Fetch me a Norse! My Thor review

Chris Hemsworth as Thor as depicted in the upc...

Image via Wikipedia

Released: Out now

Certificate: 12A

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgars, Idris Elba

Running Time: 114 minutes

Plot (Possible spoilers): Arrogant Norse god Thor (Hemsworth) is cast out of Asgard by his father Odin (Hopkins), whilst his evil brother (Hidleston) plots to steal his fathers throne. Thor must rediscover himself on Earth in order to return to him homeland and save the day.

If you like your superhero movies fun and linear then Thor is right up your alley. If you’re searching for something a little more wholesome, than you might be disappointed with Marvel’s latest studio flick. What the film is however, is proof Marvel have learned from their mistakes. After Iron Man 2 was nothing more than a complete disappointment, often trying to cram in too many story lines just to set up The Avengers, Thor is the complete opposite. The movie moves through at an unbelievably quick pace and never fails to deliver. Thor is action packed and a tremendous amount of fun, showcasing how the master of Shakespeare Kenneth Branagh was the perfect man for the Norse god of Thunder.

Thor was considered to be Marvel’s most difficult task on the road to next year’s Avengers movie. Get him right and you have this awe inspiring powerful Norse god, with a rich and tremendous back-story. Get him wrong and you have nothing more than an embarrassing showcase of why B-list heroes should be left alone. Marvel has played it safe with Hamlet Kenneth Branagh, as he keeps Thor fresh and exciting all the way through.

Without spoiling too much of the plot, the story revolves around Thor and his relationship with his brother Loki and father Odin. After Loki convinces Thor to disobey his father’s orders, Thor is banished to Earth to learn to error of his ways and return to Asgard to stop his evil brother’s plans. It’s traditional Todorov narrative in its purest form and that’s what makes it so fun and compelling.

The movie begins with a bang in New Mexico showcasing Thor’s arrival on Earth followed by a scene illustrating the intense history between Asgard and Jotunheim (land of the frost giants). The Jotunheim scene leaps at you as if it were the great battle for Middle Earth at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Not very original I’m afraid. Plus the 3-D spoils it.

We then meet the key players in the film, Odin, (played by Antony Hopkins), Thor (played by the Chris Hemsworth) and his dark and mysterious brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The relationship between the characters themselves is handled perfectly. You can really tell Shakespearean director Branagh is onboard here. The relationship between Thor and his brother Loki is a complicated one. You can see the characters respect each other, but that is clouded by jealousy, rage and ultimately betrayal. This film is ultimately the platform for Hemsworth to imitate what Iron Man did for Robert Downey Jr. and become a major star. Hemsworth owns the role of Thor, and his transformation from arrogant warrior to selfless hero is handled perfectly. The linear narrative does wonders here. The fish out of water scenes also work perfectly as well, providing some fantastic comedic moments. (Especially one scene where Thor storms into a pet shop a demands a horse). Similar to the scenes involving Clark Kent in the Christopher Reeve Superman films, Hemsworth proves he is good with drama, action and comedy.

It’s Thor’s brother Loki who steals the show however. Hiddleston’s portrayal as the God of Mischief makes for one of the best comic book movie villains of all time. Branagh has done what so many comic book movies fail to do and spend equal time setting up the moves villain. Loki is a complex fellow. After discovering secrets about his origin, he has a fantastic showdown with his father Odin, with emotions of jealousy, rage, love and regret flying all over the place. This could of all gone wrong but Branagh keeps the tension thick, and the drama flowing. It’s so easy to sympathize for Loki, but Hiddleston keeps you hating him as well. His ability to keep the audience guessing is a skill that Hollywood seems to have neglected over the years.  Co-stars Hemsworth and Hiddleston have fantastic chemistry on screen, and make for one of the best hero/villain match ups we’ve seen in a long time.

The rest of the main cast all impress. Hopkins gives a powerful performance as the all father Odin, bringing with him an incredible sense of authority whenever he’s on screen. Unlike her role in Black Swan, Natalie Portman keeps it simple but effective as scientist Jane Foster. She oozes of innocence and woos Thor at an incredibly quick pace (which some critics have pointed out) but considering all she does for him while he’s on Earth, it’s pretty believable. Fresh off the controversy surrounding his casting, Idris Elba does a wonderful job as Heimdall, protector of the Bifrost Bridge (a bridge which links all the realms together). Heimdall’s incredible physique puts even Thor to shame

It’s the supporting cast that let the film down a bit however. Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano and Josh Dallas rarely get given any sort of character development as Thor’s friends, the Warriors Three. The relationship between Thor and Asgard’s female warrior Sif (Jaimie Alaxendar) is never really explored and her character is left in the ambiguous wilderness. The same can be said for Kat Dennings as her character Darcy Lewis, a friend and colleague of Jane Foster (Portman), fails to deliver the sort of comedy we predicted from the film’s trailer. I can’t help but think this film would have been at least half a star better if all of the characters were handled perfectly.

The 3-D effect has been criticised (with the exception of Avatar) for not really taking off in cinemas yet and sadly the same applies to Thor. The opening scenes were left blurry and I didn’t really see what the 3-D effect gave to the film. If anything, it was a minor inconvenience.  The special effects were passable but let the film down in some scenes, especially the scene involving Thor and The Destroyer. I could forgive this however as they didn’t distract from the incredible action (and yes there is a lot of action) and drama nevertheless. There’s also one really pointless cameo from Jeremy Renner as the archer avenger Hawkeye where he shows up for almost no reason.

Verdict: Kenneth Branagh has done an incredible job with Thor, creating a standalone film that oozes with charisma. Hemsworth and Hiddleston emerge from this as true stars, and I can only hope we see more of their relationship in next year’s Avengers movie. Move over Iron Man, there’s a new hero in town, at least until Captain America: The First Avenger hits in July.

No pressure for Chris Evans..

****

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