(Kenneth Branagh, 2011, USA)
The questions plaguing most cinemagoers lips when it comes to watching Thor, the latest in Marvel’s planned ‘Avengers’ venture, isn’t whether the 3D is actually necessary (it isn’t), neither is it whether relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth can pull off the titular role (he can), or if there is a post-credits sequence (there is), no, it’s whether director Kenneth Branagh has the ability at applying his dab hand to a special effects-heavy superhero movie. The answer is a surprising yes, Thor is a solidly entertaining, if somewhat lightweight, entry into the Marvel canon, a comic book adaptation that thankfully sidesteps the gratuitous name checking of last year’s overstuffed Iron Man 2 and serving as an enjoyable introduction to the god of thunder.
Hemsworth stars as Thor, a strong-willed but arrogant Norse god manipulated by his meddlesome brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) into defying their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and subsequently banished to earth, where, with the help of an astrophysicist (Natalie Portman) and her mentor (Stellan Skarsgård), he tries to regain his powerful weapon Mjolnir, a glorified mallet, and attempts to return to his realm. However, back on Asgard, Loki overthrows his father’s kingdom and attempts to rectify the truce previously forged with the merciless Frost Giants of Jotunheim, which threatens to destroy the safety Odin has established for years.
As complex and slightly predictable as the plot may sound, Thor revels in the way it circumvents the norm and offers something more than the standard origin-orientated focus of most franchise openers. However, this is very much an appendage of the Avengers franchise and the overarching S.H.I.E.L.D organization, which occasionally distracts the film from delivering a totally satisfying outing for the character, culminating in a weak, CGI-heavy finale which stands only to promise something better in next year’s assembly piece.
Clunky dialogue comes as a pre-requisite for the genre, so are gorgeous looking visuals, with the cloudy city of Asgard looking remarkable when juxtaposed with the sparse vistas of New Mexico, the section of the film that works best. Indeed, the finest parts of the film are in its observation of this fish out of water coming to terms with an entirely alien landscape, leading to some humorous encounters with civilian life. Furthermore, during its earth-bound scenes, the film tries and mostly succeeds at blending comedy with romance, with Hemsworth and Portman making for a very believable pair, the Megara to his Hercules who share great chemistry.
Whilst the Asgard portions of the film are more tedious than enjoyable due to a distinct lack of urgency or emotional clout, with the subzero antagonists posing minimal threat due to their superficial, repetitive menace, Thor is certainly one of the more watchable superhero movies of late, a film that, if not taken too seriously, is guaranteed fun while it lasts.
- Iron Man 2, 2010. [Film] Directed by Jon Favreau. USA: Paramount Pictures.
- Thor, 2011. [Film] Directed by Kenneth Branagh. USA: Paramount Pictures.