starring Chris Hensworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Kat Dennings, and Anthony Hopkins
directed by Kenneth Branagh
screenplay Ashley Edward Miller, Zach Stentz, and Don Payne
based on the Marvel characters by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Paramount Pictures (2011)
When I was a boy there used to be a cartoon that would come on TV each weekday morning before I had to go to school called Marvel's Cavalcade of Heroes--or something like that. So every morning for a couple years, before I went to elementary school I'd watch guys like Iron-Man and Thor beating up bad guys. The Mighty Thor was a favorite at the time, mainly because I was the kind of kid who rooted for those freakishly muscular characters like He-Man, The Terminator, and The Ultimate Warrior. Plus, Thor had that cool-ass hammer.
But like He-Man, the idea of a live-action movie adaptation seemed like a roll of the dice. I mean, a hulking blonde brute from Asgard flying around with his magic hammer, tights, and viking helmet? Nice try, Hollywood.
Thor works, though. It found a really good balance for the epic action sequences and the pure ridiculousness of the concept. The first half-hour establishes who Thor is. He's big and powerful, yes, but he's a tad arrogant and a wee-bit dim between the ears. His father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), hesitates when it comes to declaring him his successor, and when Thor goes against his orders outright, banishes Thor to Earth. And at that point, it seemed perfectly reasonable on Odin's part to put Thor over his proverbial knee. At from there, it's up to Thor to redeem himself before he can get his powers back and get back to Asgard.
As the viewpoint character for anyone who has no clue about Thor, both myth and Marvel character, the movie has Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). She and her team discover Thor when he plummets to Earth through one of the wormholes she's researching. For all she knows, he's a musclebound loon who should be in an asylum, until it gradually becomes clear there is something very special about the guy, due in no small part to a government agency confiscating all her research.
There are moments in this movie where the plot seems to be held together with chewing gum and bailing twine, but it was entertaining the whole way through. The fights are fun with cool special effects, though I hear the 3D version was a letdown. The dialogue was surprisingly strong and delivered well from everyone. Even Anthony Hopkins, who I've felt has been mailing it in for years now, did a fine job as Odin. Chris Hensworth, the guy who plays Thor, did really well. I mean, for a character that seemed pretty shallow to me as a kid when watching the cartoons--never read the comics, so sue me--the character felt genuine and ultimately likable by the time the credits rolled.
My major gripe, as with a couple other of these Marvel Comics movies recently, is the flagrant use of the film as a prologue for the impending Avengers film. Yes, there's a super-team movie coming out this summer. We get it. Can we just have this movie act purely on its own, please? I become more and more skeptical about The Avengers whenever these preceding movies are used as teasers. The idea that the last five or six Marvel films are prerequisites to fully enjoy a single summer blockbuster feels like a lot to ask. Still, Thor is a movie that is movie that might not hit the heights of a Spider-Man or The Dark Knight, but it's good and by no means a disaster like so many other superhero movies of the last decade or so, and frankly, that's all I asked of it.