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
Excellent review, and I enjoyed your detail without giving anything away. Marvel is peppering its films and maybe some day I can take several DVDs and play one after the other. Does Stan Lee make an appearance? Thanks.
May 07, 2011
Thanks for the comment. Since you asked, yes, Stan Lee does make a cameo appearance.
May 07, 2011
Great, thanks!
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 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
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 . May 10, 2011
   And so begins the summer; not with a whimper, but with a bang. Yes, Kenneth Branagh’s super-hero epic has arrived, and it’s… really quite good, actually, provided you just put your brain into neutral and let the sheer energy of it all roll over you. The story tells the tale of Thor (Chris Hemsworth, who is certainly not the worst-looking man ever filmed), a young Asgardian about to be made heir to the throne by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). In the background …
review by . May 23, 2011
posted in Forbidden Planet
The title to this post is in no way true... but it got your attention.      This  past weekend I happened to catch "Thor," the latest super hero movie destined to culminate in the fanboy joygazm that will soon be know as "The Avengers."  Now before I saw this movie I heard a great many mixed reviews from a great many people: "It's the greatest super hero movie ever," "It was totally gay," "The only thing redeeming was …
review by . May 18, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Three years ago on a rainy Friday night I sat in a semi-crowded theater and saw Jon Favreau’s larger-than-life adaptation of Iron Man. It wasn’t just the first film I was able to drive myself to go see, but it was also one of the single coolest theater-going experiences of my life. Something clicked that night. Maybe it was the overwhelming sense of freedom that came in the form of seeing a mega-blockbuster with my new driver’s license, maybe it was Robert Downey Jr.’s charisma …
review by . May 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
12A - 114mins - Action/Adventure/Drama - 27th April 2011 The Marvel comic book creation is unleashed into the movie world which is growing desperately thin on new and original pieces of work. In recent years Marvel (Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man) has given us from average to good but never great with the best of them tending to arrive from the first movie of the series with the new superhero (Hulk is emphatically excluded from this sweeping generalisation). Thor, as the first …
review by . May 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Kenneth Branagh seems like an odd choice to direct a summer blockbuster superhero film.  Branagh was almost singlehandedly responsible (with a nod to Baz Luhrman) for the Shakespeare revival we saw in the ’90s; he brought 5 excellent, commercially successful adapations of the Bard to the screen in a space of ten years, before seeing the audience’s appetite for couplets and corsets wane in the 2000s.  Even when he’s not directing Shakespeare, his tastes run more classical; …
review by . May 06, 2011
The latest Marvel comic based film has arrived and continues a trend of top-notch cinematic adaptations of Marvel characters. THOR stars Chris Hemsworth as the brash and bold Asgard warrior who is next in line for the kingdoms thrown. His father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), has ruled the kingdom for many years and as such has been responsible for maintaining the peace for Asgard and all the other known realms. After being surprised by an incursion by an ancient enemy previously defeated by Odin, the …
review by . June 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the God of Thunder, is the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), the ruler of the nine realms of the Universe. Thor possesses a hammer that gives him an unmatched power. Odin sees in him a worthy successor to the throne. Wow... what a sharp and weird beginning for this review... Should I?... Nope. Let's continue...      His brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) grows up and develops great envy towards him and finds himself in an ongoing search for a …
review by . May 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
And so begins the summer; not with a whimper, but with a bang. Yes, Kenneth Branagh's super-hero epic has arrived, and it's... really quite good, actually, provided you just put your brain into neutral and let the sheer energy of it all roll over you.    The story tells the tale of Thor (Chris Hemsworth, who is certainly not the worst-looking man ever filmed), a young Asgardian about to be made heir to the throne by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). In the background his younger …
Quick Tip by . May 14, 2011
Quite an alright film if you just want another launch pad for a new franchise. I see this as a 'baby step' towards a possible more definitive Thor Film. Reducing the script to the formula of humor and low characterization is a rushed way to make a superhero movie. Better than the 'puke-tacular" Fantastic Four" and may be on par with Iron Man 2, thankfully.      Good for what it is, an uninspired, easy to like, popcorn superhero flick done by Hollywood …
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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