Thor begins with Jane Foster, a struggling scientist studying weather patterns, investigating recent events in the New Mexico wasteland. During her studies the sky lights up and, in her panic to discover the unrest, she accidently runs over a crazed and confused man. The man claims to be Thor, a warrior from the land of Asgard who was banished to Earth by his father to learn some humility. Although Jane and her fellow workers have doubts about Thor’s identity, she has no choice but to join forces with him after her life’s work is stolen by the illusive S.H.I.E.L.D organization. Meanwhile, Thor tries his best to make it back home to Asgard, where his brother Loki is creating havok.
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Stellen Skarsgard, Tom Hiddleston, and Anthony Hopkins
Written by: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, and Don Payne
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Before I get into Thor, I feel I have to explain my relationship with the Marvel Studios movies that have anteceded it. That seems like a strange practice, but for films that are as tightly stiched together as the Marvel films, it’s necessary. You wouldn’t talk about a sequel without talking about the first part, would you? For the Marvel films, the same thing applies. Of course this can be a negative to these films, but I’ll talk more about that later.
So real quick, let me run them down. I found Iron Man to be a fun and refreshing superhero film, if a little bit disappointing in terms of action and stakes. The Incredible Hulk was an improvement over 2003’s Hulk, but that’s not saying much. And well Iron Man 2 brought the action that was missing from the first, it dumbed down and overstuffed everything else, creating an overall frustrating experiance. But Thor fixes all of that. Where Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk failed, Thor excelled in, creating a film that measures up and, in some points, even EXCEEDS the first Iron Man.
I’ll admit, the beginning was rough for Thor. The first act was stiff, and I’m pretty sure my entire audience was not on board during the Asgard scenes. Well it was probably geek Valhalla for Thor fans, my audience was not so entertained. I even heard a couple behind me whisper stuff like “Why did we see this movie?” and “This is boring.” It was a good job on Branagh’s part to open the movie on Earth. It was the ultimate dangling carrot for audiences who were bored with the Asgard scenes. They knew it was a matter of time until the pretty actress from Black Swan and that sarcastic girl who’s quick with the quips came back on screen. I seriously think some might have walked out of my theater if it hadn’t been for that carrot.
But despite a somewhat disappointing and frankly, boring opening 20 minutes, Thor revved up fast. The turning point of the film was when Thor and his group of warrior entered the land of the Frost Giants and, after a flury of insults upon both sides, engaged in an epic dual. Who would of thought Kenneth Branagh could direct action, let alone really well. Honestly, the action in the film is the best we’ve seen from a Marvel Studios movie, shot incredibly well and paced as an action movie should be. You start up with a low key fight that sets the visual scheme for all furthur fights to come, and you just keep building momentum. Iron Man failed at this, having its best fight scene occur somewhere in the middle and then the worst one at the end. In an action movie, momentum is key. I’m not saying you can’t have a great action in the middle of the film, let alone the best; the best action scene in The Dark Knight occurs in the middle, but that film sustains momentum until the very end. Thor succeeded in this notion, and delivered some pretty epic scenes of action that are up there with Spider-Man 2 and Kick-Ass in terms of superhero action.
While the great action in Thor was a surprise, the superb direction isn’t. Branagh has an eye for visuals, but we’ve never since them at the scale that they are at in Thor. Every shot on Asgard is pure eye candy, and Branagh even did a good job at making the bland and unattractive land of New Mexico look good. The costumes are grand, but straddle the line of believable and cartoony to perfect degrees. All in all, a very pretty film.
The humor is another aspect of the film that really caught me by surprise. One of the strong suits of the Marvel movies is the general sense of fun that every one of them has; The Dark Knight this isn’t. But that’s a good thing, because not every superhero movie has to reach the emotional heights of The Dark Knight; some superhero movies can just be harmless, inspiring fun. And the Marvel Studios movies fits this mold remarkably well.
The score is epic and sweeping, but isn’t super memorable. You can’t hum a tune from the score for Thor, nor will you ever listen to it and recognize the tracks placement within the film. Still, it worked within the film, and that will just have to do. The lack of a great score has been a problem for all the Marvel Studios movies so far, but I hope Alan Silvestri’s score for Captain America will be able to avoid this problem. Chris Hemsworth performance as the titular Thor is fantastic; he owns the role like Robert Downey Jr. owned the role of Tony Stark. I was hesitant about his casting when it was first announced but now, I can’t imagine anyone else playing Thor.
The rest of the performances are pretty fun too, with Kat Dennings playing the lazy and witty under-grade to perfect affect. Stellen Skarsgard is great as well, although he really had no reason to be in the film. Although complaining about Stellen Skarsgard being in a film is no way to approach film in the slightest of senses. Thor’s entourage, the Warrior’s Three, are pretty well cast, and Idris Elba is Stringer Bell, so you know he did a good job. To sum it up briefly, good casting all around.
Despite all the things I loved about Thor, I can’t in all honesty say it is a perfect film. For one, Thor’s emotional journey is severely rushed. He was on Earth for like 2 days, and he learns responsibility, humility and love in that little amount of time? His relationship with Jane Foster was supposed to be the catalyst for this but, despite an okay performance by Natalie Portman, I was never quite on bored with that aspect of the film. The emotional arcs of the characters may be on account of little time, mostly in part to more world building for The Avengers. I’m going to be honest; as much as I’m looking forward to Avengers, I wish it would stay out of movies not called The Avengers.
I know Marvel’s trying to create a unified world, but they are sacrificing the identity of the film to do it. Thankfully, the world building was much less obnoxious in Thor than it is in Iron Man 2. S.H.I.E.L.D and The Avengers actually impact the plot, instead of being thrown in at the last minute to tie everything together. The Hawkeye cameo was pretty cool, even if he really has no reason to be in this film other than for the above reason.
Another area where this film screwed the pooch was the characterization of Loki. While Tom Hiddleston delivers an admirable performance as the emotional and angry brother, isn’t Loki supposed to be the God of Mischief? In all honestly, Loki was a more tragic character than even Thor himself. So when the time came for Loki to be the bad guy, I didn’t buy it. Once again, this same problem was evident in another Marvel Studios film; Iron Man. When Jeff Bridges became evil in that film, it was completely out of character and really forced. Loki encounters the same problem in this film, and I hope Tom Hiddleston is a little more…mischievous in The Avengers, where he is once again set to be the villain.
Acting- Strong all around. Chris Hemsworth is great in the star making role of Thor.
Directing- Kenneth Branagh has an eye for directing, and this film proves it.
Writing- The script isn’t amazing, and it skimps out during a lot of the characterization, but it isn’t a complete mess (cough-Iron Man 2-cough).
Sound- The score works well in the context of the film, but isn’t exactly memorable. The other sound aspects are well done, though.
Visuals- Beautifully shot and beautifully composed, Score is a fantastic film just to sit down and look at.
Thor isn’t a masterpiece, but it’s combination of humor, action, and pure thrills delivers one hell of a way to kick off the summer, and furthur builds anticipation for next year’s Avengers team up.