- Title: Thor
- IMDB: link
There are quite a few challenges and obstacles laid at the feet of Thor given its main character and choice for both leading man and director. Could Kenneth Branagh direct an action-heavy comic book film? Could Chris Hemsworth carry the movie? Would Thor look cool or ridiculous as a live-action character? Is there another important post-credit sequence? How large is Jeremy Renner‘s role in the film? Would the movie start out the summer season with a whimper or a bang?
We need not have worried. Yes, Hemsworth does a great job carrying the weight of the film. Yes, Branagh not only succeeds in the character-driven scenes but also with the film’s not inconsiderable amount of both humor and action. Yes, Thor looks good. Even the character’s more ridiculous features (such as spinning the hammer to create whirlwinds and tornadoes) come off as impressive and very, very cool.
Renner, although making an appearance in only a single scene, is given far more screentime than I expected and I can’t wait to see more of him as Hawkeye in next summer’s The Avengers. Yes, there’s an important sequence at the end of the film that leads into The Avengers which you definitely want to see before someone spoils it for you. And. most importantly, Thor starts out this summer with a bang.
Thor (Hemsworth) is a warrior through and through. Everything comes easy to the golden son of the king including the loyalty of his friends (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, Jaimie Alexander) and respect of all of Asgard. On the day his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is set to hand him the throne Thor’s world begins to crumble. His violent nature takes the better of him and he plunges the realm into war with the Frost Giants.
Displeased by his son’s actions, Odin strips him of his power and exiles Thor to Earth. If he can learn to curb his violent tendencies with compassion and become a true hero he may find his way home, but he better do it soon before his half-brother, the mischievous Loki (Tom Hiddleston), assumes the throne in his place.
Hiddleston turns out to be the perfect foil to Hemsworth. Smaller in both stature and presence, his Loki must bide his time. I appreciated how the early sequences kept you guessing on how evil the film was going to present the character. These scenes are evenly played making you just a little unsure how selfish his motivations truly are and what are his true feelings toward his brother.
Once exiled Thor is discovered by a small group of scientists (Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings) studying an unusual phenomenon which deposits the Thunder God at their feet. He also runs afoul of S.H.E.I.L.D. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg, reprising his role from the Iron Man franchise) while trying to retrieve his hammer.
At the heart of the film are the relationships between characters. The turbulent father/son relationship leads to Thor being abandoned on Earth. And the sibling relationship between Thor and Loki will define each character’s choices and destinies. Thor’s new found appreciation and affection for the mortal woman who wins his heart (Portman) will also play a central role in the development and evolution of the character.
Even if the first big action scene felt like a much cheaper version of the march into Mordor from the beginning of LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring, Thor does provide quite a few strong action sequences which feel like super-powered individuals cutting loose. When Thor uses his hammer on a foe you understand the destructive force of a God has been unleashed. My favorite of these involves The Destroyer (an unstoppable killing machine) let loose on Earth late in the film. It’s so good that the rather rushed final battle feels more than a little anti-climactic.
The film also has a pretty good sense of humor, and more than its share of laughs. Personally, I could have done with less of Kat Dennings’ character, but even she provides a few zingers that made me chuckle. It also helps the humans are not sure what to do with this seemingly crazy person that has been thrust into their lives as well as the natural comedy of a god far outside his element in a new and unfamiliar world.
Even if their relationship feels a bit rushed, Hemsworth and Portman have a nice chemistry on-screen together, which is vitally important given the role Portman’s character is asked to play. It’s her character, and her effect on Thor, which is crucial to the change that must occur if the Thunder God is return to his former stature and save not only his own world but ours as well.
That’s not to say the film isn’t without a few flaws. It’s a little long for my tastes and could easily have trimmed 20 minutes or so off its running time. The final act also feels a bit rushed and somewhat unfocused. Some of its goofier moments don’t quite work as well as others. And there’s certainly no reason to see the film in 3D as the effects did little more than muddy up the look of the film and make some of the action sequences indecipherable.
Even with these minor issues Thor is a far greater success than I expected and I look forward to seeing it again (in regular 2D). After only a single viewing I’m not comfortable putting it in the same class with Iron Man or Spider-Man 2, but it’s as good (or better) than most of the other films Marvel has put out in recent years.