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Thor (film)

A 2011 action/fantasy film directed by Kenneth Branagh.

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If I Had a Hammer

  • May 7, 2011
Star Rating:

Kenneth Branagh’s Thor is essentially two movies fighting for the same space, and only one of them emerges victorious. That would be the one that takes place in the title character’s realm of Asgard. What it boils down to is a reliable but exciting feud between brothers over who is more worthy to ascend the throne. In the one corner, we have Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who in Norse mythology would be the god of thunder; a mighty warrior, he’s brave yet impulsive, quick-tempered, and somewhat arrogant. He’s the favorite of his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and it’s widely accepted that he will someday become king. In the other corner, we have his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who casts a suspicious eye on Thor’s reckless behavior and knows deep down that he would be a better choice as king.
Asgard has its own complicated history, known only to those intimately familiar with the original Marvel comic book series. For those who have absolutely no baggage tied to the comic book – and you should know that I’m one of them – the film blessedly distills it to its essence. It’s one of nine realms floating out in the cosmos; from there a gigantic machine can send bolts of lightning out into space and create wormholes, which can transport the Asgardians to the other realms. This includes the icy world of Jotunheim, home of the Frost Giants. Thousands of years ago, Odin waged war against them; he even seized control of their power source so as to prevent them from taking control of the Nine Realms. Since that time, they have coexisted under a shaky truce, which Thor destroys. For his impudence, Odin banishes Thor to Earth, along with his weapon, a mighty hammer. When it lands, it will be protected by spell – those unworthy of its power cannot wield it.

The names and chronology make this sound a lot more complicated than it actually is. Truth be told, it’s all rather routine. But at the very least, something interesting is happening. The same cannot be said of the second movie vying for space, the one that takes place on Earth. Thor lands in a small New Mexico town. There, he crosses paths with two scientists, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård); their field of study, wormholes, has given them mountains of data, all of which is forcibly taken by a covert law enforcement agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D. As it turns out, they’re very much interested in Thor’s hammer, which has made a crater out in the desert and, like the sword in the stone, is firmly anchored within a protrusion of rock. Thor is determined to retrieve his weapon, which means he will have to sneak into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s makeshift facility and fight a lot of security guards.
The highlight of the Earth sequences is when Loki sends a hulking robot to kill Thor, and even then, I’m forced to question the reason for its inclusion – believe you me, a battle in a small desert town doesn’t hold a candle to a battle in an urban metropolis. By and large, these scenes are little more than excuses for comedy relief, and they show no real effort on the part of the filmmakers in their development of the characters. This is especially problematic for Portman, whose character falls in love with Thor; rather than gradually reveal their feelings for one another, Branagh and the screenwriters opt for an instantaneous romance founded on nothing in particular (I can only attribute it to their looks, and let’s face it, both are blessed in that regard). This is impossible to take seriously. So too is Jane’s young assistant, Darcy (Kat Dennings); apart from one or two dimwitted remarks about her iPod, she contributes absolutely nothing to the film.

The Asgard scenes, on the other hand, are fun, exciting, and a technical triumph. Looking at them was an experience unto itself, in part because of the film’s immersive 3D effects (take note of that, because that’s not something I say very often). Credit to production designer Bo Welch (Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns) for creating a bright world of shiny metals, polished marbles, and rainbow bridges – and no, it’s not as childish as it sounds. Odin’s castle is probably the best looking fantasy structure outside of the many towers in the Lord of the Rings films.
If you’ve been following the recent film adaptations of the Marvel comic books – Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and The Incredible Hulk – you’ve probably noticed that the stories are somewhat intertwined. Characters such as Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) have been popping up here and there, mostly in post-credit sequences that tease the audience along. Naturally, I’m looking forward to the next release, Captain America: The First Avenger. At the same, I'm finding it difficult to keep track of all the subtle insider references; by the time we reach the film adaptation of The Avengers, I fear I will be completely lost. Try your best to enjoy Thor as its own film. The Earth scenes fall flat, but the scenes on Asgard are worth the time and money.


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May 07, 2011
Agreed! I thought the scenes on Earth were rather weak and threatened to hamper the film's pace. I didn't see this in 3D and saw it in standard THX DLP and the Asgard scenes were still good. I also had major issues with the Destroyer's role in the film. It was fun, but it missed the majesty and grandeur of the source material. For a non-comic fan, you did an excellent job with this review. You do know film, and that is one thing we can both agree on. Thanks for the review!
May 07, 2011
You're welcome. I think film adaptations work best when they compromise. If you broaden it too much, fans of the source material will feel left out. If you make it too self-referential, it will alienate general audiences and serve only as an inside joke for fanboys. Having not read a single issue of the original Thor comic strip, I can safely say that the film didn't leave me feeling out of the loop. I am, however, getting confused by all the Marvel movie cross-overs.
May 07, 2011
I know what you mean. I just wanted this one to be more definitive as in perhaps portraying more of Asgard and portrayed more of the importance of a human persona. I have read Thor since I was 6 or 7, and the material was a lot more ambitious and awesome than this. I guess I am just a little disappointed that it played it too safe, but I gave it a 3.5/5 for the effort. Oh, I am a Marvel nut so feel free to ask me LOL!
More Thor (2011 movie) reviews
review by . May 06, 2011
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review by . May 07, 2011
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Most people would recognize Kenneth Branagh as one of top Shakespearean actors or more recently for his role as Professor Lockhart.  His is a brilliant actor in just about everything he does (even though sometimes over acted), and although this is not his first stab at directing it is his first take at a film of such "epic" proportions. I will however be completely honest with you, if you attempt to go see Thor in 3D you are wasting your money.  There is NOTHING 3D about this …
review by . October 09, 2011
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**1/2 out of ****     Explosions, special effects, a sense of humor, and enthusiastic, dedicated leads. I'm getting tired of superhero movies; as 2011 seems to be a pretty big year for them, albeit a very mediocre one. You've got your good superhero movies and then you've got the ones that lack depth of importance. Chances are, I will forget most of the superhero movies I've seen including the ones that I simply liked. The ones that I loved shall get a much more appropriate treatment. …
review by . June 01, 2011
Call Down Thunder!
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review by . May 20, 2011
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review by . September 17, 2011
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I wasn't expecting much when I saw this film. I was thinking that it would be worse than Daredevil. It was actually better. Asgard had been at war with the Storm Giants but a truce now prevails. Thor and his brother Loki are shown being tutored by their father, Odin who is also King of Asgard.    Odin decides that he will name Thor as his air and on the day he will make it public, some Storm Giants are able to sneak in to try to steal a casket that will give their realm great …
review by . May 23, 2011
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review by . May 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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Poster art for "Thor 3D."
Marvel Studios expands its film universe with a new type of superhero: THOR. This epic adventure spans the Marvel Universe; from present day Earth to the realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. Thor is cast down to Earth and forced to live among humans as punishment. Once here, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero when the most dangerous villain of his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth. Kenneth Branagh directs this fantasy epic which stars Australian actor Chris Hemsworth as the ancient Norse god, Tom Hiddleston as his evil brother Loki, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, a young woman who befriends Thor on Earth, and Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Thor's father and king of Asgard. Expect to see agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., previously seen in ''Iron Man,'' to make an appearance, further forshadowing the coming of The Avengers!

Directed by Kenneth Branagh. With Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, Idris Elba.  Visit IMDb for Photos, Showtimes, Cast, Crew, Reviews, Plot Summary, Comments, Discussions, Taglines, Trailers, Posters, Fan Sites
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Director: Kenneth Branagh
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 115 minutes
Studio: Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures
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