Thor | Film Review

For Hollywood this officially is the year of the comic book. And with Spiderman 3 and The Dark Knight ranking as some of the biggest (and fastest) grossers in recent years, who can blame the studios involved for investing in the lives of bedraggled mutants, transforming immigrant robots from outer space and a general mesh of troubled super and not so super human freaks in outlandish costumes. So with X-Men – First Class imminent and The Green Lantern, Transformers – Dark of the Moon and Captain America – The First Avenger also on the horizon, Thor is the first in a very long series of comic book adaptations which will run well into next year, with a new installment of Spiderman and Marvel Studio’s Avengers due to emerge then.

If Thor is a merely a sign of things to come in the multiplexes then surely good things await us this summer. For seldom has a film of this size seemed so engrossed with getting the balance right (between action, romance, great special effects, good CGI and a decent story) and pretty much succeeded.

On a planet occupied by inter-dimensional super beings known as the Kingdom of Asgard, heir to the throne Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gets into very serious trouble with his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), for all but inciting a war with the terrifying Frost Giants who look as though they’re up for a bit of a brawl anyway. As punishment Thor is stripped of his Nordic looking armour, along with his thunder wielding powers, his famous hammer Mjolnir and worse of all is sent to a planet called Earth where it appears nobody speaks his refined style of English or uses an inter-galactic space bridge just to go abroad.

Once on Earth a group of scientists led by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) can’t seem to work out how a blonde hunk has fallen out of the sky or why he’s named after the Germanic god of thunder. In addition to this a group of government operatives known as S.H.I.E.L.D can’t quite fathom how an immovable hammer has emerged in the middle of the New Mexico dessert. Meanwhile back on Asgard Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) turns on Odin and plots a rebellion.

The remainder of the plot is, as one might guess, logically predictable [How will Thor get his powers back? Will he go back to Asgard in time to save his father? Will he get to kiss Oscar winner Natalie Portman?] but what makes Thor such a successful application of the blockbuster ingredients is that despite the predictability, one still anticipates with genuine excitement. And when, for example, Thor does eventually get the girl (or the girl gets him) and fights with his brother in a three-dimensional, cosmic brawl cast in beautiful CGI, the inner geek can’t help but smile with glee.

On the other hand, I’d say that the cast overall performs adequately good but not great. Portman is not particularly convincing as an astronomical scientist, but performs well in the role of just generally looking pretty and being in awe of her love interest. Idris Elba is terribly under-used as Heimdall, the all-knowing guardian of gates between worlds. Although during the rare occasions in which he is on the screen his menacing, wise and god like presence is a delight to experience.

As one might expect it is Hemsworth as Thor himself, who not just steals the show but epitomises its overall outcome. For his is a performance which is camp but never corny, fun but not quite idiotic and so often almost transforms into a cliché but instead emerges as much as a parody of a superhero as he is an apparently real one.

It seems with director Kenneth Branagh Thor is in very safe hands. Ok, maybe a little too safe at times. But this is blockbuster season and safety really is better than bad plots and overkill. Enjoyable stuff.

Thor is in cinemas now.

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