Ok, so for reasons unknown — ask Paramount, not me — Thor, the latest on the Marvel Universe stable of movies, was released in Europe one week before its U.S. release.
As a prologue to this review, it should be noted that I had been craving to see this one for quite some time and, as any longtime fan of the character, had my share of doubts, worries, expectation, and anxiety as the release date came closer. I wanted to experience Thor in all its goodness and might, so I went for the biggest screen in town, best seats and, of course, the 3-D. So yes, expectations were at an all-time high, and that’s never a good thing — as far as my math goes, when something is at a maximum, it can only go down.
Well, you know what? Thor did not only manage to stay at that maximum throughout the entire movie, but it went even further. And that means I found myself excited and rooting for Thor and the Warriors Three like a 10-year-old, amazed at how one of my all time favorite comic heroes got the movie he deserved. Thor manages to grab and entertain the non-Asgardian-versed, while giving plenty of rich moments and tiny Easter eggs to those of us who know a bit about Thor’s story and background.
If you wanted to see enormous battles and such you might be a bit disappointed in how Kenneth Branagh tackled this one. However, all the actors perform their roles to perfection; it was as if I was seeing a double-sized issue of Thor unfold before my eyes — one about Odin and his two sons, and about all the internal struggles that their difficult relationship bring to Asgard, home of the Norse gods, and one of the nine realms of Yggdrasil, the World Tree.
One of the biggest worries a fan like me has with this kind of movie is this: how in blazes are they going to fit everything in? What will they include and what will they cut out? Will all my favorite characters from the Thor comic book’s rich cast be there? And then there’s the fact that Marvel Studios’ “shared Universe” movies are leading up to the Avengers in 2012. Which means that if this movie could just be a way to introduce the character and give him a reason to join the Avengers next year.
Fans, new and old, of this Lee-Kirby version of the Norse god of thunder — be at ease. Of course this is an origin story, and as such presents the main cast of characters of Marvel’s Thor (except Balder the Brave and Odin’s crows). Every classic piece of Thor’s origin story and even Loki’s origin is here, and wrapped up in some wonderful special effects, which make the Thor on the screen even mightier than the comic book version of the thunder god. The key aspects of each character are perfectly depicted, and that’s really what I wanted to see in this movie.
Wondering about Hopkins’ portray of Odin, the All-father? Wonder no more. It is simply amazing, and the character is smack-dab at the heart of the story. Odin and his actions as ruler of Asgard make up the engine that drives the movie forward. While little details like his throne and his crows are missing, when he goes into the Odinsleep I thought, “Oh yes, this is a Thor movie, no doubt.” They do, however, include that classic yet unseen (in the comics) scene of him casting the famous spell “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” onto the Uru hammer Mjolnir… I was like Homer about to eat a glazed donut. Instant drooling.
Can we talk about Thor himself a little bit? First of all, I have to take my hat off to Hemsworth’s portray of the character — both powered and de-powered. He is the god/man that gets pushed around and bounces back, his determination never faltering — except for one single moment, and due, of course, to his half-brother’s Loki mischievous actions — as he leads poor Thor to believe that his father is dead and his mother, Frigga, does not want Thor’s banishment to Midgard (Earth) to be revoked. Hemsworth plays a true Asgardian warrior, one that evolves during the story, therefore remaining true to one of literature’s key rules: the main character must have something happen to him during the course of the story that changes him, that makes him evolve and learn.
Thor is taught many lessons throughout the course of the movie, and he changes from naïve warrior into the wise and fair Odinson. troubled and worried as he suffers for the ones he loves who are not within his reach. Every aspect of the character you’ve seen in the comics — Asgard’s best warrior, Midgard’s bravest savior, Odin’s true and faithful son — are present in this movie. And if this is just the origin story, imagine what kinds of wonderful Marvel Studios can and might achieve if they tap into runs as prolific as Simonson’s for the second one.
As Thor’s relationships play out throughout the movie, every one of them feels real and in-character. His troubled relationship with Loki is perfectly depicted, as well as the camaraderie between Thor and the lady Sif or the Warriors Three, the arguing and deep respect he overflows when reaching out to Odin and the start of a beautiful — and, just like in the comics — troubled relationship with Jane Foster, here playing the part of a physicist to who has an ex named Dr. Donald Blake… priceless! Even Thor’s interaction with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson — or, as the god of thunder cleverly calls him, “Son of Coul” — felt perfect to me.
You’ve definitely got to love old Goldilocks. He’s a brave, tough and badass yet honorable son of Odin — and he has a big hammer to prove it! Because if you were just skipping through this whole review to read about the part about how Kenneth Branagh and his special effects crew excelled at the various action sequences, you are in luck.
Thor knows how to shake his mallet! He defeats the Frost Giants of Jotunheim with a spectacular display of all the tricks he can pull off with his enchanted hammer — he creates winds to disperse the Giants, strikes so hard as to destroy Jotunheim’s iced floor and finally destroys a creature that had even manages to stop Sif and the Warriors Three ins their tracks with a single killing blow. To battle the Destroyer, he summons the power of the storm in all its ways (tornadoes included). Finally, he uses his hammer in the climactic final battle between half-brothers in the most original and amazing way I had ever seen! The action is godly indeed. Even without his hammer or his battle armor (a homage to the one Olivier Coipel designed for his Thor run with J. Michael Straczynski), Thor Odinson is too much for any S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, including certain archer who makes a great (if brief) guest appearance.
If you think about it — and I did after watching the movie — they could have screwed it up big time. With the way they handled the Norse myths and the Marvel continuity. With the special effects and the choreography of the action sequences. With so many things. But in the end, Brannagh and everyone involved in Thor managed to deliver a film worth watching that’s true to the characters and to the ancient myths and that felt like a tribute to all the creators that have brought Thor and his supporting cast life over all these years.
As for the fact that Thor is part of the “shared Universe” that will culminate next year with the Avengers — and let’s not fool ourselves: their last film, Iron Man 2, suffered a bit from that syndrome — well, good news. That doesn’t happen here. Though Thor is a clear continuation of that after-the-credits scene from Iron Man 2, with t
he hammer and all, the movie integrates S.H.I.E.L.D. as a part of the story rather than as a hindrance to its natural development. It even has very clever nods to other Avengers who don’t appear in the movie, like the Hulk and Iron Man, without hurting it.
Thor stands on its own as a genuinely heroic movie about lessons learned, sacrifice, friendship, family, love, war and the cost to pay in order to preserve peace. Even if you just stay at the surface, you’ll get a great movie about fights between gods, humans, machines and even giants. It introduces one of the greatest Marvel characters to those who don’t know him but also perfectly renders the god of thunder for those of us comic lovers who just couldn’t wait to see him live.