THOR: A Review
THOR (3 & a Half Stars out of 5)
The super-heroes of summer have arrived with the release of THOR, which starts the season's series of comic book adaptation off in grand style. The upcoming comic-based movies have a hard act to follow, because THOR is pure escapist fun. The best thing about it is that it has the sort of humor and innocence that a super hero film should have. Much like IRON MAN, SPIDER-MAN and the Richard Donner's SUPERMAN : THE MOVIE, this movie does a great job mixing adventure, humor and character. It avoids the excessive grimness and angst of Christopher Nolan's "Batman" franchise and remembers that comic books are family entertainment.
Seeing as THOR is directed by legendary Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh, you might expect this to be a talky drama, but it's not. Branagh indulges the sense of fun he's displayed in films like MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING and LOVE'S LABORS LOST. A light-hearted tone runs through the proceedings, with an occasional detour into the kind of Shakespearean royal family intrigue of RICHARD THE THIRD.
The plot concerns two superhuman races who were once worshipped as deities on Earth. The Norse Gods of the realm of Asgard have a strained truce with their ancient enemies, the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. These two realms, along with Earth, are part of the "nine Worlds" an inter-dimensional solar system connected by a "tree" of energy. Mini-black holes connect the nine realms. The portal to cross the nine-worlds, known as the Bifrost the Rainbow Bridge , is guarded by the all-seeing, all-hearing, never sleeping sentry Heimdall (Excellently portrayed by Idris Elba.)
As our story begins, the ailing king of Asgard Odin (Played with authority by the great Anthony Hopkins) is about to name his headstrong eldest son Thor (Well portrayed by Chris Hemsworth) as his successor, much to the chagrin of envious younger brother Loki (Brilliantly played by Tim Hiddleston.) The ceremony is interrupted when a trio of Frost Giants sneak into Odin's castle in order to steal back an ancient artifact that Odin won from them in their long ago war. The thieving giants are quickly dealt with but the easily angered Thor isn't willing to forgive and forget. He wants to go to war with the giants. When Odin refuses to attack, Thor defies dad by leading a raid on Jotunheim, along with Loki; shield-maiden Sif (Jamie Alexander); and the Warriors Three--Fandral (Joshua Dallas), Hogan (Tadanobu Asano) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson). The Frost Giants, led by Laufey (Col Feore) are prepared to repel intruders. The disastrous raid leaves the two nations poised on the brink of war. Odin is so furious with Thor--who further aggravates his father by calling him an "old fool"--that Odin strips Thor of his Godly powers and his magic hammer, exiling Thor to Earth, powerless and unarmed.
On Earth, Thor encounters a pair of Astro-physicists, beautiful Jane Foster (the busy Natalie Portman) and her mentor Professor Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and their ditzy college student assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings). They literally run into him in the night, hitting him with their car. At first they think he's crazy and Darcy Tasers him, but they soon realize that he's more than just a delusional homeless guy. Jane is bewitched by the handsome stranger, Eric is befuddled and Darcy is bemused. Some of the film's best moments revolve around Thor's comical fish-out-of-water experiences on earth, such as when he marches into a pet shop and demands a horse to ride into battle on.
Thor seeks to regain his hammer, which has been found by government SHIELD agents, led by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) last seen in IRON MAN 2. Meanwhile, things are happening back in Asgard. Loki has performed a clever coup while the ailing Odin is in a regenerative coma called the "Odin-sleep", and become the new king of Asgard. Loki sends the powerful Asgardian mechanical man known as the Destroyer to Earth, to live up to it's name and eliminate the competition before Thor can regain his power.
There's an amusing homage to King Arthur films like EXCALIBRE, when people come from all around to try to pull Thor's lost hammer from the stone it is imbedded in, much like the Arthurian sword-in-the-stone legend. Can Thor get his hammer back and regain his power before the Destroyer finds him and his friends and crushes them? Will Loki succeed in his plans to eliminate his father and brother and rule Asgard forever? Will Asgard go to war with the Frost Giants? What Does SHIELD want with Thor's hammer? There's no big surprises in store, but it's fun getting to the climax of it all.
Chris Hemsworth is a relative unknown (probably best known as Capt. Kirk's doomed father in the recent STAR TREK movie) but he acquits himself well in his first starring role. He carries the film on his sturdy shoulders, convincingly portraying Thor's transformation from a glory-hungry, reckless Prince to a self-sacrificing hero. He has a future as an action star.
Natalie Portman doesn't have all that much to do here except to act as Thor's love interest, but she makes the most of her under-written role. Her doe-eyed infatuation and awkwardness around Thor is very reminiscent of Margot Kidder's smitten Lois Lane in SUPERMAN: THE MOVIE. Anthony Hopkins is every bit the noble king as Odin, while Hiddleston is wonderful portraying a refreshingly complex villain, whose motive aren't as black-and-white as they seem at first. Idris Elba is a scene stealer as the enigmatic Heimdall. Rene Russo is completely wasted in the small role of Odin's wife Queen Frigga.
There are a number of inside references to other Marvel comics films here, as when Coulson confuses Loki's Destroyer for one of Tony Stark's armored inventions. (A reference to IRON MAN) Jeremy Renner (THE HURT LOCKER) has an amusing cameo as Clint Barton, who comic fans will known as Hawkeye the Archer. He's the only SHIELD sniper to use a bow-and-arrow. (Renner will be appearing as Hawkeye in the 2012 AVENGERS film) There's a bonus scene after the closing credits which connects Thor to the upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER film. There are some loose ends which are left deliberately loose because Thor's story will be continued in the now-filming AVENGERS movie.
The worst part of the film is the poor 3-d effects. The movie was filmed as a traditional 2-D project but was converted to 3-D to jump on the current trend. The 3-D here is not very good and it detracts from the film. If possible, I suggest you see it in 2-D somewhere.
THOR isn't great art but it is grand entertainment. It's fun from start to finish, despite a high level of predictability. Chris Hemsworth is a star in the making and I'm looking forward to seeing his Thor interact with Robert Downey's Iron Man in THE AVENGERS. It will be interesting to see where Hemsworth's career goes from here. It's off to a strong start with THOR. This is one of the best-ever comic book adaptations.
3-D films Rate a D-Minus Grade
- 3-D Films Rate a D-Minus Grade
In response to the 3-D craze, I wrote this hub to give my opinion on the current 3-D trend.