Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Stellan Skarsgard, Clark Gregg
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writer(s): Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne
Cinematography: Haris Zambarloukos
Original Score: Patrick Doyle
Running Time: 114 Mins.
Thor, a film that could have gone spectacularly wrong, yes he is a superhero (in that he hails from Marvel comics) but unlike (most) Marvel heroes he is a god, and not only is he a god but he is THE god of thunder meaning much of the characters time is spent in the fantasy realm of Asgard not our world, he uses a hammer as a weapon which is thrown and returns to him boomerang-style and to top it all of he uses said hammer to fly and has family and friends with names such as Frigga, Loki, Odin, Heimdall and Volstagg. Alas on the path to an eventual Avengers film that will see Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk and Hawkeye team up with Thor, the opportunity to finally see him make his way to the big screen was ripe.
Eyebrows were raised when Kenneth Branagh was announced as director, though in hindsight he is the perfect fit, used to tackling historical and Shakespearean works this was a man who could wrangle scenes set in a grandiose realm where the language spoken was of ye olde times and saw Shakespearean themes more than touched upon, it is no surprise that there are elements of Iago in Loki and his turn to “the dark side”. This is merely the beginnings of what makes Thor a resounding success, far from the mess that many feared. Opening with a brief real world scene we are promptly whizzed back to the stunning realisation of Asgard, set design is spot on and overcomes the initial fears of a tacky Flash Gordon aesthetic.
The Asgard sequence is admirably long, not ever feeling as such but giving enough space for the key players to breathe and become more than just ciphers or plot devices, Hopkins as Odin is shockingly restrained and resists the chance to ham-it-up as he did in The Wolfman and The Rite. It is hard to tell whether it is the directors assured direction or the deftness of the cast (most likely both) that make Thor plausible and as much fun as we could have hoped for. Marvel has thus far always been spot-on with their cast choices, Downey Jr. now seems like a no-brainer for Iron Man while Chris Evans looks the part in the forthcoming Captain America so what of the two central characters here?
Both Hemsworth (Thor) and Hiddleston (Loki) fit their parts to perfection, Loki has depth beyond mere pantomime villainy and if he seems underwhelming to start there is a reason for that which becomes obvious later on, but the real star here is Hemsworth. He impressed in mere minutes of screen time as Kirk’s father in Star Trek (2009) and now has been gifted the chance to make himself a bone-fide star AND becoming the first and only incarnation of a hero beloved by many (most of whom despised the thought of a screen version). Thor is a man caught between boyhood and taking responsibility, a hot head with very clear frailties each of these traits bubbles beneath a man/god who is likeable whether he is waging war with good intention or (when Earth-bound) attempting to woo Natalie Portman (the obligatory love interest that feels a touch tacked on) or buy a horse from a pet shop. This kind of fish out of water stuff can be terrible given the frequency it has been tackled but here it feels fresh and segues in and out of the Godly goings-on well.
Naturally in a film so stuffed with characters and exposition (there’s a lot to get through to take us up to Thor’s place as an Avenger) some of the fan favourites seem to have been included simply for that reason, fandom. Gods such as Rene Russo’s Frigga and Ray Stevenson’s Volstagg barely get a look-in, though each does what they can with their limited time. The warriors three are fun and handy to have in a fight which leads me to, lastly but far from least, the action, each set piece (and there are many) feels different, takes place in a different setting and utilises differing styles and characters whether it be a smack-down against the Ice Giants or a one on one between Loki and Thor.
If I were to level flaws at the film it would be this, Natalie Portman seems to be working on auto-pilot and Kat Dennings is a step too far in the comedy stakes aside from that I could quite happily have sat through another 30 minutes to allow for a little more breathing space, though if we were saved a lot of the overt build up seen in Iron Man 2 for The Avengers I guess that can only be a good thing.
For a film that could easily have been a complete mess Thor comes out the starting gates of Summer season anything but, great on every level being cast and directed to perfection for material that required a keen sense of time and place (both of the audience wants and needs and the fans demands), if Thor is the God of Thunder, Branagh is the current God of Marvel and has ladi down the gaunlett for Joe Johnston and ol’ Cap!