Thor (2011)
Thor (2011)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.

Release Date: May 6th, 2011 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Kenneth Branagh Actors: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Jaimie Alexander, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba

 


 

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here’s a lot of substance to Norse mythology, with its rich layers of gods, their worlds, and their feats. There are also a lot of characters and storylines surrounding Marvel’s “Thor” comic books. As if this undertaking wasn’t enough, the “Thor” movie chooses to include two thorough plotlines in vastly different locales, a love story, a redemption arc, a monarchist coup subplot, an army of giant arctic beasts, and a nearly unstoppable alien juggernaut. And that doesn’t even count the extensive focus on bridging the connections between the random superheroes that will eventually form the Avengers team.

Surprisingly, it isn’t until about the halfway point that the pacing begins to feel rushed – but from there, the two-hour timeframe barely contains the ambition of this origins film. Capable actors and special effects-laden action sequences keep the cheesiness mostly at bay, but poorly characterized villains and bouts of hokey dialogue work to hinder their noble efforts. If viewers don’t find phrases like “frost giants” and “rainbow bridges” distasteful, they’ll likely forgive many of the film’s sillier moments and indulge in the visual excitement of the otherworldly adventure.

Moments before King Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) can be named successor to the throne, the realm of Asgard is infiltrated by their age-old nemeses, the Frost Giants. Infuriated by their presence and intent on exposing those responsible for the breach, Thor disobeys Odin’s orders and travels to the icy domain of Jotunheim, with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his band of fearless warriors, including Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Joshua Dallas), and Sif (Jaimie Alexander). Their imprudent actions cause the Frost Giants to declare war against Asgard, forcing Odin to banish Thor to Earth, where he is stripped of his god-like powers. Once there, the warrior encounters the fiercely determined astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) as well as a new battle to fight – first against government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. and then with a soulless destroyer whose sole mission is to ensure that Thor never returns home.

The creators of “Thor” are misguidedly under the impression that everyone watching this new superhero movie is a fan not only of the comics, but also the other related entities and the previous Marvel movies. This is one piece of the puzzle that will lead to “The Avengers” theatrical adaptation (stay through the end credits for another tidbit), with plenty of the running time spent building references and alluding to characters from that universe. As a result, the Thor story is monumentally compacted. A lifeless romance is mustered with little enthusiasm or believability, a villain is created to fulfill a generic role of betrayal and jealousy, and a history of feuding with gargantuans in epic battles with heroic warriors is erected. These are accompanied by hasty explanations of portals, bridges, traveling between realms, and multiple, fantastic worlds. Even customs, rituals, ceremonies, and costumes are briefly fleshed out, many of which must be taken for granted. Magic, wormholes, super powers, flight, a mighty hammer, a gatekeeper, and more are presented but never detailed, forcing the viewer to simply accept the foreign kingdoms and inhabitants of Asgard and Jotunheim.

It’s unique to have a superhero based on mythology, giving “Thor” a “Clash of the Titans” feel mixed with inventive alien influences that include the various inventions of “Star Wars.” The Destroyer oversteps the boundaries of borrowing, however, blatantly stealing Gort from “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Humor is blended in acceptably, lightening the mood (even though the tone is never truly serious), and the computer graphics are proportionally fairish, generally sticking to the idea that if the cuts are rapid and much of the action is shrouded in darkness, no one will scrutinize the quality.

The “Stranger in a Strange Land” motif is fun, but “Thor” ultimately suffers from having too many separate ideas, including an Avengers subplot, numerous villains, a legion of heroes, a love interest, and decades of comic book backstory crammed into a single film. It’s as if “The Avengers” movie is so important and universally anticipated that each comic book member needs to have their own feature-length theatrical epic rushed to theaters before the entire world gathers together for the slated 2012 release. And that is also a project that is likely to suffer from the same problem: too many characters and not enough time.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10