Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Movie Review - Thor

Thor - ***

Directed by:  Kenneth Branagh

Starring:  Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo

Review:  ‘Thor’ was never a favorite comic book character of mine.  I never really understood the purpose behind Thor as a character.  What makes comic book heroes great is that they are ordinary people being put into extraordinary situations.  They are all of the sudden ripped from their normal lives and put into a situation where they have a chance to make a difference.  Learning to deal with not only their new power, but their new responsibility to use it was what made the stories so intriguing and popular.  ‘Thor’ goes against all of this.  Thor was born to greatness, as the son of a god he had power that most could only dream of from the moment he was born.  Thor has always known he was destined for greatness and embraced that fact.  This is what seemed counter to what had drawn me in to so many different comic book heroes over the years.

This is why I had lowered expectations going to this viewing.  However, good review up to now, a solid cast with Oscar winners Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and nominees like Rene Russo and Kenneth Branagh only meant good things, despite my previous inclinations towards the comic.  What I was surprised to see was how they were better able to make this an intriguing storyline that got you involved.  As far as villains go, Thor’s nemeses will never match the likes of The Joker, or Dr. Octopus, but there are other factors that make up for that.  The main factor being that instead of having the great villain, they just pile on the stakes for Thor.  Thor doesn’t just have to save one world, he has to save multiple.

After leading a band of his friends to a nearby ‘realm’ known as Jotenheim, Thor is banished from his own kingdom by his own father.  He finds himself on Earth distraught as he is now gone from his kingdom (where he was supposed to be king, by the way) and has no idea how to get back and more importantly, into his father’s good graces. 

Back in his own realm, his father has fallen into a coma and his brother, Loki, has taken over as king.  Loki finds out a secret about himself that makes him resent his own father and his brother Thor and starts a plot in motion to get rid of them both and take over the kingdom for himself.  Thor’s friends catch wind of this and find their way to Earth to try to get Thor back to save their world, and Earth’s as Earth is caught in the middle since that is where Thor currently resides.

Thor’s realm is of a different time.  As he explains to his newfound Earthly friend Jane (Portman) Thor comes from a place where magic and science are one and the same.  This apparently means that people have no need to advance as far as their perception of women or the way they speak as it must have been good enough in the B.C. era, so why change it?  Thor and his people are what Nordic legends are made of and it is the characteristics of that society they take on, even though they are far more advanced in every way. 

This makes for a weird fit when Thor lands on Earth but through his time there and dealing with different people and situations maybe he can learn a thing or two that might help him right things with his father and put him in position to competently rule over his land.  By visiting Earth and seeing how stupid actions can cost the lives of many innocent people Thor realizes that he can’t rule with an iron hammer as he so desperately wants to, but must learn to be wise and take into account all scenarios when dealing with the lives of innocents.

The special effects are pretty solid and imaginative if not non-descript.  You will think they are great while watching, but they won’t really stick with you much after leaving.  They serve their purpose and do it well.  With such little time for character development for the ancillary characters it is important that they have actors like Hopkins and Portman who can make a lot with a little and give more life to the world than just the special effects.

Overall, as far as comic book movies are concerned, I liked this more than I liked ‘Iron Man’ but it wasn’t on par with Spider-Man or any of the X-Men franchise.  Regardless, it is worth your time.

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