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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Mighty Thor

After going to the midnight opening of Thor, I was all set to review the film for you loyal Dubbs readers. Then I decided that I had to take a step back. Most people know very little about Thor, so before I review, I'll give you a little history lesson.

Thor was created for Marvel comics back in 1962 by the trifecta of Stan Lee, Larry Leiber and Jack Kirby. He was based on the Norse thunder god of the same name. Thor was a young, handsome and cocky god who was set to take over for Odin (think the Norse version of Zeus) as King of Asgard as Odin fell into the Odinsleep (a sometimes decades long slumber the all-father needs to stay all-powerful). While getting ready to hand over the reigns, Odin realizes his arrogant son must be humbled. He then banishes Thor to Earth, powerless, and in a frail human form to learn humility. Thor (in the human form of Donald Blake) learns he can access his powers in time of need, and uses them selflessly to defend the humans on Earth. Along the way he falls in love with Jane Foster, joins the Avengers, chooses Earth over Asgard, and learns how evil his half-brother Loki (the Norse god of Mischief) truly is.

This movie captures just about all of the nearly 50 year journey of the title capture perfectly, and all in about 2 hours.

The film starts on Earth with Jane and her research partners following a unique storm front. This front leads them into direct contact with a powerless and stranded Thor. The story of how exactly he got there is then explained in a flashback to the amazing setpiece that is Asgard. Here we see a royal celebration that is cut short due to an attack by the banished Frost Giants. This leads to Thor's confrontation with the giants (in the most action-packed sequence of the film) and eventual banishment by Odin. Once on Earth Thor has many hilarious fish our of water scenes, while he bonds with the humans and tries to recover both his hammer, and his godhood.

At the same time, we are learning that Loki has been scheming the whole time so that he can be crowned King instead of Thor. Thor's asgardian mates the Warriors 3 (plus the lovely Lady Sif), uncover the plot and travel down to Earth to bring Thor back and thwart Loki. This sets up a battle on Earth between Thor and the Destroyer (sent down by Loki), where Thor defends the humans, and earns back his godhood, which gains him a return trip to Asgard where he has an ultimate showdown with his half-brother.

It seems like there is a ton going on for a 2 hour film, but Kenneth Branagh pulls it off. He brings his Shakespearean chops to the table and finds the perfect balance between the grand setpieces and costumes, as well as the simpleness of the U.S. desert. The cast is also very strong. Chris Hemsworth is a perfect embodiment of Thor. Equal parts cocky and wide-eyed humility. Tom Hiddleston's Loki is also perfectly cast. I think the movie works so well because of how smarmy and mischievous Hiddleston makes Loki. Portman, Saarsgard and Dennings are all very good as well in providing comic relief and human moments through out.

This film, like the other Marvel Studios films was ripe with hidden easter eggs for the comic faithful. The Infinity Gauntlet and Eye of Agamato were visible in the Asgards weapons room. Jeremy Renner was incredibly cool in his tiny Hawkeye cameo, and what about the post credit Cosmic Cube. All little touches a comic geek like myself loved.

I thoroughly enjoyed Thor. The acting, directing and costumes were all spot-on. My one complaint is I wish there was more action. The movie starts off with a huge action sequence which seems like a portent of things to come, but it never quite gets there. Sure there are other cool scenes (like the Shield base with the above-mentioned Hawkeye) but nothing that matches the battle with the frost giants. The final conflict, which crosses both Earth and Asgard also proves to be very anti-climactic. While Branagh has crafted a well-acted, solid, believable story of a banished god, I couldn't help but want more. With that said, there is plenty to enjoy for comic and non-comic fans alike. A solid 3 star effort that I highly recommend.



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