Stars: 3.5 out of 5
In this 3D blockbuster, adapted from the Marvel comic universe, the burly hunk of a Norse god of thunder, Thor (Chris Hemsworth, ‘A Perfect Getaway,’ ‘The Cabin in the Woods’) is a powerful, handsome, but arrogant warrior that is thrown out of the fantastical realm of Asgard by his father, Odin (played brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins). Thor is then sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he quickly converts to one of humanity’s greatest defenders, and falls for mousy storm-chasing scientist, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, ‘Black Swan,’ ‘No Strings Attached’).
The story begins with Thor about to inherit the throne from the ailing Odin. An overly long, and slightly childish intro shows Thor waltzing down a long aisle amid cheers and feminine sighs. The ceremony is cut short when longstanding enemies, the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, disrupt the coronation by breaking into Asgard.
Thor pitches a mighty tantrum, and his recklessness proves to have dire consequences, of course. With the peace of the universe threatened, Odin becomes enraged with his son and strips Thor of his powers, banishing him to Earth. This leaves Thor’s half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, ‘War Horse,’ ‘The Deep Blue Sea’) next in line to the throne, and Thor must prove himself worthy of again wielding his magical hammer.
The scenes on Asgard depicting the three gods in confrontation are electrifying and ripe with drama. Hiddleston plays the jealous and cunning Loki with style and ease, but these moments make the scenes on Earth pale in comparison. However, the comical manner in which Thor struggles to adapt to mortality and a world of social networking and iPods redeems the lackluster appearance of these scenes.
Once cast out of Asgard, Thor comically crashes into the New Mexico desert, landing rather inelegantly on the windshield of the RV driven by Jane Foster. Further hilarity ensues as she runs into him repeatedly throughout his first days on Earth.
Jane, along with her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard, ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’) and assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings, ‘Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist’), attempts to figure out who, and what Thor is, and what his presence has to do with strange symbols found in the desert. As she’s investigating, we’re jolted back to the floating kingdom of Asgard, where Thor’s father Odin fills us in on decades of back story in a detailed voiceover. Any other actor might have failed to pull off such an info dump, but Hopkins delivers it beautifully. The viewer is painlessly carried away by his voice, despite the overwhelmingly heavy score and visual effects playing in the background.
In the end, it’s the love of Jane Foster that teaches Thor humility and respect. The conversion might be considered by some to be too short, but there’s a ton of story to jam into a single film, and the action keeps you willingly along for the ride despite some believability issues. As the viewer ricochets between Asgard, the barren ice planet of Jotunheim, and Earth, the film’s epic design, and outstanding digital effects make Thor a noisy but impressive spectacle worthy of any Marvel comic book. The constant shifts between Thor’s Asgard home and Earth can be confusing, but the visual feast Asgard and Hemsworth’s ripped body provide are the viewer’s reward for any disappointment in the faltering drama when these changes occur.
The successful rendition of Thor’s fantastical world is due in large part to Kenneth Branagh’s (‘Hamlet,’ ‘Frankenstein’) masterful direction. Branagh is no stranger to epic tales, and his direction pulls a star-making performance from Chris Hemsworth.
All in all, the stunning visual effects and strong performances of Thor’s cast, along with Branagh’s masterful directorial skills makes Thor an epic superhero tale worth the price of admission.