Written by James Rawson, New Media, DFI
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman
In 2012, Marvel’s plan for global merchandise domination comes together as Captain America, Ironman, The Incredible Hulk and Thor team up for the ultimate comic book cross-over film: ‘The Avengers’. We’re already two films into the ‘Ironman’ (Robert Downey Jnr) franchise, and ‘Captain America’ (Chris Evans) will be hitting screens in July. ‘The Hulk’ has been a bit of a sticking point for Marvel, with two duds already to date (Eric Bana in 2003 and Edward Norton in 2008), so they’re re-re-booting the series, this time with original Lou Ferrigno on vocal talent. And who’s left? Everyone’s favourite hammer-wielding Norse God, that’s who. THOR!
Change is in the air for the kingdom of Asgard: wise King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is soon to pass on his crown, but eldest son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is not ready. While Odin leads with sagacity and knowledge, espousing the virtues of diplomacy over the evils of war (think pre-election Obama, but with a cape), Thor is tempestuous, a warrior, and desperate to prove his worth on the battlefield. When Asgard is infiltrated by its ancient enemies the Frost Giants, Thor drags the kingdom into war, against the express wishes of his father. Disappointed and angry, Odin banishes Thor from the realm, sending him tumbling to Earth and in to the arms of the unusually attractive astrophysicist Jane (Natalie Portman). Together, with a little help from Jane’s mentor Professor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and little sister Darcy (Kat Dennings) they must work to return Thor to Asgard, and save the kingdom from his deceitful and treacherous younger brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
On paper, nothing about this project should work. It combines facebook references with Norse mythology; 90s Power Ranger costumes with quantum physics; and cinema’s greatest director of Shakespeare with a hulking beefcake best known for his work on Australian soap operas. It’s utter madness. Add to that a pre-production nightmare (the project was floating around Hollywood for years before screenwriter Mark Protosevich salvaged it), and Natalie Portman’s shaky history with big budget SFX features, it’s a wonder that any producer touched it with a barge pole. But somehow, in some strange way, it comes together, and makes Marvel’s most entertaining film in years.
Chris Hemsworth plays Thor with gusto and bravado, and being a newcomer allows him to overact (which is exactly what the part needs) in a way that a more established star might shy away from. Anthony Hopkins brings quiet gravitas to proceedings as Odin, and Tom Hiddleston skulks and betrays with conviction as Loki . The script isn’t so kind to the human characters, and only Kat Dennings as Darcy gets any decent lines, leaving both Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard unable to make any real impression.
Dramatically, Thor succeeds where other recent ‘Gods and Men’ films have failed (most notably ‘Clash of the Titans’ and ‘Troy’), by having Asgard as the place for high drama, weighty speeches and intergalactic table flips, while Earth is reserved for fish out of water comedy, romance and tongue in cheek self-awareness. Switching between the two locations gives the audience a good balance of melodrama and light entertainment, without feeling totally inconsistent.
Thor can’t compete with the dark character studies of Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman’, or the heart wrenching drama of ‘Spider-man’, but for action-packed, over the top fun, it’s definitely a winner, and probably the most entertaining Hollywood offering of 2011 so far.