Thor: A Review of Mythical Proportions

I feel I need to preface this review by saying that I am not a fan of the Thor comic book franchise. That is not to say I dislike it, I am just unfamiliar with the characters and the backstory. I would say I am more familiar with the original mythology of Thor than his comic book counterpart. So as you read my review, please keep in mind that, while I have spent years reading various Marvel comics, Thor was never one of them. I feel I should also mention that I saw it in 2D since it was “filmed flat” and converted to 3D in post-production.

Marvel has had a bumpy road when it comes to movies. For years, their titles ranged from terrible to unreleasable. Luckily for comic book fans and moviegoers alike, the company has turned it around, and lately, the hits have far outnumbered the misses. Consider us watched by Odin himself because Thor definitely falls into the hit category.

Let me just get the most obvious thing out of the way: Thor is a beautiful movie. Even with my personal showing looking grainy and washed out (obviously an issue with either the cinema equipment or the print itself in this case), the colors were stunning and the overall look of the movie was breathtaking. The special effects were very well done and things that could have easily come across as silly, such as rainbow bridges and frost giants, were actually believable. While the scenes on Earth were perfectly mundane and everyday, Asgard felt foreign and fit for gods. Kenneth Branagh and Haris Zambarloukos really outdid themselves when it came to the visuals of this movie. I found them engaging, enthralling, and enjoyable.

Kenneth Branagh also did a great job directing the actors of this film. Leave it to a veteran Shakespearean actor/director to get the conflict of gods into a suitably epic context and to coax wonderful performances from every person that entered frame. Chris Hemsworth by all respects should have been outclassed, but not once did he get buried by his Academy Award winning co-stars. Whether he was being the cocky god or the emotionally distraught exile, he was believable and charismatic. Not to mention he was incredibly easy on the eyes and anyone that says otherwise is in denial.

Natalie Portman and Sir Anthony Hopkins bring great performances to the screen. Hopkins seems born to play the role of the Allfather and just radiates the energy of a wise ruler that has been to hell, or at least Jotunheim, and back. Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three (Tadanobu Asano, Joshua Dallas, Ray Stevenson) were a lot of fun as well. Their relationships and interactions with Thor really helped to illustrate that he had a life and a history that stretched long before the events in the movie. Alexander, who is both beautiful and talented, was especially an eye magnet whenever she was on the screen.

The action might be some of the best ever in a comic book movie. When dealing with superpowered heroes, it is just as easy to be hyper-kinetic as is it is to be boring. Never satisfied to just have Thor and his friends beat bad guys over the head with a magical hammer repeatedly, the action is varied and high energy. One extended fight scene in particular shows Thor, Loki, Sif, and the Warriors Three battling together beautifully. Each character had a distinct way of fighting and it made for one of the most enjoyable fights ever present in an action film, let alone a comic book movie.

As is the case with any comic book movie, there will be the people that pick it apart and compare it to the source material. Before I even left the theater, I was subject to a stereotypical fan discussion about how “Loki wasn’t evil enough and when he did show that he was a villain, it wasn’t believable.” I will have to say that Loki might actually be the most interesting part of the entire movie. At no point are his motives clear. Just when you think you have his angle figured, he changes it up and surprises you. The master trickster plays up the younger-son-in-his-brother’s-shadow card, pleads that he only wants to prove himself worthy to his father, and declares he is only doing what is best for Asgard. At the end of the movie, you’re still not sure if any of what he says is true, or even if he is actually a bad guy. All you can be sure of is that he is looking out for himself, but don’t we all?

I love a sympathetic villain and I often found myself feeling bad for Loki. After some reflection, I’m still not sure if it was honest sympathy, or if this character preyed on the empathy of this viewer. It might just be me looking for too much in the subtext, or maybe I was taken for a ride by Loki and the writers. Either way it was a brilliantly written, acted, and directed character, which to me, really made the movie.

The story overall was very solid. While the plot is pretty standard, the small details and character interactions separate this story from the pack. The plot doesn’t get bogged down, and despite taking place across multiple realms, never seems to get confusing. One of the film’s greatest strengths is that the characters realistically question the events and people around them. At no point does anyone just accept that a guy running around claiming to be the God of Thunder is normal everyday behavior. Perhaps my only complaint is that, while Thor has great development as a character, his changes come a little too quickly. This really is no fault of the movie as they had to fit the entire character arc into a single movie, but going from spoiled brat to worthy successor seems a bit rushed.

In conclusion, Thor is a beautiful and entertaining film that just happens to be based off a comic book character. There is a lot of great action, some laugh out loud moments, and some truly beautiful stuff presented on the screen. I’ll leave it to the fanboys to decide if this is the greatest Marvel movie yet, but I will say that is by far one of the most enjoyable.

[xrr rating=4/5]

4 Comments

  1. AndyNo Gravatar
    Posted May 6, 2011 at 3:15 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great review, Carl! I saw the midnight showing last night and absolutely loved it. I was really surprised by how great Chris Hemsworth was, and Stellan Skarsgard was fantastic as usual — my only regret is that he didn’t get more screen time.

    The teasers for the Avengers film were excellent as well. It was great to see Jeremy Renner show up, and the after-the-credits scene was fantastic, as expected! Can’t wait for Captain America.

    • Carl WatkinsNo Gravatar
      Posted May 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Yeah, it really was a great movie. I am going to go see it again with family this week and I’m really looking forward to it. The entire cast did a good job, especially Sif and the Warriors Three. They just brought humor and heart to every scene they were in.

  2. Posted May 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

    It’s a fun movie, no doubt, and the actors do a great job fleshing out their characters even though they’re asked to do so under such time pressure given the sheer amount of content packed in. Kenneth Branagh definitely makes himself felt at the helm importing a sense of drama and treating the more fantastical elements seriously.

    But.

    The CG animation is terrible and distracting and constantly took me out of the movie. The environments are gorgeous and the modeling, texturing and lighting are all really nicely done, but the animation has no weight or physicality, and some of the comp work took me right back to the original Superman film. I’m worried that this is going to stop the film from aging well, and it is a film I want to revisit.

    It’s just such a shame that the production company bit off so much and delivered so well on the majority, but then had to leave just a few details less polished.

  3. Posted May 10, 2011 at 3:34 am | Permalink | Reply

    Spot on review I think. I will say, however, that I did see it in 3D (2D not an option where I live without a 20 mile journey). The 3D was very distracting and highlighted the flawed CG, rather than accentuated it. Which was a shame. I really want to revisit in 2D. Great movie though.

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