By Andrew Walsh
If I had to describe “Thor” in one word it would be: Shakespearean. Everything from the scope, themes, tone, and characters is Shakespearean in it’s grandeur. This is certainly no coincidence as the film’s director Kenneth Branagh (whom most audiences might recognize as Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter) has an extensive background in the works of Shakespeare, having acted in as well as directed numerous stage and film productions of The Bard’s work. And it certainly helps in bringing the larger than life characters of Thor back down to Earth.
Thor, the Norse God of Thunder (as the advertisements so hyperbolically state) is cast out of Asgard, the home of the Norse Gods, by his father Odin when he impulsively commits an act of war with a race known as the Ice Giants. Thor is exiled to Earth and forced to live as a human until he can prove he is truly worthy to wield the power of the mighty war hammer Mjolnir. But as Odin falls ill the throne of Asgard falls to younger son, Loki, who has his own plans for the fate of Thor.
See, that’s pretty big in scope. We’re talking about Gods. And no, the film doesn’t cop out and explain them as aliens of some sort, the Asgardians are for all intents and purposes Gods. That simple fact deserves praise all on it’s own, mostly because Thor is not a truly standalone film; it is a part of a singular mega-production helmed by Marvel Studios to bring an interweaving continuity amongst numerous other Marvel heroes who have made their way to the big screen (Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, and soon Captain America). All for the sake of coming together for one HUGE film event in The Avengers, which will see these numerous heroes teaming up to fight a villain that is too great for any of them to handle on their own. See, as big as Thor is, it’s still going to get bigger.
In terms of it’s continuity with the other films it’s still very tight. Those who stayed through the credits of Iron Man 2 will recognize a particular scene early in the film. There are also references to the wider universe, such as name-checking Tony Stark, and a brief cameo by Jeremy Renner who is set to play the hero Hawkeye in future films. But what is perhaps most impressive is that it still can play so seriously with the more fantastical elements of Gods and magic while set in the “scientifically plausible” world established by Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. The simple idea that these aspects will all come together in The Avengers has me supremely excited.
But back to Thor itself. The juxtaposition of modern American attitudes with the more “classical” mannerisms of the Asgardian Gods works surprisingly well. Despite the number of jokes that are made at the expense of the Gods behavior while on Earth, the film still takes the characters very seriously and never loses the full scope of the story. In spite of the “musclehead” image of the main character, Chris Hemsworth’s performance as Thor simply couldn’t be matched by an actor in the same vein as The Rock. The character of Thor requires at least some classical background, which I’m sure Hemsworth has. Similar performances are handled excellently by Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Tom Hiddleston as Lok, and particularly Idris Elba as Heimdall (who truly owns every scene he’s in). Unfortunately, most of the human characters are largely forgettable. Honestly the only person whose performance is worth mentioning is Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, whose character essentially ties
all the marvel films together (along with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury).
If you can, I might suggest not watching the film in 3D. While it’s true I kind of have a grudge against 3D, it comes close to ruining the experience with Thor. Thanks to the 3D most of the action scenes are nearly unwatchable, which is very bad thing considering this is an ACTION film. The only time the 3D works (in this film or any other) is in the wide shots of landscapes. Granted, the realm of Asgard is a wonder to behold in 3D, but the rest of the film is greatly weakened by it.
Yet, the pure suckiness of 3D isn’t nearly enough to cripple this film. Every movie fan owes it to themselves to see Thor. Not so much for the film itself, but what it is doing for the big picture.
Production Value: 8
Entertainment Value: 9