With the success of the rolling Iron Man franchise and the hype of upcoming films Captain America and The Avengers, Marvel Studios would be feeling pretty smug in the aftermath of the Disney merger. Oh, and that’s not mentioning the next Spider-Man instalment either, sans Raimi/Maguire/Dunst. As the comic-book craze pushes on, Marvel’s aura of invincibility is not completely ridiculous, and so they bring us what they believe to be an important difference with their next adaptation. Most superheroes are born with powers or receive them under freakish circumstances — not many can claim they recieved them from upstairs.
Based around Norse mythology, the story of god-of-thunder Thor manages to relate universally, with key themes of disagreement, sibling rivalry and betrayal. As Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) grow up, they fight for their father’s approval and respect. But when King Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) chooses Thor as heir and future King of Asgard, tempers get the better of these hot-blooded men and Thor eventually finds himself banished to Earth, where he meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).
Penned by a trio of writers (two of whom have also scripted the upcoming X-men: First Class), Thor delivers a light but enjoyable mix of story, never staying with one plot too long as to disinterest the increasingly observant comic-geek target audience. This hero is a bit of a dark horse in that he is arrogant and ignorant, having to change the way he behaves in order to be worthy of his role (and therefore superhero-dom) in society. That difference gives it a much more moral ring, but with its mythological origins, that is to be expected.
Director Kenneth Branagh (Sleuth) and agents Sarah Finn and Randi Hiller have assembled a surprising cast ensemble to be trusted with Marvel’s latest. Hemsworth, Hiddleston, Portman, Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings and Rene Russo together are a truly eclectic bunch, with Jeremy Renner providing an expected (but somewhat underwhelming) appearance as Avengers hitman Clint Barton/Hawkeye. While his accent at times renders him almost unconvincing, former Home & Away star Hemsworth in his first lead role shows promise as a dependable leading man. His bulky physique ensures he is Thor – and that he’s the latest source of female attention. It’s Hemsworth’s relative inexperience that Branagh initally claimed as one of the reasons for not initially shooting in 3D (so as not to overwhelm him), but Marvel have opted for the dreaded post-conversion 3D anyway. But while the use of 3D doesn’t cost the film a whole lot (just the audience), the special effects are a bit hit and miss; the rainbow bridge and realm-travelling scenes amaze, but others fail to meet the epic proportions set by the filmic content.
With the occasional laugh bolstering the simple story, Thor remains wholly intriguing largely because of its cast. Marvel succeded with a similar blend of action and irony in Iron Man, but here it’s the characters that truly give Thor its complexity. While it outlines well-worn themes, it’s entertaining despite its predictability. Until now, Thor has remained on the unexposed end of the comic-book scale, but this film could be the first of a successful under-the-radar franchise, not to mention a solid stepping stone toward Joss Whedon’s The Avengers movie in 2012. Your take of the film could be made or broken post-credits wherein arguably lies the biggest laugh of all.
An enjoyable film, Thor remains solid throughout; seasoned and unknown actors blend well to introduce a new hero to cinema.
Read our exclusive interview with Thor star Tom Hiddleston (who plays villain Loki) here.