The son of Odin has finally made it to the big screen in Marvel’s most recent super hero flick simply titled, Thor. Those familiar with the comic/Norse god character of Thor know what to expect while new comers have a big step in front of them. The origin story of Thor is unlike any other comic origin, Thor wasn’t scarred as a child, he wasn’t exposed to radiation, and he’s not an alien. Thor is a god; the God of Thunder to be exact, and with that comes a lot of narrative baggage.
Kenneth Branagh and the writers of Thor were given the task of communicating enough Norse mythology to build a story upon, while not while not having it feel out of place, cramped or silly. Then on top of that, they had to bring the character of Thor to earth and provide a decent setup for the impending Avengers movie that is releasing next summer. As always, the ever present conundrum facing the production is Marvel fan service verses alienating the average viewer. With all of that said, Thor does a decent job juggling all of those factors and ends up being an excellent addition to the Marvel library.
I want to warn that there maybe slight spoilers, in the following paragraphs. I’m not going to ruin the movie, but if you are sensitive plot details, nows the time to stop reading. The movie starts with a very quick run down of what Asgard is and who Thor, Odin and Loki are. These, as they should be, are the main players throughout the film. After quick, informative, and tactful description of the setting and characters, the film wastes no time setting up plot details. Much of the movie is set in the fictional realm of Asgard and these portions have a distinct and unique feel to them. Think Lord of the Rings minus the heavy fantasy elements and grime. Asgard pulls off being otherworldly, without being alien and Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Chis Hemsworth (Thor), and Tom Hiddleston (Loki) feel regal throughout the film.
After establishing Asgard, focus is turned to the earth realm where the rest of the Marvel Universe is hanging out. Marvel and Branagh successfully bridge the feel of previous Marvel movies into Thor. S.H.E.I.L.D. agent Phil Coulson is featured heavily and each of the human main characters are very quickly and clearly introduced. Remember, they have a lot of ground to cover and only 2 hrs to do it in so brief intros work well.
Thor makes his trip to earth and the plot thickens. The story arc of the characters Thor and Loki closely mirrors that of the comics, there are no big surprises that are going to upset comic fans, but the story is completely coherent and accessible from the outside. Most importantly, its feels like the character of Thor could step into the same movie with Iron Man or the Hulk and fit comfortably.
For a story that was written decades ago, it still feels fresh and much of that can be attributed to the “Fish out of Water” aspect of Thors trip to earth. When in the earth realm, the movie does its best to portray the idea of a Norse god traveling to earth as extremely ridiculous. It does it in almost a self deprecating way, like the movie is saying, “Yeah, we know this stuff is far-fetched, but thanks for sticking with us.” Big laughs are had each time Thor’s awkwardness is highlighted and the sequences between Hemsworth and Portman help ground the movie. Without the human interaction the film would have probably been guilty of taking itself way too seriously.
The clear stand out here is the casting and acting. Hemsworth, Hiddleston, and Hopkins are absolutely perfect choices for their respective characters, with Hiddleston being the strongest. He manages to give the role of Loki a sympathetic edge that fits well with his monkier of “God of Mischief”. Multiple times in the movie I was surprised by the actions of the character because Hiddleston’s portrayal left Loki unable to be read. If you’re playing a liar and a cheat, you need a performance that no one sees coming. Hemsworth was born to play Thor, of all the Marvel casting choices made to date I don’t think they’ve topped this one. Also, don’t worry about you female significant other not enjoying the movie, apparently he’s enough eye candy to justify the ticket purchase.
Natalie Portman is good, minus a few poorly written lines, but she seems out of place. She almost seems too good of an actress to be playing the part of Jane. Its a role nearly any attractive young female could play, and having Portman do it seems like a waste of talent. Now that she has an Oscar, she will probably never play it again. If that is in fact the case, I would have loved for someone else to play Jane just so the character would be consistent through the franchise.
Visually, Asgard is beautiful, and most of the CG is top notch. Thor wields a “Magic Hammer” (quite possibly the lamest comic book weapon of all time) and this movie surprisingly makes that hammer cool. The design fits the traditional looks of the characters and for the most part do not come off as cheesy. Thor’s Helmet is sparingly used, and his cape is comes across as iconic. It hard to find many things wrong with Thor as a movie, but when I left the theater something was bothering me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it finally hit me.
The time frame of the movie is about 72 hours. The story arc of the character Thor is an extremely dynamic one. He has to go from arrogant and headstrong to humbled and cautious during the heart of the movie. Sure, he has to go through terribly emotional events that push him in the right direction, but to believe that he’s able to make that drastic character changing metamorphosis in less than 4 days is a stretch. It would have been a good plan to plant an emotional 3 minute montage in the middle to show time passing and character growth. It would also help to solidify the Thor/Jane relationship as significant. As it stands, Jane is just that mortal chick Thor spent one magical night with.
That’s a small foot note that most movie goers will not let bother them. Go see Thor, its great, fun and wildly entertaining. It’s action sequences deliver and overall it does character justice. Also, there’s enough Marvel easter eggs sprinkled into the flick to provide small sparks of additional excitement throughout. The current Marvel initiative that is leading to The Avengers is 4 for 4 in the quality department, with Thor being one of the best. If you do watch Thor, stay for the credits Marvel fans are again given another bacon to chew on for a year. Next up: X:Men First Class.
Verdict: Oh oh oh oh oh oh…Here Comes the Hammer!