A great weight rests on Thor‘s shoulders. Not a super-man, but a god, Thor is easily the most unbelievable hero in Marvel’s arsenal. The studio has an uphill climb on their hands to make sure audiences get sucked in to this mystical, mythological universe.
Luckily, its fate was left in the hands of respected Thespian Kenneth Branagh who directs a tale which could be straight from the pages of Shakespeare: a sibling rivalry, a hopeless love story and a fierce battle – both physical and emotional.
It would be a mistake to think of this as ‘another comic book film’. Based on an immediately iconic character, few have not heard of the God of Thunder and his un-pronounceable hammer Mjöllnir – not least because he lends his name to a day of the week (Thursday/Thor’s Day).
The role of the hammer man falls to relative newcomer Chris Hemsworth, last seen playing Captain Kirk’s dad in Star Trek, and he comfortably bears the air of the arrogant warrior.
Even as a child Thor displays a keenness for battle, lavishing in the prospect of bringing his homeland of Asguard to war against bitter enemies the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. All grown up, Thor’s character soon gets the better of him and he finds himself banished to Earth where he meets Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, a scientist chasing strange electrical storms which, it turns out, are caused when someone crosses over to Earth from another realm.
The film isn’t afraid to poke fun at Thor‘s ridiculous attitudes and values, as he finds himself in a place very different from the golden wonderment of Asguard – New Mexico. Back in Asguard, Thor‘s mischievous younger brother Loki quickly takes advantage of his brother’s, making it clear Thor‘s dominance was the only thing holding him back. The balance between the peril of the destruction of Asguard and the comedic results of Thor in the modern day is brilliantly executed.
Branagh manages to hold back the appearance of the SHIELD organisation, which will bring Thor together with other comic book heroes next year for The Avengers, meaning that aside from the odd passing comment to Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, the film is able to keep the focus on the relationships which bring the characters to life.
Anthony Hopkins, as Odin, oozes regal authority as he keeps the rival brothers in check, and you genuinely feel his sorrow as he is forced to banish his eldest son.
The only mis-step is that the relationship between Portman and Hemsworth fails to convince, making you long for the plot to return to Asguard.
For young boys though – surely the film’s target audience – the film is a triumph. Thor delivers action by the hammer throw, and the engaging characters mean there’s something for adults to latch onto as well.
This build in momentum towards The Avengers bodes well for the superhero superteam, and in the meantime we get to enjoy another a-typical hero’s journey as he learns that it takes more to lead a kingdom that muscles and might.
James Michael Parry