‘Thor,’ the first Marvel superhero film of the year, debuts this weekend to high expectations from cinephiles to film executives. This film adaptation is faithful to the mythology of the comic book hero, has a well blend of humor and drama, is visually stunning, but stumbles through the end, and although it recovers, it does not manage to have a place in the pantheon of superhero classics such as ‘Superman II’ and ‘The Dark Knight.’ However, the film, mostly, is great popcorn fun and is worth spending the money to see, especially in IMAX 3D.
For those who have not had the pleasure of reading the comics of the blond Norse god, it centers around the mythical Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions against an old icy foe reignite an ancient war. He is then banished to Earth by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and forced to live amongst the human race. But it is here where he faces the wrath of his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who sends a nearly indestructible robot of Asgard to Earth. Thor must regain the strength of his thunderous hammer and discover what it takes to be a true hero.
‘Thor’ is by no means meant to be a masterpiece, nor is it intended to win Best Picture at the Oscars. The story written by a trio of writers has holes, some scenes are too long, and some are too short, such as the grand fight on Earth. It is also predictable and offers nothing new that we haven’t seen. It simply fulfills its objectives to entertain, overwhelm the senses with its radiant special effects, deliver millions of dollars at the box office and to serve as a preamble to ‘The Avengers’ in 2012. If that’s what it set out to do, I cannot criticize those goals if its purpose is to create a mental escape for lovers of this genre. Director Kenneth Branagh and production designer Bo Welch managed to suspend reality for us for a couple of hours and transport us to the heavenly realm of Asgard.
The performances from the cast are solid, but Hemsworth as Thor, who at first seemed a skeptical choice, is a bonafide star in the making. His charisma is attractive to women and his demeanor brings respect from men. Although his performance has touches of stiffness, he’s endowed with a good voice and good looks. There is no reason why with a few more movies under his belt, the big Australian can become a bigger action star than they overrated Sam Worthington.
The romantic interest of ‘Thor’ is Jane Foster, played by the recent Oscar winner Natalie Portman. The chemistry between them is good but not magical. At first they seem a strange couple, but under the scope of some of the scripts comical situations, she manages to make it work. Hopkins is once again an actor who makes makes great with what he has, but I’m not sure his role as Odin, Thor’s father, is the kind of role that stimulates his creative juices.
The best scenes of the film are the electrifying battle between the Norse gods and their archenemies, the mighty ice giants. Indeed this is where we see the full power of the magic hammer Mjöllnir and it is only in stunning 3D IMAX that it can truly be appreciated.
With a duration over two hours, the film has 20 minutes of excess fat that would fair better if you eliminate some scenes as is the case of the inebriated sequence with Thor and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard). It also did not help that the outcome of the denouement didn’t possess the tense spitting vibe of ‘The Incredible Hulk’. Overall, ‘Thor’ has charm and delivers a satisfying popcorn movie that one will not feel remorseful to have paid to see. I suggest you stay for the end credits (it takes about 3 minutes or so) to see the hidden scene that gives a clue to what to see in ‘The Avengers’ for next year.