Thor Movie Review
In 2008, Robert Downey Jr. responded to a question about the possibility of a Thor/Avengers movie and said “Nothing that happened in ‘Iron Man’ is really outside the realm of possibility. Once you start talking about Valhalla and supersized super soldiers and jolly green giants it warrants much further discussion”. Basically, that was a politically correct way of saying that combining a supernatural world with a world grounded in reality is a challenging, if not impossible, task. So with that in mind, Kenneth Branagh’s vision of THOR is about as good of a movie as we could have hoped for with Thor.
The single greatest challenge to THOR is the attempt to weave two very different worlds together. By its very nature, the character of Thor requires some sort of explanation as to who/what he is. Hailing from Asgard, Thor is the God of thunder and is banished to Earth by his ailing father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), after openly defying his command. While Thor is on Earth, his jealous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) seizes the moment to carry out his own misguided plan. So far, the filmmakers have had to create a new world with new rules, new characters and new storylines and we haven’t even gotten to the difficult part. While on Earth, Thor meets a researcher named Jane (Natalie Portman), who helps him adapt to his new world. It’s the combination of these two storylines that proves to be the challenge.
The fault of the film lies with the filmmaker’s over-focus on the events in Asgard. We would have been better off completely eliminating the Frost giant storyline and instead focus on the rift between Thor and Loki. Thor comic book aficionados will know that the Frost giants play a pivotal role in the mythos of Thor, but for the purposes of this film, they only dragged things out, even though they did serve to develop Loki’s character arc. Branagh would have done well to spend more time on Earth and less time on Asgard. But it’s not enough to simply be on Earth, we actually need something to happen while he’s there. On Earth, there’s very little action apart from a king-of-the-mountain type fistfight, which also features a cameo from Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and an anti-climatic battle with a giant, fire-breathing robot. So the action scenes are confined to Asgard, which means a heavy dose of special effects and battles that are a little over the top and supernatural in nature. The action on Asgard is neither boring nor exciting, it’s simply there.
The upside to the film is Chris Hemsworth, who firmly established himself as a superstar with his performance as Thor. He commanded the screen and carried every scene he was in, seemingly oblivious to the cheesiness of some of his dialogue. It was surprising to see the overall worthlessness of Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo and Stellan Skarsgard, all of whom had small supporting characters that had virtually no impact on the overall story. This was more about Thor vs. Loki and everyone else was just along for the ride.
Even if Kenneth Branagh had trimmed down the Asgard portion of the story, he still would have struggled to make an origins film about Thor. Granted, we needed a Thor movie to properly set up THE AVENGERS, but the entire film required too much explanation, which prevented it from every getting going. Some of the effects were cool and it was fun to see Thor become Thor when he was on Earth, but I was still left with an all encompassing feeling of disinterest. Count me in as part of the population that feels Thor is much better as a supporting character than he is as a star.