Thor (2011)

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Joshua Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo, Clark Gregg

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Expectations: Moderate.


Growing up, I was a hardcore Marvel fan. DC could rot in hell for all I cared, except Batman of course; even a naive, reactionary kid had to give DC Batman. For all my Marvel love though, I was never much of a Thor fan. I enjoyed the Norse mythology and his kick-ass hammer that flew back to him when he threw it, but it was always a book that I read out of circumstance instead of desire. This led me to sit this one out in the theater, but after viewing Thor, I’m sad that I missed it on the big screen. Thor is everything you would want out of a Thor movie, delivering the Asgardian goods in spades.

Thor has so much working against its success, but the filmmakers managed to sidestep every stumbling block and bring the fantastic world of Asgard and Earth together in a believable way. Well, movie believable, but it’s still impressive regardless. Director Kenneth Branagh and the writers achieve this feat by having a short present day scene that leads directly into a nearly half-hour flashback detailing how we got to that initial scene. It may seem like an odd way to go about things, but it really serves the story and the character of Thor in the best way possible.

I’d like to include some sort of plot synopsis, but realistically if I describe even a small portion of what happens, I’ll be giving away a huge chunk of Thor‘s plot. This is both a strength and a weakness of Thor, it’s incredibly shallow but the story is also very satisfying. The one thing that frustrates me is the ending, not so much because it doesn’t fit the film, but because there won’t be a Thor 2 before The Avengers. Simply put, there’s enough setup for a sequel here and I hope they don’t try to address all of it in the team-up film. I’m already apprehensive that The Avengers will try to do too much, resulting in an unfocused movie which doesn’t do justice to everyone’s collective storylines. If they try to follow-up on all the loose threads here, there’s not a chance in Asgard that it’ll be anything better than mediocre.

But back to Thor… I thoroughly enjoyed the film, especially the scenes in Asgard. Despite a small amount of computer jank (which every big movie seems to suffer from these days, most much more than Thor), Asgard looks like the golden cosmic palace it should, slickly designed and fuckin’ awesome. Anthony Hopkins makes the film for me, adding a powerful presence and strength to the role of Odin. Chris Hemsworth is overall great as well. He has a couple of mahogany moments but for the most part he sells the part of Thor on Earth like an absolute pro, hitting both dramatic and comedic notes with ease. Natalie Portman does well with what she’s given, but she’s really nothing more than a pretty face in this film. Which reminds me that none of the females in this film are sexualized in the traditional mainstream ways. I was shocked and impressed that there wasn’t some Portman underwear/shower/bed scene. Don’t get me wrong, I think Natalie Portman is one of the most beautiful women working today in entertainment, and I welcome seeing her in sexy, flirtatious roles, but I want it to be necessary to the story. It wasn’t necessary here, and surprisingly it wasn’t in the film. I am impressed. I’d like to think that the level head of Kenneth Branagh is the one to thank, but realistically I’ll never know.

If you’re on the fence about seeing this, do yourself a favor and check it out. There’s a pretty high fantasy factor here with all the Asgard stuff, so as long as you’re cool with that, I think Thor will excite and delight. Thor and the Warriors Three plus Sif fighting alongside each other feels cleanly ripped out of one of the many awesome R.A. Salvatore battle-heavy Forgotten Realms fantasy novels, proving to me once again that they would make fantastic films if done right. Thor is a film I thought they couldn’t pull off successfully, but it blew away my expectations so handily that I’m still picking up the pieces a couple of days later. It’s not anything truly special because it’s so shallow (I don’t think I’ll ever care to see it again), but it is quite impressive for what it is: a fun, cosmic superhero movie. Holy shit, they are actually making the cosmic aspects of Marvel pay off in the films! It is so surreal to see something I had deemed impossible long ago done so well. And the post-credits scene may well be the most exciting of the post-credits scenes yet. Not for its dramatic content, but for what it reveals. The Avengers looks to be cosmic as fuck, and I cannot wait.

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