Since I have never read a Thor comic book (don’t intend to either), nor do I have much insight into the Norse mythology from which he spawned, I really had no idea as to what kind of story to expect from the heavily hyped Thor (the trailers weren’t much help). But thanks in part to smart editing decisions, good acting and a relatively well written script, anyone else who shares my lack of knowledge is given enough background information to absorb — and enjoy — everything that is Asgard.
The main plot of Thor follows the God of Thunder himself as he, like a fish out of water, tries to acclimate himself to Earth. Due to his gigantic ego (sized accordingly to the width of his biceps), his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) has banished him from the pristine halls of Asgard to while away as a mere mortal for all eternity. Or until he learns what it means to sacrifice oneself and be humble about it. But oh, how we wouldn’t all love to get some humble pie from whence he gets his. Natalie Portman. Okay, truth be told she has help — her astrophysicist team studying Einstein-Rosen bridges (wormholes to us numbskulls) consisting of Stellan Skà¥rsgard and Kat Dennings — but you get the fantasy.
The subplot concerns itself with Thor’s manipulative brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Colm Feore led Frost Giants and a scheme to wrest the kingdom from Odin’s tiring fingers. Director Kenneth Branagh shifts effortlessly between both realms, keeping, for the most part, the Earth stuff personable and light-hearted and the Asgardian stuff flowing with political intrigue and drama. Both have their fair share of action. Both are crafted to allow ample room for character development.
The star of the show is relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth as the titular Thor. Like Tobey Maguire and Robert Downey Jr. did with their roles in Spider-Man and Iron Man respectively, Hemsworth with his long golden locks and muscled physique becomes the comic book hero — adopting the persona so fully that everyone in the audience remarked, “That guy is Thor.” Hiddleston is also quite good as the devious, shape-shifting Loki, proving quite convincingly that just because someone smiles in your face and tells you they adore you doesn’t mean they aren’t working over-time trying to tear you down behind your back. I would have liked to see more out of the Portman’s role instead of her just acting frenzied (the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. play a role in that) or pathetic (no one loves me, boo-hoo).
The team behind the film’s visuals have done a commendable job as well. Thor’s home-world is an architect’s dream — beautifully shaped buildings built with colorful and alluring materials line the city. The Frost Giants world is a stark contrast to Asgard — it’s dark, mountainous and ominous — yet crafted with equal care. After years of being in “developmental hell” I would have, however, expected a less pronounced use for the Destroyer — all I could think about when it was active was it looked like a glitzier version of Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still. I’ll also say the 3D effects are done better in Thor than in most of the recent pictures using the technology.
Fans of the Marvel universe won’t be disappointed either. There’s a cameo appearance from Jeremy Renner in character as Hawkeye, plenty of Tony Stark mentions (although he never appears) and even a quick hello from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Some of the dialogue between Thor and agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) offers up an unspoken message — watch out for The Avengers in 2012.
Thor, mixing the right amount of comedy, action and drama, is, surprisingly, a very good popcorn flick. It has set the high water mark for this summer’s superhero movies — let’s hope X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern and Captain America: The First Avenger prove to be on par or even better.