‘Thor’ is an impressive blockbuster

Chris Hemsworth in "Thor" -- Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures / Marvel

The God of Thunder comes to glorious life in the summer blockbuster, Thor. The movie, based on the famous Marvel comic book series, is everything one wishes from a summer tent pole: There’s action, stunning visual effects, an engaging storyline, a little mythology and a lot of superhero violence.

 

Thor makes an impressive cinematic debut.

Relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth muscles up to play the God of Thunder, a Norse deity on the cusp of becoming the ruler of Asgard, a mythological universe. Thor’s daddy, Odin (the great Anthony Hopkins), is stepping down from his mighty perch and he’s doing it at a time of steadiness. There has been an uncommon peace that has befallen Asgard. The warring Frost Giants have stuck to their realm, while the Asgardians have stuck to theirs.

That’s when Thor screws up.

The meathead of a god decides to play a little wargame with the Giants, and his actions soon prove deadly. Infuriated by his son’s maliciuos ways, Odin casts him out of Asgard and into the deserts of Earth. This leaves a beeline for Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), to jockey for the crown.

Meanwhile…

On Earth, we find Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) researching the skies in the middle of the very patch of desert that Thor falls into. Taken aback by this hulking pseudo-alien and the giant hammer that rests by his head (the hammer is named Mjollnir, and it gives Thor unbelievable power), the researchers decide to help the Norse man out.

The movie then takes a decidedly comedic turn as Thor adjusts to his new surroundings. I was reminded of Howie Mandel’s performance in Walk Like a Man. To the researchers, especially Jane, the God of Thunder is a strange being who seems stuck in a pasttime of chivalric sayings and gestures. To Thor, these humans are odder than odd.

Eventually, as these things tend to happen in superhero movies, Loki turns real bad and eventually the realms of Asgard and Earth begin to merge. The ultimate showdown is a visual feast for the eyes.

There’s also a side story about the “government” investigating the disturbances in the desert and trying to detain Thor for security reasons. Clark Gregg plays Agent Coulson, the man tasked with the unenviable job of lassoing Thor.

Hemsworth certainly looks the part of the God of Thunder, but he also proves quite likable. It’s a tough assignment to pull off mythological without seeming silly. He finds the right diction in his voice, imbuing a sense of Don Quijote in his mannerisms.

Hopkins is solid, as is Portman, a recent Academy Award winner. Hiddleston is cunning as Loki, though his character is the one part of Thor that feels too rushed. A little more subtext on this character would have been appreciated (me thinks there is possibilities for expansion in a prequel).

Kenneth Branagh, who previously brought many Shakespeare projects to the screen, earns his chops in the blockbuster realm. Working off a screenplay by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, the director is able to keep everything light and moving at a fast clip.

Thor is not a history lesson. There’s not much of a backbone to the picture. It’s about as deep as a puddle. But as a summer escape, it’s stellar.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
  • Thor

  • 2011

  • Directed by Kenneth Branagh

  • Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgard

  • Running time: 115 minutes

  • Rated PG-13

  • Bubble score: 3.5 out of 4

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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