Movie Review – Thor (2011)

by NIR SHALEV

Comic book (or graphic novels or what have you) film adaptations are popping up quicker than good new comics can be written. Therefore, it was a good idea to look back at the famous, or just plain good comics that their fans love, to try one’s best to adapt them into film, and to please everyone in the end. Most adaptations of Marvel Comics materials are plain terrible (Daredevil, Elektra, Hulk and The Incredible Hulk, etc.…), but some work terrifically. Thor is part of the new wave of comic book film adaptations that are terrific; films like Hellboy and Hellboy 2, Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight.

Kenneth Branagh directs this film adaptation of Marvel Comic’s The Mighty Thor, and indeed he is mighty. Dressed in armor, a winged helmet, and a hammer that is stronger than any other weapon in most of the known realms, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the son of Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), is the god of Thunder. But unlike the original Norse myths, this comic book version portrays a character with a personality and an ego that’s even bigger than his own realm.

At the start of the film, we are shown a battle that took place a very long time ago between Odin and his army and the Ice Giants, who’d lost the war and were banished to another realm for eternity. When Thor comes of age, he is crowned King of the realm of Asgard but just before receiving the crown, intruding Ice Giants appear in Asgard. Their arrival is a mystery and Thor, his massive ego, and his posse travel to the realm of the Ice Giants in order to destroy them once and for all. A short but immense battle ensues and upon their return, Odin is so furious at Thor’s complete lack of respect and ability to obey orders that he appropriates all of Thor’s powers and statues as king and banishes him from Asgard, dropping him down to Earth in a thunder storm.

Once on Earth, Thor is befriended by a group of scientists led by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and who are accompanied by their intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). Thor also quickly figures out that his powers of super strength and flight are gone and as he tries to find his hammer and a way back to his realm, comedic undertones take over the overall feel of this epic actioner.

The reason why the comedic undertones appear after Thor lands in New Mexico is because the first act of the film is directed and acted like a Shakespearean tragedy; a hallmark of actor/director Kenneth Branagh’s. Branagh allows the Gods to appear as mere men and women with moral dilemmas similar to ours and in turn, we are treated to a terrifically acted piece of fantasy that we are drawn into from very early in the film.

The main attraction of the film is the story of a God who’s so full of himself that he must (literally) fall from grace in order to learn humiliation. But he has the capacity learn humiliation because he’s worthy of being a god after all. No matter what side stories arise (it’s inevitable there’d be some mention of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers Protocol), the main concept is what the film’s all about and it works very well.

All of the performances in the film are excellent save for Natalie Portman’s, who I don’t believe had managed to pull off a normal, boring character without seeming boring in general. Also Kat Dennings was pure comic relief, which doesn’t take a lot nowadays to pull off. Chris Hemsworth is terrific in the lead role and will surely be trusted to star in other films. His charisma shines in every scene, along with his tall height and enormous bulging muscles, and he pulls off Thor as expected. He pulls off the ego and attitude with great panache, worthy of a Viking God, and physically fits the role of an action star. Hopkins is allowed to overact in a Shakespearean actor sort of way and delivers a powerful performance (especially in the scene where he removed his son’s powers).

And how could I forget Loki (Tom Hiddleston)?! Loki is Thor’s half brother, always quiet and obedient, but is also a skilled warrior that can fend for himself rather well. He is crafty and sneaky, just like the mythical Loki, and Tom Hiddleston performs the character mostly with his eyes, which is very hard to pull off. One can tell that Loki is always jealous of Thor, and his temporary status of King of Asgard, but Loki knows how to hide what he really feels. That performance is also excellent.

When Jon Favreau’s Iron Man (2008) came out, it felt like that distant cousin we have that visits every few years but is always welcome because they’re fun and exciting. It was relatively flawless as an action film and as a comedy and every aspect of it made it great. Thor is another Iron Man of comic book film adaptations. Old school in its approach of a three act story structure, it has the great look and feel of a Shakespearean tragedy, a great cast, and it has magnificent special effects. Whenever in Asgard, I felt like I was actually on another plane of existence. The costume and set designs are of a fantastic realm but they work in the way of convincing us that we’re on Asgard. Nothing ever looks, feels, or sounds silly throughout the duration of the film and this is one film that I could easily watch again simply for the scenes that take place on Asgard.

