Friday, May 13, 2011

THOR (2011)

Written by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz & Don Payne

Ditected by Kenneth Branagh

Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA  May 8, 2011 7:50PM

"Spider-Man" was already a popular and recognizable character long before the 2002 film that became a world wide sensation with this and it's sequels making well over a billion dollars. This helped inspire Marvel Comics to want to bring more of their super-heroes to the big screen. This lead to the somewhat surprising big box-office of the film versions of their lesser known comic-book characters such as "X-Men", "The Fantastic Four", "Iron Man" and now "Thor" (with a prequel to the "X-Men" series and "Captain America" due out later this summer) who is the Norse God of Thunder has his moment on film.

We first meet Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as he lands in the middle of the desert in New Mexico, hitting the research truck of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), a scientist doing research on the atmospheric wormhole  that was actually caused by his arrival. Her assistant, Darcy (Kat Dennings) and fellow scientist, Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) don't know what to make of this man who came out of the middle of nowhere, without a scratch on him.

We are then quickly given a crash course in Norse Mythology where we learn that Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) is the ruler of Asgard, home of the Gods and the father of Thor and his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Many years before, the Asgardians battled the Frost Giants who wanted to take over the nine realms which included Earth. They were defeated and Odin took the Casket of Ancient Winters which left the Frost Giants powerless.

Recently, the Frost Giants broke in to Asgard and almost retrieved the casket. Odin wants to overlook the incident but Thor is outraged and wants to confront them. Against Odin's orders, Thor take his band of warriors and Loki to take on the giants. The leader, Laufey (Colm Feore) is unapologetic and mocks Thor which leads to a battle against his small group and their endless army. Odin comes and rescues them and he is pissed.  As punishment, he takes away Thor's power and banishes him to Earth. Odin throws Thor's hammer, Mjolnir down as well with a spell that it can only be placed back in his hands when he becomes worthy.

Thor doesn't adjust well to dealing with humans as he is cocky, a hothead and considers them beneath him. He tells Jane who he is and of course, thinks he's crazy and possibly dangerous but she also knows he is the key in helping her with her research and with him being very easy on the eyes, it helps her over look his behavior.

Thor discovers that his hammer has landed in the middle of the desert and wants to get it back. However, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) of S.H.I.E.L.D has secured the area where the hammer lies as well as taken possession of all of Jane's research materials. Thor is certainly not going to let some government agency keep him from what belongs to him but when he is unable to lift Mjolnir, the reality of his situation finally sinks in.

Meanwhile, after Loki discovers a dark secret about his past, Odin falls into a deep sleep and with Thor away, Loki takes over the throne. It turns out that Loki was behind The Frost Giants entering Asgard and offers Laufey a chance to kill Odin and get back the casket. Thor's band of warriors sense trouble with Loki ruling Asgard and go to Earth to bring him back. Loki discovers their plan and sends The Destroyer, a powerful  mechanical agent out to kill his brother.

Without his power, Thor is defenseless and no match for this machine but will he be able to earn back his hammer in time and if he does, can he get back to his home to end Loki's evil rule and save his father?

Best known as an actor, Kenneth Branagh would not be the obvious name that comes to mind when thinking of someone to direct a special-effects driven, super-hero film as the films he has directed tends to be more Shakespearean works but he is well aware of the type of film he is making as he brings just a touch of class to the popcorn flick while never forgetting exactly what this audience wants which is an heavy dose of action without too much story getting in the way.

Ms Portman is fine in the film although she didn't seem to fully embrace her part of being "the girl" even if she is supposed to be brainy while Sir Anthony is having a ball (as he always does, no matter how good or bad a film is), chewing up as much of Asgard as he possibly can. Rene Russo makes a very welcome return to the screen but she is completely wasted in a nothing of a role as Thor's mother.

The true standouts in "Thor" are two of the relatively unknown actors: Mr. Hemsworth, an Australian who  made an impression in the small role of Captain Kirk's father in the 2009 reboot of "Star Trek", is absolute perfection in the lead role. You should want to hate him because he is so drop-dead gorgeous with a insanely perfect body but he has so much charm, humor as well as being a good actor that you can easily overlook all of that. Mr. Hiddleston, an English actor who is mostly noted for his stage work, is skillfully able to make Loki sympathetic despite all of the evil and mischief that he conjures up. Is it just me or does he look an awful lot like ice skater, Johnny Weir?

Although it's a little too long with a slightly silly and convoluted plot, "Thor"still offers plenty of thrills, adventure and visual excitement that will make seeing this worth your time and if love the other films based on Marvel Comics, then this is a welcome addition. I saw the film in 2-D but I enjoyed it so much that I would had even been willing to spend the extra bucks to see "Thor" in 3-D, which is the highest compliment I can pay to the film.