A Mighty Movie: Andy Burns on Thor

Fast Five may have fired the first blockbuster shot at the box office, but Thor gets the honor of being the latest comic book film to get things right in almost every regard.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Hemmsworth, Thor is the the story of the God of Thunder from the mystical city of Asgard who is banished to Earth by his father and Asgard’s king, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). While on Earth, he learns the meaning of worth and honor thanks to the help of some of the humans he meets, including scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). As the first Marvel Studios film to introduce a supernatural element into the universe created in Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, there’s a lot riding on Thor. Will audiences who eagerly embraced the tech and science world of those previous films accept frost giants, trickster gods and magic hammers? If they don’t, it certainly won’t be for a lack of trying.

Chris Hemmsworth is perfectly cast as the title character; besides being ridiculously in shape, he carries with him the required character and stature to make us believe he’s a god. Though he was highly regarded for his brief moment as Kirk’s doomed father in 2009’s Star Trek reboot, Hemmsworth is an unknown for the most part, but you wouldn’t know it from his performance. He never seems out of place in his scenes with a seasoned pro like Anthony Hopkins, who is solid himself as the Allfather. There’s little question Hemmsworth will be able to hold his own beside Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr in next year’s Avengers film.

As great as Hemmsworth is, there’s no doubt that everybody who walks out of Thor will be impressed by the performance of Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s brother, Loki. He’s one of the best villains in any comic book movie, calm and complex and evil, with more than a hint of sorrow as well. I can’t wait to see where they go with the character in subsequent films.

If you grew up reading Thor comics, you’ll no doubt be impressed with how cool Asgard looks on the big screen. It reminds me of Coruscant in the Star Wars films, minus spaceships and robots. I was also pleased with the costumes – Branagh and team didn’t try and reinvent the look of Thor, Loki, The Warriors Three et all from the comic books, but they didn’t copy them verbatim either. And there’s no spandex or black leather to be seen. Meanwhile, the story tries and succeeds for the most part in linking science and magic to explain how Asgard and it’s inhabitants can exist.

If you’re looking for Marvel cameos or hints as to what’s to come in The Avengers, Thor delivers in spades, with everything from the appearance of Agent Coulson from Iron Man to a mention of a certain expert on Gamma Radiation. And of course, seeing as this is a Marvel film, don’t leave before the credits finish.

Though it’s not perfect (Kat Dennings is really only used for comic relief and I felt that Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster was underwritten), Thor is definitely another solid outing from Marvel and successfully brings to life one of comicdom’s most beloved characters.

All that and I finally figured out how to say Mjolnir.

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