Branagh was indeed the perfect choice as the director and he managed to get the most out of the actors that he’d worked with. This is top notch, beautiful looking and sounding filmmaking and this is a terrific way to spend one’s weekend. I can’t wait to revisit it on Blu-ray.

3 1/2 stars

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Possibly Related Posts: (Commentary Track generated)

Reviews of Iron Man and Iron Man 2

15 responses to “Movie Review – Thor (2011)

  1. Nice review, I made sure to add it to the other bloggers who have reviewed Thor. Make sure to check back with us to see when one of your reviews can be promoted at Indianapolis Bloggers. For instance, if you do one on Bridesmaids, we’ve got a post up for that. Thanks!

  2. This sounds much better than I expected. I’ll need to catch it sometime soon. Thanks!

  3. I enjoyed it too (and it is MUCH better than the trailers suggested), but I wouldn’t rate it quite as highly. Jane/the romance plot and Loki felt underwritten, and I didn’t like the staging of the big confrontation between Thor and the metal monster (Destroyer?), with the gang lamely standing in a line looking worried.

    The movie does look really good and I don’t have anything bad to say about Hemsworth. He demonstrated appropriate god-like charisma, not to mention his god-like good looks, and he has the acting chops to pull off the heavy dramatic parts. My favorite part of the movie though was the fish out of water- or should I say Thor out of Asgard?- comedy routine, which he carried off with aplomb.

    I also really liked Hopkins as Odin. The father/son dynamic and the similar father/daughter dynamic between Jane and Erik were nicely played.

    • My rating reflects what I feel in regards to the dramatic performances, mainly Hiddleston and Hemsworth throughout; the overall use of special effects and the visuals; Branagh’s direction and cinematography (although half of the movie was “Dutched” for some reason); and the general feeling that one got after the film was over, in comparison to the trailer. It’s not as perfect as Iron Man (2008) was, and it was a reletively perfect film, but it’s damn near closer to perfection than a Thor movie had any right to be. :OD

  4. I had a real good time with this and I wasn’t expecting to but this really kept my interest. Mostly because the tone was so light and very simple. Can’t get any better than that. Good Review!

  5. Branaugh deserves high marks for his direction. The movie is well paced, the action is exciting, the humor is unforced, and the atmospheric effects are professional without being overwhelming. Loki was clearly a problem for the writers because he has so many, often contradictory, attributes in Norse myth. Most treatments solve this by presenting him as the trickster and not as the changeling. The film’s approach is daring, but I am not sure it works as well in Asgard as it does in America.

  6. I really enjoyed this, too. It seemed a bit crowded with characters and story, but perhaps it was all necessary to establish the Thor character for the larger series. The Avengers universe was unknown to me before the series of movies started appearing. I wouldn’t have wanted the movie any longer but I wish his friends had had more to do and the romance was barely there. Still, I liked the character dynamics, use of Norse mythology, and humor and was totally charmed by Hemsworth’s performance.

    • I like that they’re all basically aliens instead of Gods. But I wish that Natalie Portman wasn’t in the film; she doesn’t seem to be able to play regular people and her romance wasn’t really a big factor in the overall story. It was crammed into the third act but it’s nothing to cry about.
      My expectations were blown out of the water, anyway.

      • Mine too. I wasn’t going to repeat others’ comments about the lousy trailer, but it had more than diminished my expectations. I probably wouldn’t have seen Thor if it weren’t for the enthusiasm of the commentary track team. Thanks for steering me to a really good time at the movies.

        • You’re very welcome! That’s what we’re here for and I’m glad that we’re not just being read but also that our advice is being taken seriously. :OD

  7. Great! That was the first thing I thought after seeing Thor. I’d read the strong reviews, I loved the choice of Kenneth Branagh as director and the trailers looked great. But I still wasn’t prepared for how satisfying this movie would be. This is the very definition of epic, and I LOVED it.

    I do not find negative reviews about this film, even on IMDB, almost all readers providing positive feedback, for me personally that makes this film a success is, the director Kenneth Branagh is able to translate the character from the book into three main actor Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman.

    Read my personal review about Thor 2011 at : http://freewatchingnow.com

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