Review: Thor


Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by:Screenplay by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, Story by J. Michael Staczynski and Mark Protosevich
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Tom Hiddleston, Rene Russo
Released: April 21, 2011
Grade: C+

You can read my interview with director Kenneth Branagh or check out the podcast by clicking here.

The story of Thor spans several million light years.  It begins in the distant world of Asgard, ruled by the wise King Odin (Hopkins).  After many years on the throne, Odin has decided to pass the mantle to his eldest son, Thor (Hemsworth).

It’s clear that Thor is not ready for the responsibility.  Looking to assert his “manhood”, he hastily declares war against the neighbouring realm of Jotunheim.  Thor may have incredible strength but he and his small army are no match for the nasty inhabitants of this icy planet.  Bruised and broken, they are lucky to escape.

Disappointed with his son’s actions, Odin strips Thor of his power and banishes him to the planet Earth.  Not until he has proven himself worthy will he be able to return home.  Quietly happy with these events is Odin’s younger son, Loki (Hiddleston).  He has always lived in his older brother’s shadow but he now sees this as an opportunity to take the crown for himself.

Thor’s arrival on Earth creates quite a stir.  He is discovered by a team of scientists headed by the experienced Professor Andrews (Skasgard) and the inquisitive Jane Foster (Portman).  They’re not sure what to make of Thor’s strange stories and unusual mannerisms but they sense something magical about him.  If he really is from a far away galaxy, his knowledge would be invaluable to their research.

They’re not alone with that line of thinking.  A government agency has also become aware of Thor’s arrival but they’re more interested in the mysterious hammer that he has brought with him.  It’s lodged itself atop a small rock and despite all their efforts, they cannot move it.  It reminded me of King Arthur and his famous sword in the stone.

There are quite a few characters in the mix but my reaction throughout much of Thor was apathetic.  It’s not a horrible film but it’s one that doesn’t want to take any chances.  It has been crafted from the familiar PG-mould used by many other comic books adaptations over the past decade.  It wants to impress with dazzling special effects rather than through an emotive, captivating story.  There’s clearly an audience for this film but I don’t think I’m part of it.

The performances in Thor aren’t too bad.  The dialogue is expectedly cheesy (particularly from those in Thor’s small army) but I had a soft spot for Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings.  They inject the film with much-needed humour.  Australian Chris Hemsworth also deserves credit.  He takes his shirt off when required (sure to please many) and taps into Thor’s rough, arrogant nature.  It’s just a shame I didn’t care more about his character (a fault of the screenplay).

I confess to becoming tired of comic book films.  They offer few surprises and continually reiterate the same themes.  There are exceptions however.  I’ve enjoyed the darker undertones contained within the rebooted Batman series.  The Dark Knight highlighted the fine line that often exists between good and evil.  Christian Bale also captured the torturous nature of being a hero through his strong performance.

The ushers will probably be cleaning up around you but make you stay all the way through the lengthy end credit sequence.  You’ll get a sneak peak at The Avengers, the 2012 Joss Whedon film that brings together Thor, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Captain America.  Now that looks interesting!