Dir: Kenneth Branagh, 2011. Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins. Superheroes/Comics.
Growing up an avid comic book fan, I always fancied myself a Marvel kid over a DC kid. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate the cinematic versions of both Superman and Batman, I loved those, but I often found myself relating more to the characters of the Marvel universe, in particular Spider-Man who was always my favorite superhero. Through Spidey, I of course discovered The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and the X-Men books to name a few, but I honestly never found myself into any of The Mighty Thor material. Sure, I read The Avengers and also dug when Thor would interact with the other superheroes of the Marvel Universe, but I never found myself a “fan” of the character or intrigued by his mythology, which in actuality is Norse. So with that in mind, when I watched the movie version of Thor, I had very little expectation or trepidation. I just wanted to enjoy it as a piece of straight-forward popcorn entertainment, and hope that it played to me the way it would to a general audience. Thankfully Marvel Studios managed to take a character that I’d never really been all that interested in and produce a thoroughly enjoyable action flick.

After a very brief introduction on Earth with Natalie Portman’s character Jane Foster, Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and their assistant Darcy (Katt Dennings) first encountering Thor (a scene that will repeat itself later in the movie), we’re brought to Asgard, the home of Odin Allfather (Anthony Hopkins) and his people and given a short history of the great war between the Asgardians and the Jotuns aka the Frost Giants, a race of monster-like creatures determined to bring about a new ice age to the mortal world. Odin led the great battle which drove the Frost Giants back into their own world of Jotunheim with their great source of power taken by the Asgardians and brought back to Asgard, hence bringing about peace to the Nine Realms. Odin raised two boys, Thor and Loki, with the hope that one day one of them would ascend to the throne and take his place as the new king. Thor is the chosen one, but during his ceremony, a handful of Frost Giants manage to sneak into Asgard in an attempt to steal back their power source. Considering it an attack on their people, Thor rashly and arrogantly takes a small group of his finest and most trusted warriors to seek retribution on the Frost Giants' home.

At the end of the war, there was a truce forged by Odin and Laufey, the king of the Jotuns, but the attack by Thor and his warriors on the Frost Giants’ own home turf has broken that truce and that act has brought upon an impending new war, not to mention doubt to Thor as Laufey claims there are traitors in the Asgardians’ midst. Infuriated by Thor’s actions, Odin strips him of his powers and banishes him to Earth where he’s immediately hit by a car and tasered by a small group of scientists studying weather patterns out in the middle of the desert. (This brings us back to that opening scene with Jane, Erik, and Darcy.) This point, which is at about the 30 minute mark in the movie, is where I think the fun really begins. For whatever reason, I’ve always found the “fish out of water” scenarios in movies to be thoroughly hilarious and entertaining, and seeing a guy who’s normally used to being a god suddenly stripped of his powers and trying to make sense of our modern world brings about some of the film’s lighter and more humorous moments. After all, one of the things that these Marvel-produced movies all have in common is that at the end of the day, they’re always a lot of fun!

Along with Thor, his mighty hammer has also fallen in the middle of the desert with no one able to lift it as only the chosen Asgardian and rightful heir to Odin can lift the God of Thunder’s weapon. Naturally, the relic becomes somewhat of a tourist attraction as a group of hicks and good-ol-boys descend upon the crater drinking beers, setting up barbeques, and each trying their hand at lifting the hammer. If anything, this scene provides for a great opportunity to include a cameo from Marvel mastermind Stan Lee, as well as writer J. Michael Straczynski whose 2007 comic series served as the inspiration for this particular movie adaptation. Learning of its whereabouts, Thor goes for the hammer which at this point has been quarantined and surrounded by SHIELD, the secret government agency run by Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson), yet unfortunately Thor is still unable to lift it as he’s still not worthy of the responsibility. Side note— this scene also gives us a cameo of fellow Avenger-to-be Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as a fun little Easter egg for all those comic book fans following along.

If the nickname “master of mischief” for Loki (Tom Hiddleston) doesn’t clue you in, well, he’s the villain who not only let the Frost Giants into Asgard during his brother’s ceremony, but also, once he’s confronted by Odin with the truth regarding his heritage, his verbal fight with his father puts Odin into a coma and he continues to manipulate the truth to keep his brother banished and attempt to take over Asgard as it’s new king. Knowing of his treachery, Thor’s friends head to Earth to bring him back to set things right.

While primarily having scenes in the first and third acts of the movie, Thor’s gang is made up of some of the most enjoyable characters in the flick, played by some equally enjoyable actors. There’s Volstagg played by Ray Stevenson, who also recently portrayed another Marvel superhero as the title character in Punisher: War Zone; Sif, the female warrior of Asgard played by Jamie Alexander who got her start in the genre flick Rest Stop; Fandral played by Josh Dallas and Ichi the Killer star Tadanobu Asano as Hogun. When they join Thor on Earth and battle the Destroyer together, it makes for one of the more stand-out action set pieces of the entire film and a big part of that is because of how well the group works as an ensemble with what little screen time they share together.

And while we’re talking about the actors, we might as well mention how great Chris Hemsworth is as Thor, in particular his rapport and chemistry with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. It’s fairly easy to believe these two are so smitten with each other almost immediately upon meeting. Also, from his time on Earth to the great battle for the finale back on Asgard, Hemsworth displays a tremendous amount of sincerity and likeability, much like he did with his show-stealing scene in the opening of the Star Trek reboot as Captain Kirk’s father. Plain and simple, he’s obviously superhero material. And while Kenneth Branagh might not seem like the ideal candidate to direct this type of spectacle, considering his heavy background in both acting and directing Shakespeare material, it’s a perfect fit. While I much rather prefer the other Marvel superhero movies such as Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, I found Thor to be far more entertaining than it had any right being and it sets the stage perfectly for The Avengers movie.

Fun Fact: If you stick around after the credits roll, you’ll get a quick scene that specifically leads into The Avengers which was directed by none other than Joss Whedon.

Posted by:
Rob Galluzzo
Jun 11, 2012 8:54pm
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