By Dave Campbell | 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
Thor begins by establishing the history of Asgard ruled by King Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and his war against the Frost Giants of Jotunheim who were out to conquer the Nine Realms including Earth. In defeating the Frost Giants, King Odin removes the Casket of Ancient Winters (the source of their powers) from their possession and locks it away in Asgard. Fast-forward to present day, we meet Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) at the formal ceremony to officially transfer the Asgardian Kingdom from Odin to Thor. But just as the event is about to hit full swing, several Frost Giants infiltrate the palace in an attempt to reclaim the Casket of Ancient Winters. Thor heads to Jotunheim against his father’s wishes, leading his warrior friends in revenge against the Frost Giants. Odin intervenes just in time to save Thor and the other Asgardians, but is too late to prevent Thor’s prideful and juvenile arrogance from breaking the flimsy truce between the two races. Upon return to Asgard Odin strips Thor of his powers and exiles he and his hammer Mjolnir (the source of his power) to Earth. Odin proclaims that only the worthy will be able to wield it and reclaim the power of Thor — leaving only Loki back on Asgard in line for the throne.
Thor erupts from the sky in New Mexico, just as astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), as she prepares her equipment with her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings) for a phenomenon she expects to happen in this exact location. While the scientists are hard at work, Darcy (who is the source of most of the sarcastic comic relief) spots an unnatural aurora in the sky sending the crew on a chase to the center of the event. But just as they near the core of the swirling desert dust, their vehicle slams into a long blonde haired stranger unaware it is none-other than Thor, the God of Thunder. Reluctantly they “pick up” Thor and take him to a local hospital. Meanwhile the small-town locals soon find Mjolnir in a crater just outside of town, wish S.H.I.E.L.D agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) quickly locking down the entire site and seizing Jane’s entire work of data including the wormhole event that brought Thor to Earth. After coming to, Thor overhears people speaking of Mjolnir’s location, and seeks to retrieve his lost source of power. However, Thor must learn humility and respect (and start a relationship with Jane) to earn the ability to become the leader he was meant to be and save the Nine Realms from the Frost Giants and worse of all…Loki.
Thor has never been one of my top tier favorite superheroes. To be honest, besides the whole Thor theme in Adventures in Babysitting, and the occasional Avengers comic or cartoon episode, I walked into this film pretty ignorant to the God of Thunder’s history. Due to my said ignorance, my neutral expectations of the character carved the same attitude entering the movie. The basis of Thor’s story differs so much from other pulp hero tales due to its roots in Norse polytheism. Because of this, Thor has an intensely crisp character origin that detours from the common formula we’ve become acclimatized to. Thor succeeds in taking the elements needed from the comic format and translating it into an entertaining narrative for the screen. It nestles in well in the same universe as Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and presumably the upcoming Captain America, but Thor brings a cosmic mash-up of classic science fiction and mystic fantasy that differentiates it from its human Avengers counterparts. Thor isn’t necessarily a cerebral film, but it stimulates and dazzles the senses in the way that a big summer movie should.
The cast is matched well with the needs of each character and the charm and humor are reminiscent of Iron Man. Aussie Chris Hemsworth (fist seen stateside in Star Trek 2009), plays a balanced mix of charming pretty boy and capable leader to carry such an iconic character in his breakout role. Along with the extremely talented and beautiful Natalie Portman, they create a natural romantic chemistry that is more believable and easy on the eyes than most superhero films. Who else other than Anthony Hopkins could have handled the weight of a character like Thor’s father Odin, king of Asgard? It really paid off to see him in this role after having to suffer through The Wolfman. Tom Hiddleston is pretty snaky as Loki, but this character hasn’t fully developed just yet. I hope he becomes more interesting as things unfold in The Avengers.
It’s obvious to me now that Kenneth Branagh’s background in bringing Shakespeare (Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing) to the screen, as well as his directorial and starring experience in Henry V made him a safe pick for the studio to helm Thor, however, I was really questioning that choice beforehand since he’s new to the modern summer blockbuster experience. Thor isn’t without flaw, but Branagh has held his own in creating a satisfyingly entertaining summer kick-off that includes unexpected lightness and heart with the much expected heavy handed action spectacle.