Hello g33ks and m33ks and any agents of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. I have just seen the newest entry into the Marvel film universe, Thor. This film is kind of strange to review since its just a step along the way to The Avengers. You cannot help but view the film through the lens of where it is eventually intended to take us instead of where it is going on its own. But that is not the fault of the actors, the director or the film as a whole.
This film is well directed by famed Shakespearian actor/director Kenneth Branagh. He has taken this tale of beings from three different worlds/dimensions and found the drama at the base of the story. Pride, Honor, Warlust, Wisdom, Hatred, Treachery are all elements of this tale which ultimately breaks down to the concept of a son trying to prove his worth to his father.
The film begins on Earth, with theoretical physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) recording a continuing series of strange atmospheric disturbances. Her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and mentor Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) help her chase the disturbance to a point where it makes contact with the New Mexico desert. Inadvertently while driving they slam into a man who they knock unconscious.
The film then moves back in time to when Odin Allfather (Sir Anthony Hopkins), King of Asgard, is regaling his two young boys with the tale of his greatest victory. This took place after an attack on Earth by the Frost Giants from the planet Jotunheim which was pushed back by Odin and his army. In their victory Odin fought them back to their planet at which point he defeats their leader and steals a very powerful weapon. Telling his sons this story he shows them the trophy in his armory and tries to impress on them the idea that war should not be waged recklessly and just for glory. His heirs express their ideas of what would make them good kings and we are swept into the present day.
This is the day Odin will finally name his first born son and heir to the throne, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), King of Asgard but the ceremony is interrupted when after several hundred years the Frost Giants attempt to steal back their weapon from the armory. This sends Thor into a fury and even though ordered by Odin to forgo retribution he convinces his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and their band of warriors to follow him to Jotunheim and end the threat of the Frost Giants once and for all.
The attack on the Giants does not go as well as Thor planned and although he is capable of holding his own; his warriors come dangerously close to death. Loki finds himself in the grip of one of the Frost Giants and escapes due to having some heretofor unknown resistance to their frost touch. Odin appears and calls for a truce to the fight, the leader of the Frost Giants declares war on Asgard and once home Odin takes away Thor’s Hammer Mjolnir stripping him of his powers and banishing him to Earth. Odin’s spell says that only someone worthy will be able to lift the hammer and become imbued with the powers of Thor.
The film then returns to the opening and we see Thor is the man hit by Jane with the car and now our origin story can begin. The film finds a free and easy tone quickly swapping between angst, humor, action and drama. Everyone in the film is on board with the drama involved even those with smaller parts like Idris Elba, Renee Russo, Clark Gregg and Ray Stevenson. Its as if Branagh managed to find all the emotion and depth in a summer blockbuster and did everything he could to bring it out. Again this is all relative, but there are moments in the Asgard storyline that feel reminiscent of a stageplay. This film doesn’t break new ground in the genre but it is a very enjoyable addition to the collective for Marvel Films.
Fitting more into the quality category of a film like The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton, it all just seems to work. Chris Hemsworth is supremely charming, Natalie Portman’s smile is infectious and Anthony Hopkins is ODIN. This movie sets off the summer well, don’t expect new dimensions in filmmaking but do expect to have fun on your 1hr 45min pitstop on the way to The Avengers. (Speaking of which two Avengers make cameos; one in the film proper and one in the credits which is becoming tradition with Marvel Films. So once again sit through the credits.) At the end of the day this is a popcorn flick but a fun one.