In another summer full of comic book-inspired movie blockbusters, Thor stands out amongst the competition with subtle humor, excellent action pieces, and a surprisingly entertaining story. These days, your typical filmgoer has developed a keen sense of what makes a great comic book movie because of the avalanche of material to enter the genre over the past few years. While films like The Dark Knight and Iron Man stand out as the cream of the crop, the genre has also seen some stinkers like The Green Lantern and Transformers 2. Fortunately, Thor falls somewhere between these two extremems, with enough interesting moments to keep viewers entertained for it’s 115-minute running time.
The film opens with an extended flashback sequence that helps to give us some much needed backstory into the life of Thor and his world. We learn that although Thor is a great warrior, he is also a loose canon, consumed by his own ego and thirst for glory. We meet the other members of his family; his mighty father King Odin (played with vigor, and an eyepatch, by Sir Anthony Hopkins); his little brother Loki, who seems envious of Thor’s stature and eventual inheritance of their father’s crown; and Thor’s fellow warriors (ie: comedic relief). In these first ten minutes, we also meet the arch enemies of Thor and his people, the Frost Giants (corny, I know). Through some bad decisions made by Thor out of egotistical glory, the King is forced to banish Thor to the realm of Earth, stripping him of his powers and his mighty weapon, the hammer of Mjollnir.
Reading the synopsis kind of makes you giggle because it seems so absurd, even for a comic book movie. However, the framing of the story and action are handled very well by experienced actor/director Kenneth Branaugh, and the writing is witty enough to conceal the silliness of the plot’s elements by inserting comedic moments at just the right time to distract viewers from some of the cornier, but necessary, exposition.
The actors all do admirable jobs with their roles, with not many standouts either good or bad. Chris Hemsworth does an adequate job as the title character, pulling off the physicality of Thor while bringing some surprising humor to the character as the story takes on a fish-out-of-water feel to it. As Thor confronts the tedious elements of Earth, his reactions bring about some of the biggest laughs and best moments in the film. Natalie Portman sleepwalks through her role as astrophysicist Jane Foster, though she does do a much better job here than she did in the Star Wars Prequels, where “wooden” was probably the most kindhearted way of describing her acting. There are lots of familar faces in Thor, most of which will probably show up again in next year’s super-blockbuster The Avengers, like the S.H.I.E.L.D. government blackops group that pops up in the other Avenger-related flims like Iron Man and The Hulk.
Thor doesn’t knock it out of the park completely. As said before, some of the story elements and dialogue are just so silly sounding that its difficult to take it seriously (even for a comic book movie). The villain in the movie isn’t developed very well and pretty obvious from the get-go, though the writers try to throw in some subterfuge here and there to lead the audience off track. The CG in the movie is hit or miss, with some sequences being very impressive and others just being plain over-the-top. At times, the film looks more animated than live-action.
In the end, these criticisms are just minor detractions from an overall enjoyable experience. Those of you looking for another comic-book movie and willing to leave your disbelief at the door will find Thor to be a fun ride. Those of you who prefer your comic book movies heavy on action and light on fantasy, would be better off skipping Thor and renting The Dark Knight again.
Rating 7 out of 10
Thor was released on DVD and Blu-ray on September 13, 2011 and is available at your local video rental store.