If Thor becomes the bottom line marker for superhero movies this summer, this will be a very good summer for movies indeed.
Watching this immediately after X-Men: First Class was a good test for Thor. And for the most part Thor meets the test. The movie is a solid, and occasionally, thrilling debut for the Norse God of Thunder. The merging of the realm of Asgard with Earth is accomplished for the most part with solid workmanship. What is somewhat problematic is the weaving of the relationships that exist in the two settings.
Cast-wise, it is gratifying to see that Chris Hemsworth’s cameo appearance as Jim Kirk’s father in the opening sequence of the JJ Abrams rebooted Star Trek movie was no fluke. Hemworth’s acting chops were questioned because of the brevity of his appearance and the belief that his performance was carried by the events of that sequence. Thor demonstrates Hemsworth can carry a movie. Physically he meets the physical requirements of the role and he bulked himself up most impressively. Acting wise he also demonstrates his range of acting prowness by portraying the necessary elements as Thor progresses from a callow, impulsive youth to a more mature and experienced young man taking the necessary steps that will lead him to inherit the crown from his father, Odin.
The breakout role of the movie belongs to Thor’s brother, Loki played by Tom Hiddleston. Thor is the older, favoured son against whom Loki is no match for physically but against whom Loki exceeds by his crafty and wits. Loki’s feelings of inadequacy become further heightened when previously unknown details about his background are revealed. Taking opportunity of an instance of Thor’s rash behaviour, Loki maneuveurs himself into the king’s throne. Odin removes Thor’s powers and banishes him to Earth as a mortal as punishment.
On Earth the relationship between Thor and Natalie Portman’s – Jane Porter never really clicks. The movie struggles in this area as it all feels rather perfunctory and a checklist item that needs to be covered and gotten over with rather quickly. Anthony Hopkins is appropriately regal. An interesting casting choice is an almost unrecognizable Idris Elba – The Wire, Luther – as the Guardian of the Portal Realm – Heimdall. Clad in full body armour and a near fully enclosing helmet, there is very little of the actor to see and only his voice confirms his identity. The rest of the cast is OK but also, alas, rather forgettable.
The strongest area of the film is the visual look of Asgard, the rather church pipe organ appearance of the main citadel non-withstanding. The costumes of all the Asgardian characters are really well done. The Rainbow Bridge, the portals, and the world and denizens of the Frost Giants are visually impressive. The Gort-like weapon from Asgard, the Destroyer stands out. Unfortunately, the Defender also ties into one of the weakest story beats where a mortal Thor seeming dies from an attack by the Destroyer, to be magically revived by his hammer.
Kenneth Brannaugh has done a solid job of taking the more fantastical elements of Thor and translating them to the screen in a plausible manner. While Thor never really soars, it is an entertaining experience, if lacking in any aspects that engaged me on any significant emotional level.