Let me just point out that I was one of those that didn’t get Ïron Man. Firstly it took me three tries to actually sit through the film. Secondly I found it laughable when people said it was the best comic book movie since the first Spiderman reboot. And thirdly Mr Iron was always my least favourite in the Marvelverse. Thor was my number one for years, I could relate to the origins in Scandinavian mythology. I do appreciate that he is a bit ridonculous with the winged helmet and Mjolnir (his big hammer), the ability to control the elements and basically is a God. This makes Thor a completely different type of character compared to his other buddies, like the Hulk and Iron Man, The other Avengers, that are merely mortal men. The greatest challenge then for the quite unexpected director Kenneth Branagh was to sell the God mythology, the different worlds of ‘our universe’ but still introduce the character, make him interesting and get us excited about the upcoming 2012 Avengers. For me, he succeeded.
Thor (played by Chris Hemsworth) is the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), a Norse god from Asgard, one world, one planet connected to others (like Earth) through a bridge protected by its guardian, Heimdall (The Wire- alumni, Idris Elba). Brutish, young, careless Thor defies his father and sets out to War against the Frost Giants leading to his ultimate exile to Earth, powerless and mortal. Here he’s found by a team of astrophysicists led by Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, the mandatory love interest) that help him get back home.
Thor is really a story of two brothers, and their breaking points. Thor’s character goes through his rebellious, unresponsible stride but ultimately finds his father’s legacy and his own calling to be king. Thor’s brother, Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston), the dilligent, ambitious one, discovers his true identity as a stolen child of his father’s enemies, the Frost Giants, and becomes torn between his respect and fear for his father, and the betrayal and disgust he feels towards him. In the end Loki turns to the ‘dark side’ and Thor and him face off in a potentially apocalyptic showdown on Earth.
There’s been a lot of discussion as to Hiddleston’s performance of Loki not being ominous or powerful enough to become the big bad baddie of the Avengers film, but I disagree. What we’re seeing here is an origins story that sets up the contradicting personalities and despisement between the brothers, Thor and Loki. This dynamic is indeed going to be interesting as there once was a bond between these two powerful and angry gods that can later come into play, for good or bad.
Chris Hemsworth does a nice performance as Thor (my immediate comparison was Sam Worthington, another Australian action/adventure star of similar stature and appearence, but more contrived and limited as an actor) even to an extent to say that he majorly exceeded my expectations. Obviously the material is not award worthy, but Hemsworth handles all sides of the character quite well, the cocky, snarky exterior, the romantic lead, the disappointed son, the action star and the dramatic actor all meet standards and he seems to do it with ease. With this type of film the action can get a bit overwhelming and a certain amount of humour is needed to lighten the atmosphere, in this it stays on a healthy level, gives out a few good laughs and is delivered with ease, by both Hemsworth and Skarsgård, the two assigned the task of comic relief.
Visually the film is MARVELous (SEE! I can be clever), the colour’s are great, the costumes wonderful in a futuristic overlord kind of way. I didn’t see it in 3D because I just don’t dig that shizzle, but the old and boring and useless 2D version was good enough. The different feels to the different planets, Asgaard wooden, developed futuristic look (Thor’s home), Jotunheim’s dark, sharp, cool atmosphere (Frost Giants’ home) and the simplicity of the set here on Earth, made following the story easier. A lot of the time a film with lots of mythology, backround story and history can get a bit explanatory with long voiceovers and characters created for the simple reason as to act as the audience member and ask their questions, which makes the film flow less smoothly, and it can get a bit dull or far too complicate. I have to commend the writers on working the mythology in so well that the film doesn’t become a massive 180min epic but rather a tense 115min package of fun entertainment. The actual story is then quite simple (Thor gets banished – Thor becomes mortal – Thor wants to go home – Thor prevents Loki from destroying Earth – Thor goes back home), but then again the main focus here was to introduce the audiences to the character, and they do so with success. Marvel’s hopefully still got one more success story ahead this summer as Captain America : The First Avenger (Chris Evans) hits the silver screen.
Thor makes its strides especially with its edge and practical intelligence. Branagh being the Shakespearean god he is knows how to do dialogue perfectly and the cast delivers him with performances to match this refreshingly un-dumbed down version of the original comic, that indeed feels archaic and sophisticated in its storytelling. For me the comparisons between Iron Man and Thor as to tone, humour and quality go to deaf ears, but I do see the similar, hands-on, uncomplicated approach the production team has taken to the stories. I loved the comparison the film made with the Area 52 – X-Files type situation on Earth, the comedy that happened there and its contrast to the more meek, yet more sophisticated civilization of Asgard, showing that whilst people might be more weak, less intelligent then their cross-univers counterparts, there was still light, there was still hope unlike on Asgard or Jotunheim.
The film was lucky with the audiences in a way that not that money people had great expectations of its quality or prenotions on Thor as a character; being from the lesser known end, unlike characters such as Spiderman and the X-Men, the pressure was off from the whole cast and crew; as Iron Man has already created such a strong following for the Marvel franchise, Avengers would go on regardless of the success of Thor. Now that its proven itself a worthy comic book adaptation and a financial success (not that it has had much competition this year) Marvel is undoubtedly going to hold on to this strand for longer than just the period of The Avengers saga ( I mean the romantic story wasn’t really .. consummated ). Hemsworth is becoming a self-reliant star who’s next big film is Snow White and The Huntsman with Kirsten Stewart, the film that’s probably going to make or break her career, and give direction to Hemsworth’s.
All in all, the first big blockbuster of the year succeeds in what it sets out to do: pave the way for The Avengers, make us invested in Thor’s character and entertain. The fact that Branagh balanced the drama, the comedy and the action so well and introduced us to two talented, fairly (or actually, virtually) unknown stars that held their own with two Oscar winners makes Thor a solid action-adventure that made me one notch more excited about the future of comic book adaptations.
You Will Like Thor If…
– you dig ’em Marvel boys.
– superheroes should be supernatural.
– The Avengers can’t come soon enough.
7 / 10
P.S. If you missed my guest stardom at Mad Hatter’s Matineecast, where me and the Hatter go through the film, HERE‘s the link.