Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Film length: 1hr 55min
Theatrical Release: April, 2011
Blu-ray release: Sept, 2011
I didn’t like Thor when I first watched it a few years ago, but I have warmed up to the character since. I thought he was a nice fit in The Avengers and so I have been eager to give this one another shot. A lot of people didn’t like Iron Man 2, for instance, until some time had passed since its theatrical release. It seems then it is easier to appreciate these films for what they are instead of how they didn’t live up to what they were made out to be. So maybe we can say the same of Thor?… or maybe not….
The film (2/5)
“Did it work?”
After a cold opening, Thor begins on the planet of Asgard where the King of the Nine Realms, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), resides. A milliena ago, Odin had won a hard-fought war against the Frost Giants and had taken the source of their power, The Casket of Ancient Winters. This has allowed Odin to rule his realm in peace, which includes Earth. Odin is now ready for retirement and is about to anoint his first-born son, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), as his predecessor. The ceremony is interrupted, however, when a small group of Frost Giants attempt to steal the casket and they are quickly stopped before any harm could be done. Thor wishes to go to Jotunheim to confront Laufey (Colm Feore), the head of the Frost Giants to stop any further breaches into Asgard.
Odin is convinced the attempt was made by a small faction of Frost Giants and was not the work of Laufey. He forbids Thor (who isn’t King yet) to begin taking any actions which could start a war. Thor goes against his father’s wishes and travels to Jotunheim with a few friends and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Thor and his mates are immediately overwhelmed by a Frost Giant army and are saved at the last moment by Odin. As punishment, Odin sends Thor to Earth to live as a mortal with no powers.
With Thor gone, Loki is next in line to sit on the throne, but while he was on Jotunheim he discovers that he is actually the son of Laufey. Odin had kept how he adopted Loki as a small baby during the war hidden from both of his sons. When Odin suddenly falls ill, he is placed into a deep sleep to recover. Loki takes this opportunity to seize the throne and plots with Laufey to kill Odin and his now mortal brother, Thor.
Thor has a simple story that is not told well at times. Some events are not clearly explained and the characters make quick leaps in progression that can be jarring.
Thor’s character arc, for instance, is so simple it begins to not make sense. He start off as an arrogant young man. After he is punished for defying his father wishes, he learns to become less selfish and the hero we know. And that is it. There is no experience Thor had where I could see how he would grow out of his selfishness, he just does. At one point he tries to lift his hammer but can’t because his powers are gone. He gets a little bummed out and starts feeling sorry for himself. Next thing you know, he is making eggs for his friend’s breakfast and later sacrificing himself to save them… Whaaa? At one point later on in the film he says he changed… and I’m sure I said “Why?” out loud to the empty room I was in. (Sarah rightfully refused to watch this a second time.) For the first time he didn’t get his way and he bacame a better person because it. If only it were that easy.
Then there is the love story between Jane (Natalie Portman) and Thor. Thor shows up and the two fall in love. That is it. I have no idea why. There are a few moments where the two appear to have a connection but it never feels genuine. The first sign of affection Thor shows Jane is when he kisses her hand. Her giddiness jumps from 0 to 60 faster than a post World War II Chuck Yaeger. Gee, Jane, is that all it takes? There is a scene where he is walking around without his shirt on and she liked that. Maybe that is what did it? I don’t know. I thought women were supposed to be above that. I guess Jane isn’t.
You know, I’m going to heap praise on Demolition Man of all things. At least in that film Huxley (Sandra Bullock) had an infatuation with the time period that John Spartan (Sly Stallone) came from. So you could understand how she, as a woman of the future, would be curious to be with a man from the 90’s. In Thor, Jane is an astrophysicist who specializes in Einstein bridges (wormholes). In this film the wormholes have a connection with Norse mythology. They could have included the Norse mythology element into Jane’s fascination, and you could then see how she might be attracted to Thor. Instead they go with this lame “Is Thor who he really is?” angle which is a waste of time for the audience who already knows the answer.
