…written by J. Michael Straczynski, Ashley Miller, Zach Stentz, directed by Kenneth Branagh, starring Chris Helmsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston.
Pros: Super-hero action adventure in the Mighty Marvel tradition. A fun adaptation of Thor from the comics and mythology.
Cons: Someone needs to come up with a different plot boiler plate for these movies. Would’ve liked to have seen a little more of Thor in action and at least one scene with the old winged helmet.
Review: Marvel’s version of the Norse God of Thunder was always an odd character to approach – especially for a kid interested in mythology. Growing up, I was always trying to reconcile the comic version with what I’d read in other books. He was fun because Stan the Man and other always had him speaking in a kind of Middle English Shakespearean dialect and he was always one of the most powerful dudes out there. At the same time, I never really had a sense of the actual character.
In Kenneth Branagh and company’s cinematic Thor, the thunderer begins as a brash and haughty prince, secure in his birthright, a peaceful Asgard secured through Odin’s wisdoms and battle prowess centuries before. When a few Frost Giants break into Asgard in search of their ancient weapon (with Loki’s assistance), Thor vows vengeance and proceeds to assault the Realm of Jotunheim to teach the giants a lesson. In doing so he breaks an uneasy truce with the Frost Giants. Odin decides to teach Thor a lesson, stripping him of his Asgardian powers and casting him down into New Mexico. Odin bounds the powers in Thor’s hammer, with a spell that will only allow one who is worthy to claim those powers. In the desert, Thor meets brilliant and beautiful Jane, a particle researcher, and begins to figure out what has happened and regret his arrogance and harsh words. Meanwhile, Odin has fallen into an Asgardian coma and Loki begins to assume the throne and…
You get the idea. It flows together nicely in the basic Hero’s Journey boiler plot we all know and love. The quest for worthiness and redemption is very similar to other recent Marvel films, especially Iron Man (Tony Stark sees the light while a captive in Afghanistan) and Spider Man 3 (Peter Parker sees the light after the alien costume preys upon his darker urgers). It’s a little too familiar. Fortunately Chris Helmsworth is very good in the role and manages to imbue the fallen Thunderer with just enough sympathy and regret without screwing up his Viking nobility. Of course Thor figures it all out, proves his worthiness and humility in a matter of days – this is a movie after all.
From a narrative standpoint you would want Thor falling to Earth centuries earlier, wandering around slowly learning his lesson through trial and error , noble deeds, and sacrifice. Maybe you throw in a little amnesia like Wolverine or even Hancock. Or you try the original Stan Lee/Jack Kirby version, wherein an American doctor Don Blake finds Thor’s Hammer and becomes the vessel through which Thor can exist on Midgard and prove his worthiness to Odin. It’s a strange duality with some possible weight… But those would have been tough to pull off in a movie.
What we do get in this movie is a fun and effective tale, and more importantly, an impressive visualization of the kind of cosmic Asgard of Jack the King Kirby’s work in the 60’s and 70’s. There you have the Rainbow Bridge, Bifrost, and a cool intepretation of Asgardian cosmology. There’s stoic Heimdall and the Warrior’s Three and Lady Sif. And here’s Loki, as more of a conflicted yet power hungry character instead of the plotting master of evil, but a formidable foe nonetheless.
When Thor has his powers and battles a-brewing, it’s great cinematic fun. I really enjoyed the whirling hammer, the lightning and all the havoc. I could have done with more action sequences to be frank but got the sense that just like a Superman film, the writers were having a hard-time introducing worthy enemies without making it seem like a video game. Still, I’m very interested to see how this all translates into the Avengers film.
Bottom Line: Another fun super hero movie that executes on the basic action film outline. Deftly woven together by Branagh and company, Thor sets the stage for more Marvel Mayhem to come.