Review - 'Thor'
Further proof that Marvel Studios are most comfortable when they are gambling large budgets on out-of-the-box ideas, we have Thor. Iron Man was already a big risk, but Thor? Sure, he was a known hero at the time, but I don’t think anyone would have thought he would be a big box office draw. Again, silencing all of the skeptics, Thor grossed an impressive $450 million globally, tripling its $150 million production budget, and, perhaps more impressive, garnering pretty decent reviews in the process.
Kenneth Branagh’s Thor follows, well, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a prideful and selfish blowhard that thinks he’s ready to be king. Thor makes a grievous mistake re-igniting a war with the Frost Giants, and is cast out of his home, Asgard and stripped of his powers by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Thor finds himself stranded on Earth and must earn back the right to wield the powers he once possessed and stop his jealous and conniving brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has risen to power in his stead.
Thor is a goofy but earnest film from beginning to end, and it knows it. Many Marvel fans cite this movie as one of the lesser ones, but I feel like they overlook how brilliantly Shakespearean it all is. Kenneth Branagh intentionally paints in bold strokes, so much so that all of the characters and their actions are borderline caricatures. Jealousy, passion, tragedy, kings, queens and princes, it’s all there. The film is also very self-aware of how ridiculous its story about Norse gods is within a universe like Marvel’s, and it wisely embraces its ludicrous concept with open arms. This is most evident in the second act of the film which serves a huge fish-out-of-water sequence. “Another!” shouts Thor, voicing his approval after drinking the first cup of coffee he has ever had before smashing it on the floor; one of the many moments where the filmmakers wink at the audience while also not breaking the consistency in their portrayal of who Thor is.
Speaking of the character Thor, as a relative nobody, Chris Hemsworth was such an inspired choice for the role. He knows how to be both charming and belligerent at the same time, and his comedic chops are on-point. On top of all this, he totally looks the part and the honesty he brings to the character is highly evident. The same goes for Tom Hiddleston who portrays Loki. Hiddleston is excellent at playing the troubled and tragic figure, who, by nature and his upbringing, finds himself drawn towards darkness. The amount of empathy Hiddleston makes you feel for Loki is surprising, especially when held against the many forgettable villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, he was so good his lead villain role carried onward into the first Avengers film. Perhaps the weakest link here is Natalie Portman, who plays Jane Foster, a scientist and Thor’s love interest. It’s not Portman’s fault though, she does a perfectly fine job, there’s just not much of an arc to her character and she isn’t given interesting things to do. Finally, Anthony Hopkins as Odin is also worth mentioning, he does a great job as Thor’s father, displaying wisdom and pathos with ease. This probably comes naturally for Hopkins and the role may merely have served as a paycheck for him, but hey, it all worked out.
Though I do really enjoy Thor, it definitely still has its fair share of problems. For one, the CGI doesn’t hold up very well at all in certain places, particularly when it comes to some of the digitally-rendered frost giants and the whirlwind at the end that sweeps up the Destroyer. Also, the second act, while good in the sense that it shows Thor’s transition, has some of the clunkiest dialogue and cheesiest moments. Also, Darcy, played by Kat Dennings, is one of the most obnoxious and unfunny characters in the entire series of Marvel films. I’m also inclined to agree with the majority that Thor changes character a bit too abruptly by the end of the film, but it doesn’t bother me all that much.
Kenneth Branagh and co. gave us one of the best heroes and one of the best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and wrapped it all up in a written-large ode to Shakespeare. Thor is a fun, self-aware film that basks in its own goofiness and I gave in fully to its dopey charms.