God of Thunder Chris Hemsworth stars in Thor, a visually stunning film where Norse mythology goes galactic.
Thor sets father against son and brother against brother. Kenneth Branagh directs this tale based on the Marvel comic book character.
Thor is prince of the nine realms and the arrogant son of King Odin of Asgard (Anthony Hopkins). His terse younger brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston of Wallander) chafes as Thor is about to be crowned the new king.
Suddenly the Frost Giants invade. Colm Feore plays the menacing Frost Giant King.
Odin banishes Thor (and his mighty hammer) to Earth after the cocky young warrior disobeys him and leads an avenging team to the Ice Planet. Thor must learn respect and humility.
“A wise king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it,” says Odin.
Hemsworth, who will star in the sequel The Avengers, lends his awesome screen presence, swoon-worthy physique and booming, mellow voice.
Thor’s love couple seems more like best friends. Best Actress Natalie Portman plays Jane Foster, earth woman and astrophysicist who “grazes” Thor with her SUV twice.
Portman (who studied psychology and neuroscience at Harvard University) is interesting as a Contact-like physicist who’s bubbly with just a hint of gravity. Her research team includes senior scientist Erik (Stellan Starsgard) and Darcy (lively Kat Dennings).
Sky gods evoked
Sky gods continue to live in our religions and mythologies. A Father in heaven is a prevailing idea. The word “Thursday” derives from “Thor’s Day.” Branagh successfully weaves Shakespearean overtones, an intriguing surprise and a double cross as Odin, Thor and Loki do battle.
Hiddleston evokes the dark, tortured Loki with considerable screen time. Exciting Japanese movie star Tadanobu Asano delivers just a few lines as a member of Thor’s team. Asano travels to Earth with Joshua Dallas, Ray Stevenson and Jaimie Alexander to rescue their friend.
Fantastic visual effects
Fantastic set design and visual effects treat us to floating kingdoms, stunning space travel, and dramatic use of ice and fire. The 3-D is subtle yet beautiful. A sky bridge connects Asgard to Earth, guarded by the imposing gatekeeper Heimdall (Idris Elba of The Wire).
The intersection between human and divine isn’t fully imagined here. Where’s the vivid possibility and heroism conjured by Superman and Spiderman?
Thor seems like Starman or Brother from Another Planet without the wisdom. He falls short on heroism.
Thor’s fondness for Jane and her Earth team is unconvincing. Jane is supposed to be the transformative force in Thor’s life, but we don’t see his character develop. He’s a jerk who’s suddenly a hero.
Pride and vanity suddenly morph into leadership. Thor often seems like two movies, one intergalactic, one pedestrian.
Hints of The Avengers
When the Feds swoop in, it seems little more than an excuse to bring back Iron Man’s S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), and include a cameo of future Avengers hero Jeremy Renner.
Chris Evans will star in Captain America: The First Avenger, this summer. Samuel L. Jackson (so excellent as a comic book devotee in Unbreakable), appears after the end credits. Jackson will star as the first black Nick Fury next summer.
Thor tells Jane that “magic and science are one and the same” in his realm. Let’s hope The Avengers will conjure much more magic. (3 out of 5 stars)
If you like Thor, you might enjoy: X-Men: First Class; Captain America: The First Avenger.
Thor 2011 / PG-13 / 2 hours 10 min
Cast Overview: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Starsgard, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Clark Gregg, Jaimie Alexander, Tadanobu Asano, Joshua Dallas
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy