Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comic Book, SciFi/Fantasy, Action/Adventure
Opens locally Friday, May 6th, 2011
Run Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins
Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Hamlet, A Midwinter's Tale)
My very first job was working at a comic book store, so as a big fan of the genre, I enter every single comic book movie a bit biased. With comic book movies, there seems to always be a comparison with other comic book films that have come before, as most are reviewed in this way (it was better than Iron Man, but it was no "The Dark Knight"!). So how does "Thor" compare to other films of the genre? First a bit of context...
The Avengers. Unless you've been living on Asgard, you've heard of the epic blockbuster coming out in 2012, "The Avengers," which was Marvel Comics' original version of other hero-teams like DC's "The Justice League." "The Avengers" movie is going to truly be epic, in that no film franchise has ever been approached quite like this. The Avengers team many of the popular Marvel Comics heroes together, and the last few years they have released films establishing each Avenger character.
Better yet (other than Edward Norton being replaced as The Hulk), all of the actors will re-prise their roles. There was The Hulk, Iron Man, and this summer brings us Thor and Captain America. Each film stands on it's own, but each film also builds and ends on a cliff-hanger leading us into "The Avengers" movie.
The Plot. So Thor is one of The Avengers key characters, and this movie sets out to establish him and set him up for the upcoming Avengers film. Thor the comic book character was created by the legendary Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, but unlike other Marvel heroes, Thor was based on an existing character from Norse Mythology. In the comic book (and film) version, Thor is a pompous God-like warrior from the realm of Asgard, who is banished to Earth by his father, Odin (Hopkins), to be taught a lesson in humility and consequence. Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, is cast out as well, as this is the true source and symbol of Thor's power.
On the hammer, a spell is cast, that allows it only to be wielded by someone worthy. Back in Asgard we are also introduced to Loki, Thor's adopted brother, who is the villain.
When Thor arrives on Earth, he runs into a team of scientists (one of which is Natalie Portman, appearing in what seems like her 100th film of 2011). As the battle between Loke and Thor unfolds, we are also given a "sword in the stone" kind of theme, as Thor finds his hammer but no one, not even he, can lift it from the rock in which it is embedded.
Thunder-struck. So how is the movie? With a bit of hesitation, I say it is a fairly good film. Thor for me was one of the lamest Marvel Comics of all time, one of the few Marvel heroes that I had trouble relating with. A God stripped of his powers? Not nearly as relatable to themes found in other books like X-Men or Spider-man. So the fact that this movie is slick and cool acts as a major upgrade for a character that I wouldn't have ranked very high.
The best part about the recent wave of Marvel Comics films have been their ability to keep everything light and funny. The plots are truly so absurd that you have to have tongue-in-cheek in order for them to work...and Thor is definitely a funny movie that laughs a lot at itself. Kenneth Branagh is the director and is legendary for bringing many Shakespearean movies to life, and this material is perfect for him. Thor, his relationship with Odin and also with Loki, has pure Shakespearean undertones that give the movie weight. No, Thor is not Shakespeare, but a movie about a God has to be delivered with a bit of panache.
Bottom Line. I would be shocked to hear that comic book fans disliked Thor, but for others they may actually get a kick out of it as well. To bring out the inevitable comparison, Thor is probably not as good a movie as the 1st Iron Man, but leagues above other entries such as The Incredible Hulk. Unlike the Hulk, I actually am looking forward to seeing Thor's character again on screen.
And as with all of these Marvel movies, be sure to stay through the end credits, for the real Avengers tease. Not a comic book person or don't know much about the Avengers? This teaser will send you running from the theatre and straight to Wikipedia. For those that understand the tease, you will leave the theatre salivating in anticipation for The Avengers movie.
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