Review: Thor (2011)

Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Thor is the latest comic-book adaptation from Marvel, and stars Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgård.

The film centres on Thor (Hemsworth), a powerful but arrogant warrior, who is cast down to Earth by his father Odin (Hopkins) and is forced to live among humans. A beautiful young scientist, Jane Foster (Portman), has a profound effect on Thor, awakening romantic feelings for the first time.

It’s while on Earth that Thor must learn 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.

Branagh, who seemed at first like an odd choice for director, succeeds in making the fantastical elements feel grounded and realistic: something which was always going to be tricky to achieve. He employs plenty of sweeping cinematography to fully explore the intricately detailed environments, never letting the epic scale get out of hand.

This is aided in no small part by a strong, humorous and consistent screenplay – full of snappy dialogue, subtle references and nifty cameos – which improves the somewhat predictable morality tale. Moreover, he has elicited convincing, enthusiastic performances from his eclectic cast.

Hemsworth truly embodies Thor, proving himself more than capable both in terms of action and humour, stepping up from minor supporting actor to a leading Hollywood star.

He stands out amongst a heavy-weight supporting cast, including ditzy and on-fire Portman, a hilarious and shamefully understated Dennings and an ever-solid Skarsgård.

Hiddleston delivers an effective, and wholly opposing, performance as Thor’s twisted brother Loki – a far cry from his recent low-key turn in Archipelago. Hopkins, as is to be expected, adds a touch of cinematic class as the patriarchal Odin.

It’s a shame the supporting characters aren’t further explored, but it’s a minor issue and understandable considering the circumstances. It’s encouraging to hear that various roles were beefed up after test-screening reactions.

There are, like many big-budget productions, a number of visual and narrative flaws, but Thor manages to be a superbly grounded, infectiously gratifying and valiantly executed summer blockbuster, completely defying mediocre expectations.

All involved in production have done a commendable job in making this superhero movie feel as seasoned and entertaining as possible, embracing the absurd in a way that entirely proves Branagh a sensible choice in director, and Hemsworth a fantastic Thor.

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