This summer marks an interesting one for superhero fans. Not only will fans have a variety of different capes, tights, and armor to try on, but a lot of the films combine a “historical” element with the world of the superhero. Captain America is set against the backdrop of WWII, X-Men: First Class includes a critical scene involving the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Thor includes the characters and story elements of Norse mythology which is considered fact in many Germanic regions to be true(Green Lantern is the only one absent from this group). So, Can Thor handle this balancing act between the real and fantasy? Read on to find out.
Thor opens with three scientists, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgard, studying the sky late one night after their research informs them that something of some great magnitude is about to happen. That something is a time portal between two worlds that spits our hero Thor to Earth. In an extended flashback, we meet Thor, his brother Loki, his father Odin and the magical world of Asgard. Filled with architecture and details that showcase an Art Nouveau style, the world of Asgard has a unique look at first glance. We quickly learn of a rivalry of sorts between the two sons of Odin to claim the throne to the kingdom. In the end, Thor’s flamboyance and arrogance wins out, but unfortunately is interrupted by an attack on the land during the crowning ceremony. In a fit of rage, Thor, with his mighty hammer and armor that only he can carry, leads a small band of warriors to attack the Ice Giants who he believes is responsible for ruining his ceremony. Upon hearing of this unapproved attack, Odin chastises the boy and casts him out of Asgard to Earth where his strength over his hammer has now been taken from him. Thor, as we learned from the beginning, teams up with the scientists who help the stranded warrior return to his kingdom while also alluding the officers of S.H.I.E.L.D in the process.
The strength of Thor relies in its casting. Chris Hemsworth as our hero Thor and Tom Hiddleston as the brother Loki are both fascinating to watch on screen. The subtleties that they include in their confident performances speak to the quality of acting from both actors. As it was released last month that Loki will be the villain in the subsequent Avengers film, I can assure you that Hiddleston will take on that role as well with excellence. Anthony Hopkins , Rene Russo, and the previous three scientists all round out the ultra-talented cast. Unfortunately, some of them are grossly underused if even necessary to the film. Rene Russo is reduced to a background statue and Kat Dennings delivers one “quick and funny” line too many. Her humorous quips at first are really funny. By the middle of the film though, you could time them, they happen so regularly and unsurprisingly. Maybe you could play a game in the theater and try to beat her to the punchline.
Unfortunately, aside from the casting and lavish sets, Thor doesn’t have the strength to save this flailing film. Director Kenneth Branagh clearly feels more comfortable directing dialogue than action, as the four action sequences in the film are over before you can blink. Not only that, but three out of the four are either shot at night or involve sparse lighting to, I can only assume, mask his faults at directing “action” (I use the word action loosely here as well). The other major downfall of the film is the unsurprising element of the script. As soon as the film started, you can almost plot the entire film from point A to point Z. The lack of an engaging story made for a really long film; even if it was less than two hours. On a more positive note, Branagh handles both worlds really well as we spend a well-balanced time in both. I would have preferred a prequel of sorts that stayed the entire time in Asgard, but this opinion will depend on if you find Thor sitting in a diner slamming his coffee mug on the table exclaiming, “I need more of this!” funny or not.
In the end, Thor is far from the charm and intelligence of Marvel’s previous Iron Man films even if it desperately tries to throughout. Ultimately it is the weak script that plummets this film into the ground, even if many of the talented cast is a joy to watch. Even with the script as weak as it is, I can assure you the 3D technology in the film is even worse. Ninety percent of the time you are watching a normal film with the occasional cereal box popping slightly in front of other objects. Even though I am a fan of the superhero genre and loved the inclusion of Norse mythology in the film, I felt that this was a failed attempt at capturing the strength of this great hero. Chris Hemsworth is the perfect Thor complete with muscles and all. He just doesn’t have the strength to save this film.