Movie Review: Thor
By Shalimar Sahota
May 4, 2011
My knowledge on Norse mythology is rather hazy, and I’ve never met Thor myself, which might be why I consider this to be Marvel Studios’ biggest gamble. It is the first from their roster to be released this summer. Captain America: The First Avenger and X-Men: First Class are the others, but Thor has never really reached the echelons of popularity as other comic book characters, which makes me wonder if audiences will be drawn to this. It shouldn’t really matter.
Going in with no expectations, the only thing that really lured me was seeing what Kenneth Branagh would do with a blockbuster. In fact, he seemed to be wondering a similar thing himself. On the prospect of working on Thor, he said, “I thought it could be a pretty exhilarating film. I wondered if I would be good at it.” Short answer – yes, he is.
After Asgard is infiltrated by Frost Giants, Thor (Hemsworth) persuades his brother Loki (Hiddleston), as well as The Warrior’s Three (Stevenson, Dallas and Asano) and Sif (Alexander) to join him in travelling to their realm, Jotunheim, to question their king Laufey (Feore). And it’s almost as if Branagh was in a rush to deliver something audiences can be excited about, to show that he can do action, for the trip turns into a fight.
While it looks impressive seeing Thor and his fellow warriors take on numerous Frost Giants, going to someone else’s realm only to bust their place up made it difficult to get behind him and what he's doing (especially since Thor throws the first punch). Though it initially feels unjustified, its purpose only becomes apparent once the battle is over, to show just how impetuous Thor really is, with his brash act resulting in the two realms suddenly on the cusp of war.
As punishment for his behaviour, his father Odin (Hopkins) strips him of his power and banishes him to Earth. So hasty is Odin in the delivery of the punishment that Thor doesn’t even the have the time to pack; such is the pace of the film, but it’s an act that helps develop both character and story. Landing in New Mexico, he finds himself very nearly run over by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Portman), who wears an unusual T-shirt of a smiling sun with legs.
Branagh has admitted to being a fan of Thor, but one can see another reason why he was drawn to this, for amidst the fights and explosions is a story centred on a conflicted family relationship. With a king that banishes his firstborn son, only for the other son to try and take power by overthrowing his father… hell, this is Shakespeare in the guise of a comic book blockbuster. Well it’s Shakespeare-esque anyway. A bit like buying a bottle of cola, only to find that there’s milk in there, but you’ll still drink it, because it tastes great.
“My father was trying to teach me something,” says Thor as he drowns his sorrows in a bar. “I was too stupid to see it.” Hemsworth is charming as the title character, who is largely sans helmet. Initially stupid and arrogant, as Loki describes him, the clever part is in getting us to like him more as the film progresses. The speed at which he gains his humility is dubious (the film does get through a lot at just under two hours), since Thor only spends just over a couple of days on Earth. The fish out of water scenario isn’t overplayed to breaking point, but does lead to some expected comical moments. Thor’s trip to a pet shop is the humorous highpoint of the film.