Marvel Studios had a tough road ahead of them with the character of Thor, a comic book character created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby in 1962, because at its core it is pretty fantastical and campy stuff. Now bear with me, if you aren’t into fantasy or you don’t read comics, you’re going to have to flex your geek muscles here… In the comic, Thor is cast out of heavenly Asgard by his father Odin and sent to Midgard (Earth to you and me) where he won’t get his powers back until he learns compassion and humility. When Thor learns his lessons he is given the mighty hammer Mjolnir and all of his godly powers. Instead of returning to Asgard, Thor stays on Earth and fights alongside the other superheroes as a founding member of the superhero group called The Avengers… Did that hurt? I’m sorry, those geek muscles may not have been worked that hard in awhile, just stretch for a minute.
The story of Thor is not grounded in the pseudo realistic world of “Iron Man”, “Captain America” or “The Incredible Hulk”, Thor is the thunder god from the heavenly realm of Asgard. This wild idea of putting a Norse god on earth as a superhero worked in comic book form but Marvel Productions had to find a way to meld this fantasy based superhero into it’s existing universe of movies.
I am glad to report that Marvel Studios and director Kenneth Branagh (and his writers Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne) pulled it off. “Thor” is an exciting action film that seamlessly stitches together the fantastic realm of Asgard and the realistic world of Earth. It even manages to create a plausible reason for the existence of Asgard and its immortals without actually harping on the “god” aspect. In the film it is explained that to a primitive Viking race, these powerful beings would have been considered gods.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a brash and arrogant thunder god, he is a hero of Asgard and he knows it. When his actions lead Asgard to a state of war with the frost giants, Thor’s father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him to Earth. Odin also throws the hammer, Mjolnir, to earth and in a very ‘King Arthury’ move declares that only the worthy god of thunder can lift it. On Earth, our hero meets scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her companions and because he learns to care about them, he starts to learn the lessons his father wants him to learn. His early dealings with the humans lend a great deal of humour to the film.
While Thor is away, his treacherous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes over Asgard and plots to kill Thor. Now, I don’t think it is giving too much away here to say that Thor does learn his lessons and when he becomes the Thor we came to the movies to see, he is sensational. He’s strong, he’s fast, he can bring down lightning storms from the sky, he can fly and when he smashes the mighty Mjolnir on the ground he can quite literally level armies. Thor, now fully powered and hammered up sets off with his warrior companions to take back Asgard and save the day.
I was sceptical when I heard that Kenneth Branagh was directing “Thor”. His experience with big screen Shakespeare definitely gave him a foot up for all of the classical Asgard stuff, after all at its core “Thor” is a film about a royal family, betrayal and grand politics between nations, but could he handle the action and special effects? Yes is the answer you’re looking for. The film is tightly directed and moves at a swift pace, there is a lot going on and it takes place in two dimensions, but you never get lost. The effects are top notch with the realm of Asgard and the kingdom of the frost giants sights to behold.
After seeing the trailer I got a little concerned about Chris Hemsworth as Thor, but I needn’t have worried, he is believable as the cocky Thor and I, for one, enjoyed his journey. After the reboot of “Star Trek” and now this, I think we are watching a star in the making. His big action scenes are dynamic and his quieter scenes with Natalie Portman are charming and sensitive. He is everything we want in our hero.
In General, the rest of the supporting cast is top notch with Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings rounding out the human friends of Thor, grounding the film in the real world, while Jaimie Alexander, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson and Rene Russo give us depth to the otherworldly gods.
Overall I really enjoyed “Thor” a lot, it’s an action packed fantasy film that is fairly faithful to its source material while still being accessible to those that have never read a comic book. It is just a fun ride and if you can just let yourself buy into the world it is creating, you will have a great time. It also maintains a nice continuity with other Marvel properties such as having Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) of S.H.I.E.L.D from “Iron Man 1 & 2” interrogating the thunder god when he is captured trying to recover his hammer. I highly recommend the big screen experience on this one as the 3D conversion is the best I have ever seen, it is as if the film was shot in 3D. A note to the producers of “Clash of the Titans”, this is how you convert to 3D.
Other than the occasionally clunky line of dialogue my only real problems with the film are superficial and of no consequence to anyone unless you are a fan of the comic book. So take these points as the grumblings of a geek and remember that they don’t really impact on the quality or viewing pleasure of the film. Point one, Thor needed to wear his helmet more often. Really, this is a sore point for me because his helmet is iconic in the comic book. Point two, Volstag really needed to be fatter, ‘nuff said. Point three, it would have been nice to have him become Dr. Donald Blake because this creates an interesting dynamic between the warrior maiden Sif and Jane Foster. Okay, I did warn you that these are really geeky gripes.
Oh, and one last thing, make sure you stay to the end of the credits.
– David McVay
Thor opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday the 21st of April and on the 5th of May in America.