Search This Blog

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Movie Review: 'Thor'

Loki (Hiddleston) and Thor (Hemsworth) take a journey into mystery
in the motion picture Thor.
By Don M. Ventura

Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures

There was a moment early in Thor where it occurred to me that this was a film being made by people who had some appreciation for the source material. Thor, accompanied with his half-brother Loki, Sif, and the Warriors Three, have invaded the land of Jotunheim to face the frost giants when things go awry. During the course of the avoidable battle Thor takes his hammer and begins swinging it circularly at great speed. I knew the image. I had seen it a hundred times in my childhood.  It’s always meant Thor was done talking.

There are several earnest nods to the source material, which even the casual Thor reader (of which I consider myself) will recognize. Director Kenneth Branagh is a confessed Thor nut and it shows on the screen. I was amazed at the depiction of the Norse God and the populace of Asgard—there was no discernable compromising of character done on this film. This is a faithful interpretation of Thor the comic book character.

What also excites me about this film is that this not a standard superhero film where the hero gains powers and leaps into action to fight crime. Thor’s story unfolds on its own terms; the character’s voyage is not beholden to the beats comic book movie audiences have become familiar with over the past decade. This keeps the film’s story fresh.

Hiddleston steals all his scenes as the up-and-coming
villain Loki.
The film opens on Earth in 965 A.D. where Odin braves a long but successful war against the frost giants, taking the source of their power: the Casket of Ancient Winters. During a ceremony in which Thor is ready to ascend to the throne of Asgard, the frost giants invade Asgard to reclaim their lost power. Thor, with his friends in tow, travel to Jotunheim for the truth behind the frost giants attempted thievery. With little provocation a battle ensues, demonstrating Branagh’s deftness at directing a captivating action sequence.

Odin intercedes, angry at his son for his boorishness and strips him of his power and banishes him to Earth (New Mexico to be precise). Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir is also sent nearby where it awaits someone worthy of holding it. On Earth, Thor is befriended by scientist Jane Foster (played charmingly by Natalie Portman), who is studying mysterious weather anomalies—like the one that brings Thor to Earth.

Back on Asgard, Odin falls gravely ill after admitting a terrible secret to Loki. As a result, Loki ascends to the throne and allows his villainous character to take over as he plots to keep Thor on Earth and seek his father’s approval—by the most ruthless means possible.

Inevitably, Thor must save the day, get the girl, and thwart his brother. I won’t spoil any of this voyage here (but if you want a greater detail of the proceedings, listen to our podcast review of the film here).

Chris Hemsworth perfectly embodies Thor. He is the brash and cocky royal who acts first and thinks later. I mentioned that the film does not follow the typical steps of a superhero origin film, but the hero does make a transformation by the time credits roll. As does Loki, played stunningly by Tom Hiddleston, who transforms into a major villainous presence by the film’s end.

Hiddleston steals scene after scene in the film, never taking it over the top. The actor has been cast in The Avengers and I eagerly await seeing more from Hiddleston, who only scratches the mischievous surface of Loki. Of course, Anthony Hopkins embodies Odin as well as an actor could; he opens the film by narrating a brief scene, recalling the war between Asgard and Jotunheim—I could have listened to him speak all day long.

Portman is charismatic as always as Jane Foster. There is no doubt why Thor would fall for the enigmatic Midgardian. Kat Dennings gets some of the funniest lines as Jane’s somewhat dimwitted assistant Darcy. I was happy with the amount of screen time that Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Joshua Dallas), and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) received in the film—and they were portrayed as the formidable heroes they are in the comic books.

Because Thor is not your standard superhero film, Branagh is forced to juggle a lot of story and characters simultaneously, and he does so adeptly. Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne have crafted a strong script that is as big on action and fun as it is on character.

For comic book fans, I would have a hard time believing that you wouldn’t find something to enjoy in Thor. For a film that I was concerned might not grab my fancy, I have to say, Thor is a damn good time at the movies.

Rating Scale:
Excellent ««««
Good «««
Average ««
Poor «

No comments: