Sunday, May 8, 2011

HTTPreview: Thor

Rating: 7/10

Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Produced By: Kevin Feige (Marvel Studios)
Written By: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins
Edited By: Paul Rubell
Music By: Patrick Doyle
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures

Runtime: 114 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for "sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence"

Setting up another character for the upcoming epic The Avengers, Thor not only successfully establishes the mythicism of Asgard but does it within the realm of the Marvel movie universe, reminding us that hundreds of miles away Stark, Banner, Rogers, and others are but waiting to join forces. In the meantime, we're treated to a visually and emotionally entertaining joy ride split between two worlds that leaves you wanting more, and knowing Marvel will soon deliver.

Check out our in-depth review after the break; BEWARE MINOR SPOILERS!

With May, by most definitions, marking the beginning of the 2011 summer, Thor had a lot of expectations on its shoulders to deliver. As a standalone, it has to present a new Marvel superhero in the form of an ancient Norse god, Thor, and place him within the realistic boundaries of Earth as a means to setting up a new superhero trilogy. As but a piece in the puzzle that is The Avengers, Thor has to convince us that this mythical god could be a member of an otherwise human S.H.I.E.L.D. organization. Finally, by opening up the first weekend of May, Thor is expected to start the summer off with a bang and is an important marker for what sort of numbers studios can expect over the next three months.

It succeeds at all of these.

The son of Odin (Hopkins), King of Asgard and Lord of the Nine Realms, Thor (Hemsworth) is banished to Earth following an arrogant and foolhardy move on his part by defying his father and taking battle to the monstrous Frost Giants. On Earth, he goes through the usual self-discovery of who he really is and where his loyalties and desires really stand, all with the help of Jane Foster (Portman), assistant Darcy, and mentor Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard, who in a really subtle yet awesome Avengers nod references a past friendship with a "specialist in gamma radiation" -- read: Bruce Banner = The Hulk). Back in Asgard, Thor's brother, Loki the Trickster, wants the throne for himself, setting up not just a great antagonist for this film but also future ones. Cue battles of epic proportions.

The acting is all around solid. Hemsworth does a fantastic job of playing the arrogance of a god both in Asgard and on Earth. Hopkins is perfect for Odin, playing the old king just as one would expect him to, showing strength yet growing weakness. Hiddleston's Loki is a master of lying, fooling not only the characters but even audience expectations while watching his plot play out. Portman and gang provide a human perspective, and while some reviews have said otherwise I thought Portman did what the role called for just as she should have. Her assistant Darcy, meanwhile, provided comedic commentary to help keep things light, but never in a cheesy way. No weaknesses from the cast.

These set-up films for The Avengers have the difficulty of making sure they work by themselves while also laying the necessary groundwork. In some ways, one could question whether it's a good or bad thing that much of my review of the movie is based around how it sets up Whedon's ensemble as opposed to just being good by itself, but this is the web that Marvel hath woven for itself. Iron Man 2 had this problem of throwing in scenes and subplots that didn't connect with the film by itself but were only there for set-up (Sam Jackson donut scene, Black Widow, so on). I enjoyed Iron Man 2, but at the same time Thor does a much better job and making the S.H.I.E.L.D. introductions fit with how things are happening here, not how they need to be next summer -- Agent Coulson (the character you can always rely upon to be stable throughout all of these films) blocks Thor from getting his hammer back, a pretty important part of the character arc. There are references to Banner (mentioned above), Tony Stark, a Hawkeye cameo (played by Jeremy Renner), along with an after-credits scene with the oh-so-cool Sam Jackson playing Nick Fury. More and more pieces are falling into place in a way that won't jar us from our seats when 2012 rolls around and we suddenly see all of these characters in the same scene.

Kenneth Branagh, of course, deserves a lot of credit for the strength of the film. Thor had the potential to not fit in at all, since Iron Man, Capt. America, and the Hulk are all based within earthly science. Yet he does a great job of making Nordic magic and mythology plausible within the confines of the universe we found ourselves in. There's no "that doesn't make sense" or "that would never happen." You not only accept the characters and backstory given, but are pulled in and want to know more, which we no doubt will, through not only The Avengers but future Thor solo films. Asgard looks awesome, and in fact possibly the only pseudo-negative to this movie is that a third of it is set on Earth, when it's the realm of the gods that you want to see. Unlike Clash of the Titans, though, you see a lot of Asgard and a lot of gods battling, so nothing disappoints you in the slightest. It just leaves you wanting more.

All in all, Thor was not just a great superhero movie, Marvel movie, or summer blockbuster, but a great movie, and one I'll definitely be grabbing on Blu-Ray. The action was awesome, the CGI beautiful, and while I saw it in 2D I've heard the 3D isn't bad, either -- the film is playing in IMAX 3D, definitely the way to go. I loved watching every part of this movie and there isn't anything that I would want them to retcon Hulk-style when it comes to The Avengers. It's entertaining with a good share of laughs, as one would expect from a "comic book movie," and is well worth the ticket price. With a mighty swing of his hammer, Thor brings what is sure to be a massive summer for the theaters to a start, and things look nothing but bright up ahead.

Thor is playing now nationwide in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D theaters.


  1. I actually would have loved to see more of Asgard and more particularly, more of Idris Elba's character. Also I did feel Portman's character was one-dimensional but it was the way the part was written and really, she did all she could.

  2. I liked the writing here because it was a lot more light than most superhero films, and Hemsworth is very charming as Thor. Good Review Hunter!

  3. Castor: I agree, Portman did what she had to do in the part. Any problems with Foster fall beyond her responsibilities.

    Dan: Superhero movies are, in the end, based on comic books (mostly). Comic books are filled with action and adventure, but they also have that character who makes you laugh. It's a very important role in any story, I think, and Darcy served it well here. Thanks for reading my review!