Movie Review: Thor
By Edwin Davies
April 26, 2011
Even stripped of the spangly armor that made him look like the figurehead of a gay pride parade float, Thor still acts as if he were in a viking hall, and his inability to get to grips with the way that our world works provides the film with some of its most hilarious moments. Watching him drink a cup of coffee, then smash the mug on the floor whilst demanding more, or storming into a pet store and demanding a horse, then upon discovering they have no horses asking for a cat or dog large enough to ride, make it okay to laugh at Thor whilst still maintaining a basic credibility for the character. More important, the ways in which the people around him react to his actions - particularly Dennings, who gets huge laughs with a very deadpan delivery - creates an atmosphere of fun that makes all the stuff about Frost Giants, destructive robots and magic hammers much more accessible and easier to digest.
Chris Hemsworth emerges as not just the star of the film, but as a fully formed movie star full stop. He can do action, he can do comedy and he can even handle drama, or at least the lightweight drama required of a superhero movie. Even though he's built like a freight train and has the scraggly blonde hair of a young Courtney Love, he brings a vulnerability to the role that is crucial to making the film work as anything other than empty spectacle. The central thread to the story is one of an extraordinary being learning to become a man, as opposed to most superhero movies which follow the opposite arc. After being banished for his arrogance and hotheadedness, he must learn humility and selflessness in order to regain what he has lost. It's essentially Beauty and the Beast, but a version in which "The Beast" looks like the world's sexiest lumber mill worker.
Smartly, the film hides the fact that Thor needs to become a better person to regain his powers from Thor himself, which makes his development over the course of the film feel more natural than if he were just trying to act nicer to achieve a goal. With the exception of the breathless, action-packed opening, which includes a Lord of the Rings-aping prologue depicting Asgard's war with the Frost Giants and Thor's heavy-handed (and hammered) actions that lead to his exile, the film actively withholds a lot of the expected action from the audience, instead focusing on Thor's time on Earth, his blossoming humanity and his growing friendship with Jane (ably played by Portman, who doesn't bring a huge amount to the film but doesn't really need to given the nature of the material). The time spent working on that aspect of the story creates heart amongst the talk of gods, science and political scheming, and even gives the final moments of the film an emotional punch that I honestly never would have expected from a Thor movie.
Despite succumbing to the usual temptation of all summer blockbusters to turn their final acts into long strings of incoherent violence, Thor is pretty great. It earns its slip into formula with a preceding two-thirds of smartly self-aware comedy and a great ensemble cast and characters who are sympathetic, be they gods or men, good or evil. If the rest of the films released this summer have half the heart, wit and excitement of Thor, then it'll be one hell of a year.