Thor (3D) film review

Another entertaining superhero franchise has arrived. The first Thor movie, based on one of Marvel Comic’s most powerful (and mythological) characters, is finally here, and I’m pleased to report it’s an enjoyable experience to rival 2008's Iron Man film adaptation – deftly mixing action, humour and likeable characters. Thor won’t revolutionise cinema as we know it, and the film certainly isn’t flawless, but it’s still a lot of lightweight fun to leave you smiling.

Kicking off with a Lord of the Rings-esque battle that you wish was longer, Thor doesn’t labour over complex, overwhelming explanations of the characters’ universe. It gets straight to the point, and this simplicity is appreciated by the audience, myself included, who are largely unfamiliar with Marvel’s god hero.

So it’s quickly established that the powerful beings who inhabit Asgard (still vaguely remembered by humans as Scandinavian mythology) are peacekeepers of the Nine Realms, which include Asgard, Earth and Jotunheim, home world of the vicious frost giants. The Realms are linked by what’s essentially a stargate, and it’s through this Bifrost Bridge that hot headed king-to-be Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is cast down to Earth by his furious father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and stripped of his power source, the legendary hammer Mjolnir. Thor’s arrival in New Mexico catches the attention of astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and it’s with her help that Thor attempts to negotiate the nuances of mortal life, while attempting to return to Asgard, where sinister plans are afoot.

Given its focus on all-powerful immortals, Thor could easily have been dripping cheese – of Flash Gordon proportions – in terms of performances, special effects and world design. However, director Kenneth Branagh and his cast have reined in the excess; the hamminess. While there’s an appropriate sense of epicness to the mythological proceedings, there’s also an enjoyable logic. Characters can’t do anything they want, they get hurt and there are very specific rules relating to inter-Realm travel.

Performances too are sincere. Thor is a star-making vehicle for the VERY physically impressive Hemsworth, who is nonetheless unafraid to make his blustery character the butt of jokes, particularly once Thor is stomping around small town America with the bravado and (bad) manners of a god prince. Hemsworth also demonstrates a surprising amount of chemistry with Natalie Portman, who here has completely melted away the emotional skittishness and frigidity of her recent work in Black Swan and No Strings Attached.

As I mentioned before, Thor is a surprisingly humorous movie with plenty of likeable, amusing characters. This is true for Thor’s band of buddies, the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Joshua Dallas, Tadanobu Asano) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander), as well as Stellan Skarsgård as Foster’s mentor. A particular standout though is Kat Dennings as Foster’s disinterested research assistant. Her every line provokes a laugh.

As for the drama in Thor, that falls almost entirely to Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s adopted brother, the trickster god Loki. And the British actor certainly delivers. Hiddleston’s Loki is a very interesting character, a master of deceit whose actions are so smothered in lies that even by the film's end it’s unclear to what degree his behaviour is motivated by familial insecurities or a lust for power. It’s an emotional complexity to be appreciated in a movie that could easily have stuck to sneering one-dimensional villainy.

The biggest gripe that can be made about Thor is that, like the first Iron Man, after a strong start the film’s culminating battle feels rushed and overblown. Fortunately what has preceded the final fight is entertaining enough to help viewers overlook the film's weaknesses, which also include too much screen time for dull, and evidently pointless, SHIELD operations. Thor’s action-packed raid on Jotunheim, where he gets to unleash the full might of Mjolnir, is probably the highlight of the movie.

As for watching Thor in 3D, I personally wouldn’t bother. Although the film is a solid conversion, the 3D format adds nothing exceptional to the viewing experience. This said, you may find yourself forced to watch the film in 3D. In South Africa at least, the nation’s premium cinemas are only screening the movie in 3D, which is frankly a cheek.

Still though, if you can stomach forking out for the 3D - or can find a 2D version of the film - Thor is worth watching on the big screen. It's an engaging, strong start to 2011’s run of big superhero flicks. And it's deftly dodged the many pitfalls that could easily have tripped up the ambitious project, and left it too obscure and emotionally aloof forcontemporary audiences. Thor is perfect popcorn entertainment.

P.S. Thor is a Marvel movie. You should know by now to stay in your seat until after the credits have finished rolling for a hint of what’s to be a pivotal plot point in Captain America: The First Avenger in July, as well as next year’s The Avengers.


MJenks said…
Thanks for the review. Our tastes tend to run parallel, so seeing what you had to say about it has kind of fully sold me on the film.

Plus, I love Kenneth Branaugh. I named a character in my big, epic story Kenneth because of him. I wish I was lying.

Just one question for you: is it at all child friendly? We were wondering if it would alright to take the kids to. Everything I've seen says "yes", but I thought I'd ask you, since you've actually seen it.
Pfangirl said…
Yes, I believe it's completely child friendly - far more so than Iron Man with Tony Stark's promiscuity.

Perhaps Thor is a bit talky for the young'uns in part, but the action scenes are engrossing without being graphic.

Plus there's a nice mythological feel to events in Asgard, so it's a great intro to epic heroics for kids.
MJenks said…
Excellent! Thank you. And, yeah, the promiscuity of Tony Stark is the only thing that gives my wife pause about letting the kids watch Iron Man.

They've both watched Star the violence isn't so bad. We're working on the whole play fighting versus real fighting thing.

Thanks again!
Filmfanny said…
Yep KB did an awesome job.
Personally I enjoyed the tasteful 3D.
Epic is right!

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