This is certainly a unique addition to the Marvel Studios film universe. Kenneth Branagh‘s film is one of the most aesthetically exquisite superhero films I have ever seen.
While measuring atmospheric phenomena in New Mexico, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her companions Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings–little more than comic relief) literally run into the newly banished Norse god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) after his banishment from Asgard. Then we jump back to 965 A.D. Odin and the gods are in the midst of battling the Frost Giants. The Asgardians win and in the present day an uneasy truce between Asgard and Jotunheim (the Frost Giants’ home world) is broken by a raiding party forcing its way into Asgard. Just as Thor is about to accept the kingship from his father Odin, he defies Odin’s orders to confront Laufey, king of the Frost Giants, in order to make his name by teaching his enemies a lesson. Thor is proud, arrogant, headstrong, not truly fit to rule a realm. Because of his defiance, which almost cost the lives of his companions Sif, Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun, Odin exiles him to Earth to live as a mortal and to learn what it means to be a king.
Thor falls to Earth, along with his hammer Mjolnir, where he meets Jane and company. He seeks his hammer, but cannot wield it, or even lift it as he once did, as he does not possess the inner character to properly use it. Meanwhile, S.H.I.E.L.D. has appropriated all of Jane’s research and have quarantined the hammer of Thor–where we get a cameo of the Avenger named Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner. While Thor attempts to retrieve his hammer, his brother Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) loyalties become ambiguous as he takes control of Asgard while Odin falls ill. After a very Christ-like moment, Thor solidifies his inner character and is able to return to Asgard to remove his tyrant, destroying the Bifrost Bridge that links the nine realms and allowed him to travel to Earth. Loki disappears and all returns to normal in Asgard, though Thor is cut off from the Earth and Jane for the time being.
Loki is one of the more ambiguous villains in the Marvel film universe. I’m not as familiar with the Thor comics, having really only read some of the recent J. Michael Straczynski-penned volumes, which I really enjoyed, but Loki’s motivations seem hard to pin down. He’s closer to the Joker, working only for himself, though still trying to earn the approval of his father. I’d have liked a stronger character arc from him, as he’s a bit erratic. However, he has an interesting moment in the post-credits scene (now a staple in these Marvel films) where he seems to have developed into an overarching villain, influencing some events, and I hear rumors that he will appear in further films, just as Thor will appear again in The Avengers.
Chris Hemsworth proves that he can act just as well as he can wield a hammer, delivering a complex performance, filled with wit, strength, and sensitivity, with some well-choreographed action scenes throughout. Natalie Portman, while she does not display the brilliance of Black Swan–this film is no Black Swan–and she plays it rather funny, like a bumbling, absent-minded professor. And honestly, who but Anthony Hopkins could play Odin? I felt bad for Renee Russo, who has a grand total of 1 line in the film. Really? Why? Was she just a pretty face?
All in all, I’m happy to have this new piece of The Avengers picture. It’s a fun film, really enjoyable, and cinematically and technically superb. I also have to add my praise for Patrick Doyle’s composition; this is another in a long line of stunning film scores, and another collaboration between Branagh and Doyle.
See the film, enjoy it. It’s not as great as the Iron Man films, but it’s still well worth the price of admission. I may even see it again when it goes to the cheaper cinemas.
4 out of 5 stars
For a history of the Thor Marvel comics, look here: http://marvel.com/universe/Thor_(Thor_Odinson)