Thor. He was always going to be one of the tougher Marvel superheroes to get just right. Many people would probably still think of him as a man with a helmet that has wings on the side holding a big hammer. The background to this character would just be a bit too pompous and ridiculous, grandiosity that’s hard to put across on screen without turning things into, let’s face it, a bit of a joke.
Well, people can be thankful that a decent script and cast were left in the competent hands of Mr. Kenneth Branagh, who clearly knows the pitfalls of the material and somehow deftly mixes everything together – a bit of pomp and dressage one minute and then a bit of witty bubble-bursting the next, all coated with some absolutely gorgeous visuals.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a mighty warrior from Asgard and a good man but his father (Anthony Hopkins) has reservations about him. When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) engineers a situation with an enemy race that leads to Thor trying to start a one-man war and cause a lot of trouble, the might hammer-wielder is cast out. He can no longer use his hammer (that belongs to someone worthy of it) and he is stuck on Earth. More specifically, he is stuck on Earth and finds himself in the company of some Earthling scientists (Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who try to figure out just how much truth there is to his ramblings after they almost witness his arrival. Hopefully, everyone can help Thor to help himself in time to put a stop to Loki, who looks set on causing more and more trouble.
Thor is far from the best of the recent batch of Marvel movies released in the past 5 years or so. In fact, I’d place it just above The Incredible Hulk. Yet, that weakness in the movie comes from the central material that can’t be skirted around. It’s a personal thing. I’ve just always found the character of Thor to be, well, a little bit ridiculous. The fact that this movie is as enjoyable as it proves to be is a testament to the work of the cast and crew involved.
As mentioned above, the design work and visual effects are absolutely gorgeous. This really helps to draw you into a world that just wouldn’t interest you if viewed from a distance. The sets and design may be on a big scale, and this is shown on more than one occasion, but Branagh wisely drags the viewer in close every time that the enormity of everything has been established, be it in the case of individual sets or action set-pieces.
The script by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne is a real mixed bag. It’s the weakest element of the movie and, thus, brings out some lacklustre performances from the cast saddled with the less interesting characters. Hemsworth is great in the title role but the relationship sketched out between himself and Jane, played by Natalie Portman, is poor. Portman is, sadly, given the weakest character from the selection of leads onscreen but she does her best to overcome the problematic material. Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins are great to watch whenever they’re onscreen, Stellan Skarsgard is a lot of fun and Idris Elba gives yet another cool performance. Clark Gregg is a pleasure once again as Agent Coulson. Then we have Jeremy Renner appearing briefly as Hawkeye to please fans. Sadly, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Colm Feore, Jaimie Alexander, Josh Dallas, Ray Stevenson and most of the other players are either underused or poorly written.
Yet, despite the problems with the script, Branagh pulls it off. He uses the strengths (such as the humour which, to be fair, is something the script often gets just right) and capitalises on them to create a decent superhero movie, an enjoyably grand drama with some decent action moments and an important keystone en route to the development of Avengers Assemble.
DIRECTOR: KENNETH BRANAGH
WRITERS: ASHLEY EDWARD MILLER, ZACK STENTZ, DON PAYNE
STARS: CHRIS HEMSWORTH, TOM HIDDLESTON, ANTHONY HOPKINS, NATALIE PORTMAN, STELLAN SKARSGARD, KAT DENNINGS, IDRIS ELBA, CLARK GREGG, RENE RUSSO, COLM FEORE, JAIMIE ALEXANDER, JOSH DALLAS, RAY STEVENSON, JEREMY RENNER, CLARK GREGG
RUNTIME: 115 MINS APPROX