As much as I worried about this one (let’s face it, the marketing was not good… too much comic relief, not enough Asgard) it delivers, big time. Besides the absolutely pointless addition of 3D, everything works so surprisingly well that I left the theater wanting a lot more of Thor’s hammer… wait, that came out wrong.
First of all, when this project was announced there was no denying that it was a risky venture, a big budget movie about The God of Thunder who lives in a magical realm (and a rather colourful one at that… there’s a rainbow bridge for god’s sake) when the latest, and quickly becoming the most tiresome, trend with comic book adaptations is to go dark and brooding. Not only that, but most of the previous comic adapts based on the lesser known properties/heroes, namely anything that isn’t Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men and Superman (and all those had their own misfires), have almost all failed miserably… Hulk (x2), Daredevil, Fantastic Four (x2), etc. Throw in a Shakespearean director and an unproven leading man and yes, you have a risky venture.
Yet against all odds, THOR is a brave success, and not just in dollar bills, although those are sure to come having already raked in 120 million overseas, but by giving us a truly entertaining and engaging story, well told. And that’s the main reason this is one of the better comic book flicks in recent memory… it’s the writing. Dynamic duo, and now heavily sought writing partners, Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz (who also penned this summer’s X-Men: First Class) delivered a script that is at once faithful to the source material and yet not a slave to it, both serious and silly (in a good way) and most importantly self contained and about real characters.
That last part is key. Thor and Loki both actually have interesting (if not wholly original… think Shakespeare light) character development, aided by the excellent performances from Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston (a repeat scene stealer). The whole cast is on the top of their game – Natalie Portman is incredibly likable as love interest/scientist Jane Foster and offers us a female character worth our investment which can be rare in these often male dominated movies. Dennings, Skarsgard, Hopkins, Feore and Idris Elba (badass) are great as well, proving once again that director Kenneth Branagh, despite his love of the dutch angle and his expressionistic wide shots (both of which I’m kind of a sucker for), knows how to direct his actors… and (un)surprisingly he delivers the goods with most of the action set pieces as well.
Speaking of sets, Asgard is a wonder of production design and (mostly) successful CGI. There are some stunning aerial shots of the CGI city that look spot-on as are many of the vistas seen when the Asgardians ride to the Bifrost (one in particular along a coastline/mountain range/rainbow bridge comes to mind). They also did a great job with the practical sets in Asgard during the interiors, making a totally believable and visually arresting world… we mean realm (we’re now really interested to see how Green Lantern’s Oa will stack up against this impressive rendering of Asgard). And as an interested counterpart of the glory of Asgard, we get the ultra small town setting in New Mexico which also delivers with some stunning landscapes for Branagh to work with and for the Destroyer to… well, you know… it’s not an ironic name.
There you have it, much to my (pleasant and enthusiastic) surprise Branagh almost ‘nailed’ it completely (oh puns… if it was bad, I was prepping ‘Thorrible’ as a headline) . The throwaway one-line geek references, the cameos and the easter egg are nice touches for the well read and the rest is just a well told, small story about some larger than life characters. Take away the 3D, which we will do the next time we watch THOR (I’ll have to wait for the DVD), and this is as good a summer movie as you’ll probably get this year and perhaps the best that Marvel Entertainment has produced thus far… yes, better than Iron Man. All I have left to say is we can’t wait so see Odin’s son(s) again in The Avengers BUT first comes The First Avenger: Captain America (oh right, it’s the other way round now CA:TFA).
Official Synopsis: “The epic adventure THOR spans the Marvel Universe from the present day Earth to the cosmic realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. As a result, THOR is banished to Earth where he is forced to live among humans. When the most dangerous villain of his world sends its darkest forces to invade Earth, Thor learns what it takes to be a hero.”