DIRECTOR; Kenneth Branagh
STARRING; Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard
In the latest entry to the Marvel Universe, Thor, the Norse God of Thunder, is banished by Odin to New Mexico, where he helps save the world.
While other Marvel films have a gritty reality to them despite the ludicrous premises dreamt up by the writers, Thor is a fairy story, a myth that is cemented in campness by its very nature. The film does very well with this, creating a lot of comedy using the well worn fish out of water premise. If ever there was a film that needed to laugh at itself then Thor is it. As a premise that involves a centuries old war with the Frost Giants, a machine/thing/state called the Biofrost, and a character Odin going to sleep in what is predictably called the Odinsleep, it is clear that Thor is not going to be an Iron Man or Dark Knight, but a whole new comic book beast completely, a genuinely enjoyably funny one, and not in the way Schwarzenegger managed in Batman and Robin. Branagh wisely allows this to continue, although the scenes in Asgard do run like some Shakespearian tradition, and are played as such.
As a technical exercise this film gets full marks. In creating the world of Asgard the technical team have done a fine job, and when you see these visuals you cannot help but go wow. There is also a fight scene against the Ice Giants, led by the ever impressive Colm Feore, and the melding of CGI and real characters is seamless. Another character, if you could call it that is the Destroyer, a fire-shooting robot that wreaks havoc in New Mexico, is well designed and brilliantly executed. This is in the 2D version. In 3D Asgard looks murky and uninspiring, the Ice Giants fight scene is cluttered and hard to make out and the New Mexico sequence laughably fake looking. Watch in 2D!
The one thing that Thor is missing is a truly memorable villain. The Ice Giants are given little screen time, barely any of it with Thor, and so they are ineffectual. The same happens with the Destroyer, although this does provide the best battle scene of the film. Loki as a villain is never threatening enough, and the final battle sequence does not work in the way one has come to expect from Marvel Studios. There is a good battle sequence around the camp where Thor’s hammer lies, which provides Marvel fans with a very welcome cameo just in time for The Avengers.
Chris Hemsworth looks good as Thor, and does the job well as the confused fish out of water. He has the presence to be Thor, and has a handle on both the solemnity of the Asgardian realm and the silliness that the writers have installed into his earthly incarnation. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is devious, sly, and brilliant. If this film was to create a star it should be Hiddleston who does a surprising amount with not a lot of material. Anthony Hopkins hams up brilliantly as Odin, a role he has seemingly been playing for many years. I did not buy Natalie Portman as a scientist, but her performance did instill the heart of the film. There were dependable performances as always by Stellan Skarsgard and Idris Elba, and Kat Dennings was scene stealingly funny.
The best of the Marvel Studios films, and a genuine surprise of a film that has it all and delivers on all of it.
Joe’s rating - 4 out of 5