Review: Thor (2011)

Thor (2011)

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh | 115 minutes | action, drama, adventure, fantasy | Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson, Kat Dennings, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, Clark Gregg, Ray Stevenson, Tom Hiddleston, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander, Colm Feore, Tadanobu Asano, Joshua Dallas, Eric Allan Kramer, Matthias Schweighöfer

In 2012, superhero team ‘The Avengers’ (better known in Dutch as ‘De Vergelders’) will make their cinema debut. The Hulk and Iron Man have already gotten their own movie. Later in 2011, Captain America makes his appearance on the silver screen and it seems that films by The Black Widow and Hawk-Eye are planned. Another team member who was ready for a movie is Thor. Perhaps the company’s most notable character.

Thor is not a traditional superhero, but a real god. Publishing house Marvel ‘borrowed’ the character from Norse mythology and made up a lot of new adventures around the blond thunder god. After he was banished from Valhalla and forced to live a life on Earth, Thor took on a different identity. On our planet, he spends his days as the disabled doctor Donald Blake. Only when Blake has Mjolnir, his trusty battle hammer, he changes into Thor. A number of adjustments have been made to the cinema film. The Norse god no longer has an alter ego. They’re a few changes that won’t annoy even the most diehard strip nerd, as the director has captured the essence of the arrogance but good-natured thunder god so well.

‘Thor’ (played by Australian soap opera Chris Hemsworth) is a fighter and provokes a war with the dangerous ice giants. Thor’s father Odin (Hopkins) is fed up with his son’s irresponsible behavior and banishes him from Asgard. Thor lands on Earth and tries to return to his native realm. Meanwhile, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is trying to take over Asgard and overthrow Odin from the throne. Thor falls in love with a mousy scientist (Natalie Portman) and tries to stop his brother.

While most superhero movies are often rather gloomy, quasi-serious affairs, ‘Thor’ just dares to be nice and light. It’s not Shakespeare, of course. Or is it? Director Kenneth Branagh tries to add some weight to his film by portraying the verbal confrontations between Odin, Thor and Loki full of bloated drama and roaring bombast. At those moments, the film is a bit reminiscent of Shakespeare (of which Branagh is a big fan). But ‘Thor’ never gets too heavy handed. Hemsworth’s kitschy sets and light-hearted and charming playing create a fun, almost cozy atmosphere. Hemsworth portrays the character as an arrogant brawler with wimpy features. That makes for fun moments. Especially the scenes in which Thor just arrives on Earth and has to master our customs are great. For example, the title hero enters the pet store in his search for a horse.

The decors (golden, kitschy cities and big Viking helmets in Asgard) are over the top, but the special effects are definitely there. The Destroyer (a fire-breathing robot) and the ice giants are portrayed with bravura. The chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman (charming, despite her thankless role) is also convincing. ‘Thor’ is just old-fashioned pulp entertainment that never bores. Of course there are downsides. An actor of the caliber of Skarsgard deserves a better role than that of a stale scientist and Loki could also be developed a bit better. The villain gets too little playing time and it is nowhere clear what actually drives him.

Are you looking for simple entertainment then ‘Thor’ is your thing. At times the film is reminiscent of fantasy films from the 80s. Nicely kitsch, light-hearted and without any pretensions. Keep part two coming!

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