THE STORY – As the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), king of the Norse gods, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) will soon inherit the throne of Asgard from his aging father. However, on the day that he is to be crowned, Thor reacts with brutality when the gods’ enemies, the Frost Giants, enter the palace in violation of their treaty. As punishment, Odin banishes Thor to Earth. While Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother, plots mischief in Asgard, Thor, now stripped of his powers, faces his greatest threat.
THE CAST – Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo & Anthony Hopkins
THE TEAM – Kenneth Branagh (Director), Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz & Don Payne (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 114 Minutes
By Nguyen L.
Sweat emerged when Marvel announced, after “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” (A underrated film, by the way), it would tackle “Thor” next. Why the worry, one may ask, when he who hammers out lightning is just as fantastical as he who builds a flying mech suit or he whose alter-ego is green with fury? Unlike Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, Thor Odinson isn’t a regular joe prior to their superhero selves; his actual godliness introduced the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a then-first evolution phase that, as all “firsts” tend to be, had more chance to miss rather than to strike. The God of Thunder’s first go around, however, is squarely the latter and not the former.
In the film, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is banished from his palace after an episode of pure lunk-headedness and arrogance that near-shatters a truce between Asgard King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and the chilly Jotunheim leader Laufey (Colm Feore). He and his hammer, Mjolnir, fall to New Mexico in Midgard — Earth, for the laymen — confirming a theory long held by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and defying the beliefs of her Scandinavian mentor Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). While Thor is scouring for a way back home, his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plots to seize Odin’s throne upon knowing his true identity and destiny.
Yes, this is another story of the once born-narcissist who must embrace his superior self, but director Kenneth Branagh smartly buries the mold of formula and breaks the kiddie/geeky stigma attached to comic books by treating the material of “Thor” as Shakespearean. An expert on all things the Bard of Avon, from adapting his texts and at times also starring in them, Branagh made the otherworldly royal family’s squabble relatable enough that the inherent mythic trait and grandeur could share ground with the mortals who would buy a ticket to watch his adaptation. It’s a winning ball that Branagh and the film’s three writers never dropped despite zapping between worlds, characters, and Easter eggs — a commendable feat when they, presumably, again had to re-work material from those who eyed “Thor” prior, including Sam Raimi, Matthew Vaughn, David S. Goyer, Guillermo del Toro and even D.J. Caruso.
“Thor’s” footing isn’t as firm as other superior Marvel “first” introductory films though, such as “Iron Man” or “Captain America: The First Avenger.” The fish-out-of-water, or god-out-of-heaven, half could have worked better without committee-assigned choices, Portman (Who is ambivalent) and comic relief from Kat Dennings (She plays Foster’s apprentice), and a somewhat fractured fight with a fire-breathing robot later in the film. Haris Zambarloukos’ digital photography proves to be neater in digitized worlds rather than the planet Earth setting. The frequency of slanted frames in those Earth-bound sequences gives merit to the notion of Thor’s film being Dutch when the character is of Norse. Patrick Doyle’s soundtrack is also serviceable but not quite as epic, legendary or grand as the material would have you suggest.
But all is overlooked when Hemsworth, in his breakout role, keeps his delectable swagger consistent throughout. And like the other two “H”s in the cast, Hiddleston has this beautiful knack to affect when proceedings take a turn for the dramatic — and strictly for him, tragic. It’s almost infuriating when ‘Team Thor vs. Team Loki” has little of the fervor that made “Team Edward vs. Team Jacob” a phenomenon when the brotherly rivalry consists of higher stakes and devastating consequences. It’s a worthier reason to attend the next installment, too, (“Thor: Ragnarok“) since Thor has proven to be a figure that superhero enthusiasts, and even those who aren’t so, can devote their time to. He may be a god-like being but as the other subsequent sequels have shown, Thor is as human as they come with many faults and layers to discover. And it all started here.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A Shakespearean spin by director Kenneth Branagh, freshens up the superhero formula. Excellent casting of Hemsworth and, especially, Hiddleston.
THE BAD – A constant cycle of adequate cinematography with disorienting Dutch camera angles. Portman, Dennigs and Skarsgard seem lost, which makes the non-Asgard sequences not as interesting as they could have been.