- Movie Rating -

Thor (2011)

| May 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

I have to confess that I do not now, nor have I ever, had much knowledge about the legend of Thor. I don’t know his legacy either in Nordic mythology nor from the pages of Marvel Comics. I can’t really say why exactly, but my knowledge of all ancient mythologies doesn’t extend beyond the borders of Clash of the Titans. Therefore, Kenneth Branaugh’s new adaptation of the Marvel Comic superhero is my introduction to the whole enterprise and, by that introduction, I can say that while it is an enjoyable movie, it didn’t make me want to do any further reading.

The Thor presented in this movie is played by hunky Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, tall, blonde, buffed with good hair and pretty teeth. He lives in the far off Heavenly kingdom of Asgard, a place ruled by his God-like father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who will someday – as these things always go – cease to rule his kingdom and toss the keys to his firstborn son. But – as these things always go – there’s a stumbling block between hero and birthright. Thor’s younger brother Loki is waiting in the wings for his opportunity to rule and he. sets a plan in motion to knock brother off the roster of rulers so that he can take the old man’s place for himself.

Loki knows that Thor has an anger management problem which he puts to good use against a race of Ice Giants from another dimension who fail in their plan to steal a precious magical artifact from Asgard. Thor uses an inter-dimensional bridge to travel to the ice dimension where he picks a fight with the giants using the strength of his mighty magical hammer. When his father finds out, he robs Thor of his strength and banishes him and his hammer to a tiny green and blue planet somewhere in the Milky Way galaxy.

He lands in New Mexico where he is discovered by a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman, Stallen Sarsgaard and Kat Dennings) who want to understand him. Meanwhile, he is hunted by a shadow or organization called S.H.I.E.L.D. for reasons that I’m sure are waiting for the upcoming Avengers movie.

What happens to Thor here on Earth is standard issue fish-out-of-water stuff. In fact, the scenes in New Mexico grind the movie to a halt because the movie never takes full advantage of having a Norse God here on earth. There are some jokes about his eating habits, his fighting ability but the movie never really explores those scenes.

Where Thor finds its magic is in the Kingdom of Asgard. Asgard is one of those great, grand movie spaces where you are pleased to just sit back and behold the visual look. The landscape is made of abstract designs and smooth surfaces. The skies are a beauty multi-colored clouds with stars visible behind. Odin’s palace is a wonder of pipes that rise into the sky like an enormous pipe organ. The inter-dimensional bridge is made of glass and light. The interiors are browns intricate designs lit by ornate torches. Nothing here is subtle. The production design is by Bo Welch who also designed the look for Men in Black, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, Beetlejuice and that bizarre miserable factory in Joe Versus the Volcano. Here he goes wild, creating a grand far-off kingdom.

What disappoints me is that the movie doesn’t have much else. There are a lot of standard fights in the movie. A hint of a love affair between Thor and the Natalie Portman character. And a potential for a father and son relationship between Odin and Thor, but they are all brushed aside in a movie that sometimes seems too busy trying to get to the next fight. No one is really given a character to build on, they just go through the motions.

I think the movie should have stayed in Asgard. Those scenes create something really new and exciting. There are great things happening there, there are a hundred sights to see, but I think the movie short-changes itself. Director Kenneth Branaugh has some brilliant ideas and has made a sufficiently entertaining movie but he never really reaches for all that the movie could have been.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.