Movie Review: Thor

Already given my thoughts on this flick back on April 21st in 140 characters on Twitter, but at Steve’s request, here’s a slightly longer review for your reading pleasure.

Thor is far from being a game changer for films that are adapted from a comic book series, though it is a solid entertaining film. While there is enough humour and action to keep the audiences engaged for its two hour running time, this film is actually one of the softer Marvel films to be released. That’s probably something Thor didn’t want to hear…

The film opens on Earth instead of Asgard. We meet Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her colleague Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and her assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings) as they chase some celestial activity in New Mexico where they run into Thor (Chris Hemsworth), quite literally, with their van. Then we go through a flashback to the celestial realm of Asgard where there is a giant golden palace on top of clouds. There is a large ceremony where the Odin (Anthony Hopkins) was about to name his son Thor as the new king while his other dark haired child Loki (Tom Hiddleston) sat on the sidelines playing second banana. Suddenly an incident occurs that threatens the long-standing peace between the Asgardians and their ancient foes, the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, Thor takes it upon himself — bringing Loki and pals Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Joshua Dallas) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) along with him — to go out and pummel their icy enemies.

Odin values peace within the universe and was enraged at this violation of the peace by Thor. He strips his son of his power, his mighty hammer Mjolnir, and casts him out of Asgard and down to Earth to learn humility. While earthbound, Thor attempts to retrieve his mighty hammer but it is embedded in a crater and he can’t retrieve it until he is deemed worthy. However, he doesn’t have much time as something dark lurks over in Asgard and he must get his hammer back in time to save the day.

With Thor being in a fish out of water scenario, the film cashes in on quite a few laugh-out-loud moments involving some well-timed physical comedy. Turns out everything they do over in Asgard is just a bit out of the ordinary in modern day earth and the comedy generated from that worked like a charm. The movie is also quite self-aware as it pokes fun at itself on various occasions. Take the example of when the Asgardians grace their presence here on Earth, they did look rather out of place. This prompted one of the film’s best quotable moments. What looks good in CGI heavy Asgard does not translate well to a small American town indeed.

While the pacing in the movie is fine, there is one minor nitpick. Without spoiling too much, let’s just say Thor’s road to redemption in the film lacked the emotional payoff that the film was hoping for because of the short time frame involved. Exile is no longer what it used to be. We can all learn from our mistakes through a weekend getaway in an American small town. I suppose it is hard to blame the screenwriters on this though. If they decided to drag it out, the film may not be as enjoyable. It’s a double edge sword here and they chose the safer route to create a typical summer blockbuster. Character development is another thing lacking in the film, but who really notices when there is cool production design and plenty of nifty CGI to look at!

Despite the few things that have gone wrong, the film certainly got most of the things right. There are plenty of opportunities for the film to turn out badly. The potential cheese factor from the subject matter as well as the costumes were going through the roof but director Kenneth Branagh managed to keep the film grounded.

Branagh’s focus on Thor’s dramatic arc was very well done. In fact, the movie’s strongest moments weren’t the action sequences but rather the dramatic ones involving the folks in Asgard. There was specifically a scene between Loki and Odin had quite a bit of intensity and emotional punch. Given Branagh’s forté in Shakespearean material, he really invests and highlights on the flaws of the gods that live in Asgard. It certainly helps us buy into a place that seems rather fantastical (imagine a golden castle on top of a cloud and try not to laugh).

While S.H.I.E.L.D. was once again featured in the film, it worked rather well this time around. Unlike Iron Man 2, it didn’t feel like the lead-in to The Avengers was forced at all. Perhaps Marvel did learn some lessons from prodding too much into people’s creative juices after all.

Overall, Thor is a well-packaged entertaining summer flick. It might not be the best out there, but it certainly leaves the audience smiling by the time the film ends. It is however one of the softest Marvel films to be released lately. That description doesn’t quite fit with the God of Thunder very well but the film does tends to revolve around the romance between Thor and Jane Foster. That being said, it’s not a bad thing at all! It’s a very date-friendly action flick that should please the dudes and the ladies out there.

Rating: ★★★★☆ + 1/2

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