Thor Review

(2.5 STARS)

At a time when the superhero genre is steering itself toward reality (a la The Dark Knight), Thor seems like a fish out of water. Its characters actually have powers, it takes place in fantastical worlds, and logic and reason are its first casualties. And though a film like that might sound like a breath of fresh air, Thor misses the mark. Too often, it feels like an extended trailer for The Avengers. The tonal shifts between the Earth scenes and the Asgard scenes are too jarring. And the action scenes are totally generic. Some are comparing this to Iron Man—way off base, in my opinion. Maybe Iron Man 2

In the heavenly realm of Asgard, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is preparing to pass his crown on to his eldest son, Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Before he can, however, Asgard’s most-feared enemies—the Frost Giants of Jotunheim—find their way into the realm. Odin dispatches of them, but Thor is appalled that his father won’t strike back. At the insistence of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor attacks in the name of Asgard, but he’s outnumbered, and Odin must break the fragile truce between worlds to rescue his sons. Furious, he banishes Thor to Earth and strips away his powers until he learns what he needs to in order to become a wise king.

On Earth, Thor is found by scientists Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). They try to look out for this out-of-place Norse God while he searches for his hammer, but doing so proves to be a troublesome task. SHIELD agents are tracking Thor and trying to figure out how to unearth the hammer, which crash-landed in the New Mexico desert, but our hero must obtain it soon, if he has any hope of stopping his brother, the new king, from carrying out his destructive plans.

The setup is lengthy, but not uninteresting. And the scenes just after Thor arrives on Earth are easily the best of the film, thanks to Hemsworth’s natural charm. It’s later when Thor reclaims his hammer and Loki realizes the full extent of his powers that were treated to a number of silly action scenes and lots of ridiculous mythology. And too often, the plot reaches a dead end, only to be rescued by a deus ex machina—not unlike Iron Man 2. I’m willing to forgive such sloppiness once or twice, but directed Kenneth Branagh and writers Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, and Don Payne tested my patience a little too much on that front.

I’ll give Branagh credit for one thing, though: He’s given us the best villain in a superhero movie in quite some time. Though not physically menacing, Loki has as complicated a back story as, say, Doc Ock in Spider-Man 2. We sympathize with him and his desire to outshine his imposing and impressive brother. It’s pure Shakespeare—unsurprising when you consider the director’s previous credits. But it’s welcome drama and relatability in a film that’s more than a little silly. And Tom Hiddleston gives a performance worthy of such juicy material.

My other major complaint is that, other than the family drama, Thor follows the origin story template to a T. It’s just so predictable, featuring every trademark of the Marvel stable, as well as the other well-worn characteristics of a successful first film in a franchise. After the lengthy prelude, our hero is suddenly thrust into dire straits. There, he connects with an “other,” and decides to use his power for the greater good. There’s humor, some death scares, and cameos galore (Please save this SHIELD stuff for The Avengers, Marvel. You’re doing your films a disservice and setting that one up for failure.)

All that said, it’s hard to hate something this lighthearted and unpretentious. Thor accepts its silliness, even making fun of it on occasion. I can’t say I didn’t have a good time; It’s just not the kind of film I’ll remember for long, especially in a summer chock full of superhero stories.

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