Prior to Thor, director Kenneth Branagh spent nearly two decades starring, directing, and adapting Shakespeare’s plays into films with critically acclaimed results. You would think that he could easily…. nail a good story. But here we are. I guess the two genres do not translate well.
Story aside, the action scenes and special effects are well done. The fight in the New Mexico desert town with Destroyer, a shape-adjusting being that can shoot fire beams from its eyes, is the stand out. Pre-gunslinger Idris Elba has a nice role as Heimdall, the dedicated watcher of all things wormhole. Agent Coulson from the Agents of Shield TV Show received bunches of screen time, and there are some genuinely amusing “fish out of water” moments while Thor was on Earth.
Memorable Moments / What Stood Out to Me
Yep, this is the first Marvel film where both Tony Stark or Iron Man are nowhere to be seen. He is on the disc, however, but it is the same bonus scene from The Incredible Hulk. See the special features section for the details.
Hey, it’s the girl from Two Broke Girls.
I have yet to see a full episode.
Hawkeye’s cameo is the most useless cameo I have seen in any film
Filmmaker 1: Hey, the studio wants us to have a Hawkeye cameo in this Thor movie to better connect it with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Filmmaker 2: Well darn it we didn’t write a place for him in this film. It wouldn’t make sense for him to help Thor and a confrontation betweem the two heroes wouldn’t sit well with the fans. What are we going to do?
Filmmaker 1: I know… let’s make it easy and have him aim an arrow at Thor but not fire it or anything.
Filmmaker 2: You mean you are going to have a Hawkeye cameo where he does nothing?
Filmmaker 1: Yes.
Filmmaker 2: Works for me.
Bonus: Stan Lee cameo review! (4/5)
Hey, how about a GOOD cameo? This was a treat. Stan the Man is only on-screen for a split second but it did get a verbal laugh from me. Some rednecks hook the back of a pickup truck to Thor’s hammer when trying to move it. They only succeed in tearing off the back-end of the truck before the shot switches to the driver, played by Stan. He only delivers one line, but it is a good one. I may have hinted at what it is earlier in this review.
Thor has many scenes filled with a rich colors and some are downright pretty to look at. The gold interior shots of Asgard really pop and the exterior New Mexico shots look bright and clean. But the overall quality is just a long blonde hair under the previous Marvel movies. I won’t say it has heavy film grain but it is ever-present, and especially noticeable on the dark ice planet, Jotunheim.
Thor boasts a lossless 7.1 DTS-HD mix and it is excellent even when experienced through my 5.1 setup. The dialogue was clear throughout, and the score blended well with the heavy explosions and hammer throws during the action. The audio during the fight Destroyer was another layer that made that scene so great.
Special Features (2/5)
Even bad films, like Backdraft, can have some killer special features to make the disc worth owning. That is not the case with Thor. To be fair, the amount of content is fine but, none of it is all that interesting. There are several featurettes that range from 2 to 20 minutes and they are all done on the set when everyone is in full promo mode. It sucks listening to these guys go on about a movie that ended up being not all that great.
I skimmed through director Kenneth Branagh’s audio commentary just to get a grasp of what he was thinking when he made this. Every time I checked out a scene that puzzled me, instead of giving some behind the curtain details he was busy explaining the plot. It was as if he understood how unclear the storytelling could be.
The other odd extra on here is something called a Marvel One Shot. It consisted of about five minutes of Agent Coulson and another Shield agent setting up the “bonus scene” when Tony Stark is meeting Colonel Ross in The Incredible Hulk. Yeah… I guess it is a comic book thing where everything needs to be explored in detail.
Overall, Thor is a watchable movie as it isn’t as dumb as a lot of other action flicks. If you think of it as light fluff to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or as an OK set up for a character in The Avengers you might feel entertained for a while. Other than that, if you have watched it before there is no reason to revisit Thor. Just enjoy the character in The Avengers where he is part of a better story.