RELEASED: May 6th 2011
DIRECTED BY: Kenneth Branagh
WRITTEN BY: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne, Mark Protosevich & J. Michael Straczynski
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
MUSIC BY: Patrick Doyle
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo, Colm Feore & Anthony Hopkins
With The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man under their belt, Marvel finally stepped away from, essentially, playing it safe, with Thor, forming a larger Marvel Universe that had a solid origin story, introduced extra Avengers and successfully pushed forward their Cinematic Universe in a way that Iron Man 2 rather messily tried to do.
The story follows Thor Odinson, Prince of Asgard, as he prepares to become King. However, his arrogance and battle-hungry nature put the Asgardians’ Realm in danger, and as a result, his father, the all-powerful Odin, banishes Thor to Earth to learn humility. Meanwhile, Thor’s treacherous brother Loki makes plans to take the throne for himself.
Looking at this story, it’s easy to see that hiring Kenneth Branagh to direct this movie was a stroke of genius. Branagh and his small horde of writers enthuse this classic Marvel tale with a Shakespearean charm, making the first truly different superhero story by making it a mythic tragedy. The relationships between Thor and Loki and Jane Foster, respectively, are all very well plotted and emotional, and the other characters are all perfectly balanced in their roles as comic relief, exposition, support and threat.
This is especially evident in the acting. Hemsworth, Portman, Skarsgård, Hopkins and Hiddleston all feel like they’ve given their all to these roles, and with Branagh at the helm, nothing they do or say seems stupid or comic. The points where our heroes hit their lowest point are truly heartbreaking, and make us yearn to see them succeed.
It all feels like a classic mythological tale given a modern day spin (which I suppose, in a way, it is). As such, with this different genre take on science-fiction, the film doesn’t fall into the same trap that Iron Man and Hulk did, where they cast off their settings in favour of a more generic superhero tale. Because while Thor does indulge in some common comic-book tropes, it instead ties them in to the story and aesthetic it wants to present, and is all the better for it.
The look of the film is something also worth discussing. While Iron Man and Hulk looked good, neither came close to the pure wonder that exudes out of the screen in Thor. The people at Marvel Studios have outdone themselves in creating Asgard, and although it’s clear at times that characters are standing in front of a green screen, it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of the otherworldly elements of this film look magnificent.
However, the thing that really separates this film from the rest of the phase one Marvel movies is Loki. As previously stated, Hiddleston brings a great performance, but it’s the writing of this character, and his position as a vengeful brother with aspirations of something greater that mean the character thrives under Branagh’s direction. Loki is easily a better villain than Red Skull, Iron Monger, Whiplash and Abomination, in that at some point, they all get turned up to the extreme and it doesn’t always fit their character. Loki consistently remains true to who he is, however, and you can understand his plight just as well as Thor’s throughout the movie.
All-in-all, I give it:
It was going to be four, but then I realised I didn’t have anything bad to say about this film.