Thor Review

 Comic book super heroes often need a heavy dose of suspension of belief if we’re to ever take them seriously. It’s the type of thing their fanboys and girls love but that Hollywood is petrified of. If there’s a unifying aspect to the recent decade of superhero movies it’s an attempt to either mask their inherent incredulity with “science”, or just to ignore it altogether. Thus we get a Peter Parker bitten, not by a radioactive spider, but a genetically modified one. His enemy goes from a real looking goblin to a robotic goblin suit. Those blue and yellow X-men uniforms? As if anyone would wear that. These black leather ones seem much more practical and realistic. With this attitude in mind I was intrigued as to how Marvel would incorporate Thor into their vague shared continuity, as of all more ridiculous characters on the Marvel roster, Thor is king of the floating space castle. Any attempt to offer a more “realistic” Thor would betray everything good about the character, and luckily Marvel realised this and just went with it.

The basic premise of Thor is this: The Norse gods worshiped by the Vikings were actually immortal aliens from outer space. Yep. The movie is brazenly unashamed of this fact and feels more akin to a sci-fi fantasy than a comic book movie, to begin with anyway. The world of Asgard is over the top, ostentatious and looks like something out of a futuristic Lord of the Rings film via Stargate. 
Odin is definitely compensating for something.
Though I'm not quite sure what.

Whilst the setting and costume design are elaborate and over the top, the narrative is about as simple as it gets, and in this case that isn’t a bad thing. Thor is a movie about a guy who has to learn to stop acting like such a douche. That’s it. Believe me after watching The Green Lantern it’s nice to see a character actively trying not to be a complete douche bag. However, at first Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has all the flaws you’d expect from an almighty God of Thunder – he’s cocky, arrogant, and just wants to smash things with his magic hammer. Predictably this gets him into a lot of trouble when he decides to disobey his father’s orders and march into the home of the Asgardians mortal enemies the Frost Giants in search of some revenge. This does not go well for Thor. Whilst he does kick a lot of ass against some well rendered CGI frost monsters he nearly starts the Norse God equivalent of WWIII, and when his brother Loki(Tom Hiddleston) informs daddy Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Odin is not best pleased with his would be successor. Odin decides that to teach his son some humility he should be stripped of his power, magic hammer, and banished to earth, only to return when he stops being such a douche.

There isn't a problem Thor can't solve!...As long as
the solution involves smashing stuff with a hammer
On earth he meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (Nathalie Portman)  and things get a little more light-hearted as we see the viking God struggle to adapt to life on earth. Meanwhile on Asgard Odin has fallen into a coma, leaving the throne in the hands of his second son Loki, God of mischief; and if that sounds like a bad move, that’s because it is. 

Thor stars Australian actor Chris Hemsworth as the titular character and he excels in the role. Thor comes across as a grizzly bear when battling the frost giants and a teddy bear when gazing into Nathalie Portman’s eyes. Anthony Hopkins is very wise and Odin like as Odin, and whilst Tom Hiddleston tries to channel Shakespeare’s Iago, the script never really gives him chance to flex his villainous muscles which is a shame.

The Shakespeare reference there isn’t an arbitrary one as Thor is surprisingly directed by famous Shakespearian actor/director Kenneth Branagh. The decision to place Branagh at the helm instead of a more conventional action director raised a few eyebrows upon its announcement, but  the gamble paid off. The film could have very easily spiralled into a pompous, farcical feature if it wasn’t for the control Branagh excerpts in the more character focused scenes. He’s an experienced hand at directing royal families with issues, so much so that you forget how about the ridiculous clothes this particular royal family is wearing...and that they’re in space. 
Kenneth Branagh's secret? Always direct movies lying on the floor.
 All in all Thor is a great, simple summer blockbuster. Better than Green Lantern, not as good as X-men, though much more family friendly so if you’re going to take the kids to a movie this summer this is the one to take them to. Just keep them away from hammers afterwards. They might get ideas.