Silly Thor a Grand Shakespearean Adventure
Marvelís Thor may be silly, but that doesnít make it any less entertaining. Dynamically directed with full Shakespearean brio by Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing) and cast to perfection, this loud, rambunctious and delightfully over the top herculean epic adventure of Gods and Men is a heck of a lot of fun. Absurd in the extreme, not always sure about where it is going, this is nonetheless one of the most successful pictures the noted comic book impresarios have brought to the screen yet, and to say I had a good time watching it would be a decided understatement.
Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth in Thor © Paramount Pictures
On the day Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is supposed to be crowned by his father King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as his successor to rule the kingdom of Asgard, a series of events leads him to go into King Laufeyís (Colm Feore) kingdom where he almost instigates a war. In response, Odin angrily casts his son out of Asgard sending him to the realm of Earth, sending his almighty hammer there as well proclaiming only a worthy warrior will be able to raise it from its resting place.
Thor is discovered by a team of scientists led by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her mentor Prof. Erik Selvig (Stellan SkarsgŚrd). Stripped of his powers, Thor slowly comes to realize who he is and the horribly selfish choices he has made over the years, understanding that his father was right and that he was unready to be king and still has much to learn about what it is to be a fair, reasonable and sensible ruler.
His brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has no interest in seeing Thor take the throne. Heís been orchestrating his siblingís fall from grace from behind the scenes, but after learning a long-buried secret about his past heís no longer content to by an invisible villain. If he has to, heíll destroy his brother to maintain control, making a secret deal with King Laufey to invade Asgard and sending an unstoppable machine to Earth to finish Thor off for good.
This movie is obnoxious. It is colorful. It is loud. It is full of vim and vinegar. It talks in bold, robust statements of grandeur reveling in just how obnoxious and silly everything that is happening is. It connects itself to other Marvel adventures like Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk but doesnít see itself beholden to them, Branagh delivering an epic scale adventure thatís fit for the wide-eyed child in all of us.
But the movie is also chaotically written (there are five credited writers), barely coherent and seems to be making things up as it goes along for much of the filmís rather brisk 114-minute running time. Large segments, especially the ones outside of Asgard, kind of sit there spinning in circles, and if not for the abilities of the cast and some truly great one-liners (most of them delivered by the delightful Kat Dennings) my enthusiasm for this movie would have been diluted by quite a gigantic bit.
At the same time, Hemsworth is just perfect as the title character while Hiddleston is positively awesome as the emotionally conflicted villain (itís easy to see why heís supposedly the main baddie in The Avengers). These two play off one another sensationally, Branagh orchestrating their theatrics as if he were directing Othello and Iago and not a pair of Marvel comic book icons. There is drama to their face-offs, and itís nice to see a film end with a pair of actual actors going at one another and not a bunch of CGI robots.
Listen, Thor isnít great by any stretch of the imagination, and itís missing some of that wow factor (not to mention some snarky Downey, Jr.) that made the first Iron Man such a heck of a lot of fun. But this movie ends better than any of the other Marvel comic book adaptations in The Avengers universe made so far, and it also offers up the best villain by a full country mile. Branagh might be slumming but heís obviously having a grand old time doing it, delivering a superhero adventure I canít wait to head to the theatre and see for a second time.
Film Rating: ÍÍÍ (out of 4)