Summer is not even here yet and we already have Thor, our first major blockbuster release of the year. If you’re already a fan of the Thunder God, then I can tell you up front that this is as good as it is going to get. Just like the first Iron Man film, expect this inaugural Thor outing to come as an unexpected surprise.
Marvel Studios is making a concerted effort to give these films, at least, the appearance of a cohesive, shared universe. S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is now appearing in each– if only to exchange some witty banter with a couple of characters. Also, a certain purple archer (and future Avenger) makes a cameo working for S.H.I.E.L.D., as he gets called into action against Thor. Unfortunately, he is not given the chance to attack Thor with his weapon of choice.
From here on, I’ll do my best to keep the spoilers to a minimum.
To be sure, I am not the biggest Thor fan. I kind of feel my knowledge of the character is a bit selective, and most of it comes from Walter Simonson’s comic run and the short-lived Roger Landridge/Chris Samnee series Thor: The Mighty Avenger (which, if you want a good introduction to the character, I highly recommend picking up). The good news: If you have a passing knowledge of Thor– either gained vicariously though other comics in the Marvel Universe or from the Norse mythology that surrounds the character– this movie conveys this information in a sensical manner.
Given Director Kenneth Branagh’s background in classical dramas, it is easy to see that he is attempting to make the story of Asgard equal to that of a grand Shakespeare Play or a compelling Greek Tragedy. He does a good job of having the film mesh with the previous Iron Man movies and, to a certain extent, the Hulk reboot. More good news: Even if Branagh had not incorporated these through elements, I don’t think their absence would have affected the overall quality– or my enjoyment– of this film.
For big budget, effects-driven film like this one– Thor is a good start to the season. The first five minutes of the movie is pure exposition by Odin (Anthony Hopkins)– describing the Nine Realms, the Frost Giants (which are rather creepy, especially the Frost Giant King Laufey) and the weapon that was taken from them. This exposition takes the form of a story told to a young Thor and Loki.
Fast forward to the present, where get the backstory to Thor’s hammer Mjolnir and the explanation of the Bifrost— which isn’t so much a rainbow as a wormhole with pretty lights. Mind you, they have to cross a rainbow bridge to get to the Bifrost, but I kind of wanted to see them riding on one for my amusement. It is also very interesting to see the atmospheric changes between the realms. Asgard is more serious and regal. Jotunheim, of course, is covered in snow an ice. Also, New Mexico serves as curiously wondrous place to banish Thor. In context to the earlier fantastic story locales, the Western scenery is extremely desolate and weirdly upbeat.
Outside of the initial explanations, Odin’s character is also used to progress the plot. I’d like to think Odin exiled Thor to Earth in order to humble him and have him learn that being a warrior isn’t– on its’ own– enough to become a good king. But I am afraid that most people will see this act simply as Asgard’s supreme ruler being dick– which is unfortunate. I think Odin is truly just a father attempting to teach his son a lesson in the importance of peace– rather than something petty like, “I am your king, you disobeyed my orders and now you must be punished for it.” Maybe it’s me but if Odin was really trying to punish Thor, I don’t think he would have sent him to Earth with his hammer.
That’s it for my describing the story. I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t seen it and plan on doing so. I’ll just stick with the characters from here on out… And a few odds an ends.
Chris Hemsworth not only looks the part but plays the title role very well. At the beginning, his Thor is perfectly cocky and bull-headed.
His being sent to Earth is a “fish out of water” tale that is fun to watch without being completely ridiculous or over the top. I will admit that when The Warriors Three and Sif arrive on Earth, they do look kind of silly– especially due to their costumes and how well Loki (Tom Hiddleston) managed to blend in before. Regarding actress Jaimie Alexander (who played Sif): If Ryan Reynolds can play both Green Lantern and Deadpool… Hell, if Ray Stevenson can play the Punisher and Volstagg– than I see no reason why Jaimie Alexander can’t play Sif and Wonder Woman. This movie makes a good case for this casting, especially now that the Wonder Woman TV pilot is dead in the water.
Some of you might think Natalie Portman could fill the boots worn by a particular Amazon Princess. Based on this performance, I sincerely hope not. Maybe based her work in Your Highness, but I still doubt it. Portman plays Jane Foster in Thor— a character from the very first Thunder God comics that was a nurse employed by Dr. Donald Blake. Since Blake is NOT in this movie (he does get a shout out though), it seems strange from a comic continuity point of view that they would even bother to use the name or the character– especially since the creators have updated Foster’s profession to astrophysicist. (It also seemed to me like Jane fell for Thor way too easily, but that’s a minor gripe.)
As for the odds an ends, Stan Lee and J. Michael Straczynski play Earthlings. Aforementioned Thor writer/artist Walter Simonson also gets in on the action portraying an Asgardian. These are fun little “easter eggs” for comic book fans.
Seeing Thor in 3D really underscores the fact that the film was converted to the “third dimension” in post-production. The 3D credits are glaring (and the only shots worth watching with glasses on)– as they were obviously the only parts of the movie originated in the format. Transition shots are also a bit disorienting. (I confess to not being a big fan of 3D.) The final POST CREDITS reveal (a staple of all Marvel movies now) was very interesting and should factor in as a major set piece in the upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger film– as well as the Avengers movie.
After the last frame flickered, I felt– for me– this movie was just all right. I don’t see any reason why this film had to come before the upcoming Avengers movie– except to introduce Thor.
And by the way Marvel Studios has been teasing and hyping that team movie, the Joss Whedon directed vehicle better be a major win. Either that, or we are headed toward a spectacular failure and a lesson why Superhero Team movies should never be attempted. I certainly hope it is the former– for the sake of superhero movies in general. Another fantastically big blockbuster (after the enormous success of the last Nolan Batman film) could only (hopefully) help our hobby.
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
As always, I look forward to the comments of the IMJ Nation!