The Marvel movieverse is best-known and most successful for its masked crusaders (Spider-Man) and the X-Men, so other than being part of next year’s The Avengers, an abnormally buff Goldilocks in armor and with a hammer adapted as the next on-screen installment would only seem a little out-of-place. But thanks to Hollywood’s magic, transfixing performances by the cast to create entrancing characters, and oddly, more laugh-out-loud comedy than one would typically expect in a superhero film, the risk was worth it. Meet Thor for a roarin’ good time.
Australian actor Chris Hemsworth made his way to America as Jim Kirk’s doomed father in the first ten minutes of 2009’s Star Trek, and you probably know him more as Miley Cyrus’ [ex?] boyfriend Liam’s big bro. But we now must steer away from the DILF references and anything mentioning she-who-used-to-play-Hannah-Montana ever, because the elder Hemsworth has officially made it as a legit actor, or at least as one of the next big action heroes. As the title character, Hemsworth brings many facets to the mythological-based, ultra-powerful being from Asgard: A take-charge leader, a vicious and fearsome fighter, a cocky (usually accidental and even more amplified when on Earth) clown, a lovestruck gentleman, and ultimately, a redeemed soul who stays loyal to his family, otherworldly friends, and realm despite being banished to live amongst mortals.
Thor’s arrogance is evident as he prepares to ascend to the throne, just with the smug look on his face and the ‘Look ma, I’ma run this place now!’ wink he gives to Rene Russo. But the ceremony is interrupted when the Asgardian enemies, the Frost Giants, attempt to retrieve their source of power that was put away. This makes Thor throw a childish tantrum, then he rounds up his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the female warrior Sif (Jaimie Alexander), and the Warriors Three, Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Joshua Dallas), and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) to take matters into their own hands and travel to fight the Frost Giants and their leader Laufey (Colm Feore). However, feeling betrayed by Thor’s selfish drive, his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) strips him of his power and possession of his Mjolnir hammer and sends him to Earth. Severely deluded, he is discovered by a group of astrophysicists in New Mexico: the young and pretty Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her probably-younger and definitely doofy assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and her fatherly mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard). While Thor attempts to adapt to life on Earth, which includes falling in love with Jane, Loki is scheming to take control of Asgard and prove himself as a more worthy king than his brother could be, thus paving way to a showdown taking place in both worlds. Rounding out the primary cast is Idris Elba, who plays the gatekeeper Heimdall.
The special effects and the action sequences are not the best of its kind (Also, the 3-D conversion is apparently horrible, which didn’t matter much to me as I avoid 3-D films whenever possible), but they’re still spectacular. The dark snowy caps of Jotunheim (Home of the Frost Giants), the palatial landscapes of Asgard, and even the moderately campy rainbow Bifrost Bridge is the stuff of storybooks, and viewers will feel like they’re actually living in another realm with the Norse warriors as they explore the created environments. But although some people will use the fantastic VFX as the film’s only strength to mask its weaknesses, in defense, the action, special effects, and art direction are afterthoughts compared to the story itself. Not to diminish whatever Thor was originally about in both mythology and in the Marvel comics, but in a strange way that I have yet to figure out, it’s like a masculine version of a Disney tale, minus the animal sidekicks and plus some sick twists found in lore: the protagonist is scorned by his family (His father and brother, most significantly), steps outside his comfort zone to explore something very new, (Though it’s forced in this case), and falls in love with someone who is from the opposite end of the spectrum (Literally and figuratively—remember, the bridge is rainbow).
Hemsworth is excellent in conveying all that Thor is. Initially, it’s all too easy to despise him because he’s a very well-spoken brat, but when he’s down to Earth and trying to pull that Mjolnir out, you kind of want to root for him, and that feeling grows stronger as he becomes more vulnerable. Next to Hemsworth, Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki is most dynamic, playing the victimized little brother only to reveal himself as a sneaky backstabber. As mentioned in the review’s introduction, there is a lot of comedy that factors in to much of the enjoyment that Thor brings. The notoriously sarcastic Dennings puts her natural talent to good use here with her one-liners (“Oh, you’re hammered, alright,” she responds after the dizzied Thor lands on Earth and calls for his Mjolnir) and overall randomness, but it’s simply Thor’s booming presence that makes for the funniest moments, although there’s a tragedy behind them as he doesn’t belong on Earth, and he knows it. You’ll still laugh when he smashes coffee mugs to express his enjoyment of the foreign beverage, walks into a pet store and asks for a horse, and steps out into traffic like he’s invincible—guaranteed. It’s all much more engaging than the rather chilly love story between Thor and Jane, though they had massive potential to warmly resolve all that sexual tension. Portman is sweet (Though weak) in this film and Jane doesn’t hide her schoolgirl-like fascination (Romantic and otherwise) about her new discovery—and it’s adorable that he clearly likes her back. They have some nice scenes together—particularly where they’re lying under the stars and they’re talking about realms together—but it’s not enough, and perhaps it’s better that way.
If you’re looking forward to The Avengers (I sincerely hope you are), be sure to stay through the credits for a scene that should help segue into the star-studded summer 2012 extravaganza, and keep those peepers peeled for a quick first look at Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye during the film.
And with the electrifying magic Hemsworth has demonstrated as Thor, that movie is going to strike even more lightning bolts.