Summer 2011 is on and that means Marvel continues their march to The Avengers with Captain America later this summer and this weekend’s Thor. Fixing some of the problems of it’s predecessor, Iron Man 2, and keeping those films wonderful sense of humor and great action, Thor is a fantastic summer blockbuster and introduction to the character from the mainstream.
The plot for Thor is a standard, classic Thor storyline. On the day of Thor’s ascension to the throne of Asgard, a trio of Frost Giants attempts to steal a powerful relic from the Asgard armory. They are defeated by The Destroyer but Thor is gung ho to invade the Frost Giant’s home of Jotunheim and defeat them once and for all. Odin forbids it but Loki convinces Thor to do it anyway. Thor, Loki, Lady Sif and the Warriors Three head to Jotunheim, get in over their heads, are rescued by Odin and Thor is banished to Earth for instigating war. On Earth, Thor meets astrophysicist Jane Foster and attempts to reclaim his hammer, Mjolnir from SHIELD. Meanwhile, Loki is plotting back in Asgard to take over the throne.
Chris Hemsworth is fantastic as Thor, he is the perfect mix of cocky and arrogant but is also serious when he needs to be. He’s also hilarious when he arrives on Earth and is completely unfamiliar with how things work in Midgaard. I also appreciate the fact that they found a good balance for Thor’s way of speaking; He’s not constantly saying “Thou” or “Thee” but he does have a classical touch to his dialgoue. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is much more subtle than previous incarnations of the character but he completely nails Loki’s conniving, scheming attitude and *spoilers* seems like he’s going to be a major factor in The Avengers as well, according to the after credits scene. Anthony Hopkins lends his usual gravitas to the role of Odin, even with his ridiculous robo eye patch. Natalie Portman is good but she’s not very convincing as an astrophysicist (she’s a far better scientist than Denise Richards in The World is Not Enough or Tara Reid in Alone in the Dark however). Her relationship is Thor is also probably the weakest part of the movie. They spend a couple days together and the movie wants you to feel like they have an epic, Shakespearean love, but it doesn’t feel like it. Rounding out the cast is Kat Dennings as Jane’s assistant Darcy (who provides some great jokes), Stellan Skarsgard as Janes’ mentor Dr. Selvig and Clark Gregg, returning as everyone’s favorite SHIELD Agent, Phil Coulson, who just gets better and more bad ass in each movie.
Even though he’s more known for his Shakespeare adaptations, Kenneth Brannagh manages to bring some great action and visuals to Thor. Asgard and Jotunheim are both wonderfully realized visually and each has it’s own distinct feel with Asgard’s golden grandeur and Jotunheim’s grim icyness. On Earth, things are less interesting as most of the action takes place in a small town in New Mexico, which doesn’t really lend itself to massive action set pieces but Thor gives it all it can. In particular the opening action sequence where Thor and friends battle the Frost Giants is fantastic, as is Thor’s assault on SHIELD’s mobile facility on top of Mjolnir. That sequence also introduces Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye into the Marvel universe and is sure to give any Marvel fan a nerdgasm.
Speaking of the Marvel movie universe, Thor handles the tie-in stuff much more smoothly and organically that Iron Man 2. Iron Man 2 suffered from the SHIELD/Nick Fury stuff pretty much halting the already crowded main plot for a 15-20 minute interlude that didn’t really accomplish anything except introducing Black Widow and giving Tony an upgrade to his heart ARC reactor. In Thor, it makes complete sense that SHIELD is there to study Mjolnir. Also, the end credits scene is a super nerdy, but super awesome preview of what we can expect from The Avengers (two words: Cosmic Cube).
There are a couple problems with the story but overall, Thor is a fantastically fun blockbuster that is fun for non-fans but doubly so for Marvel nerds like me. I would put it behind the first Iron Man, just ahead of the Ed Norton Hulk and pretty far ahead of Iron Man 2 in the connected Marvel universe movies. The bar for this Summer’s superhero movies has been set very high, we’ll have to see if any of the others can clear it.
4.5 out of 5