Thor has the ingredients to be the archetypal summer movie: a beefed-up lead actor in Chris Hemsworth, action, special effects, more muscles, loud noises, a love interest in Natalie Portman and more action. But thanks to Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh, the debut of Marvel’s Norse god of thunder is one of the more memorable comic book films to date.
Hemsworth delivers a grand performance as the brawn but gentle Thor, the heir to the great Asgardian king Odin (Anthony Hopkins). The god of thunder impedes his own ascension to the throne with the juvenile act of breaking the truce between Asgards and the Frost Giants, forcing Odin to strip his son of his godly powers and exiles him to Earth. The early scenes of Asgard, a world where science and magic “are one and the same”, made me fear the worst. Hopkin’s overacting, the script’s cliché dialogue and less-than-stellar visuals made Thor out to be just another fantasy-adventure, rehashed failure of a Clash of the Titans clone (the 1981 version, of course). But Branagh’s direction and understanding of the beloved Marvel Comics characters make you forget the visuals and focus more on the chemistry between those on screen. From the relationship between Thor and his deceiving, daddy-issues-filled brother Loki (a good performance from Tom Hiddleston), to the developing relationship between the Norse god and Jane Foster (Portman) on Earth, the Northern Irish-born director gives us real human drama and heart. There is plenty of mjolnir and thunder to go around, but Branagh uses it wisely. The action sequences aren’t mindless, developing the characters and adding depth to our heroes.
Thor is a pleasant surprise to the 2011 summer lineup, and will satisfy fans (and non-fans) of the comic books. With solid acting, memorable characters, superb direction and Odin’s awesome beard, Thor ranks up with the best of them, including Iron Man and X2: X-Men United.