombastic deity with flowing blonde locks and a big hammer just doesn’t do it for me. I think most people would agree that Thor is a second or third-tier Marvel superhero and if I was putting together a list of Marvel heroes I’d most want to see on the big screen Thor would probably come in about 113th or so. But while not a great film by any stretch of the imagination, I found myself pleasantly surprised when all was said and done.
The film starts off with Thor (Chris Hemsworth, who turns in an impressive performance) crash landing in the New Mexico desert after being banished from his CGI home in the sky, Asgard by his aging king-father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). It seems Thor’s suffering from the sin of pride and has gotten a little big for his soon to be kingly britches, risking a war with Asgard’s creepy neighbors, the frost giants. Thor’s legendary hammer has also been sent to Earth but separately from its owner, and with the stipulation that only someone worthy of the hammer will be able to lift it (keep an eye out for the obligatory Stan Lee cameo as one of the hammer seekers). When astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) along with their mentor Erik Selvin (Stellan Skarsgard) encounter the disoriented and threatening Thor, Darcy soon tasers him. Let me say that I’m a sucker for a good taser scene, and when it’s a muscle-bound bombastic deity with flowing blonde locks on the receiving end, all the better. Of course, it’s not long before Thor and Jane are falling for each other. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy but in the best Marvel comic kind of way and Portman and Hemsworth manage to convey enough on-screen chemistry to make it believable.
One of the main joys of this film is its duality. One half overly serious and epic Shakespearean fantasy and one half fish-out-of water comedy, they balance each other out perfectly. While I’ll admit that I enjoyed the age-old story of jealous brothers vying for the crown and that by the time Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston in arguably the film’s strongest performance) finally battle it out I was fully invested in the outcome, the Asgardian half of the film couldn’t keep my interest on its own. The CGI generated kingdom struck me as artificial and cold, most of the supporting cast was not fleshed out, and the storyline was overly dramatic and unoriginal. But watching Thor adjust to mortal life on Earth kept the film from taking itself too seriously. One particularly funny moment comes when Thor, in need of transportation and spotting a pet store, strolls in and demands a horse.
Before everything is wrapped up and Thor has regained his hammer and his mojo and put Loki back in his place you get the mandatory appearance of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, mention of Tony Stark/Iron Man and a cameo appearance by Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) that had the true comic geeks cheering at the screening I attended. All of this as well as a cameo by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) only after the credits roll all serve as nothing more than appetite whetting for the future Avengers blockbuster and I know some people are bothered by this, feeling that Thor is nothing more than a two hour advertisement for the Avengers. But if Marvel continues to make films as entertaining as Iron Man and Thor, the Avengers film is going to be a blast.