Thor (2011)

Thor (2011)
You have to hand it to Marvel – few comics come to life as fantastically as theirs, filling the screen with sumptuous detail. On the other hand, to get the most out of this cinema experience, it helps to be a fan of marvel superheroes in the first place. I have to confess I have been lacking in that department. It took one of my favourite actors – Kenneth Branagh – in the director’s seat to change my mind.

In a word – fantastic! Thor is everything I hoped a superhero movie could be – spectacular, thrilling, involving and emotion charged. Branagh is a bold, confident director, who is not afraid to jump outside the box, and cast actors we can feel for, and craft scenes we can become engaged with. My Marvel block has been well and truly shattered.

First, as an Aussie, I am truly proud of Chris Hemsworth. He is magnificently well cast as Thor, a superbly built eyeful with charm, humor, and the acting chops to pull off Thor’s journey from selfish spoiled brat to true hero, capable of love and sacrifice. He is the centre and the anchor of the movie, after all, and any less of a performance could have ruined everything. Branagh chose wisely here, but he didn’t falter on the rest of the cast either.

Sir Anthony Hopkins fills the enormous role of Odin, King of the Norse Gods, with powerful presence, the always reliable Stellan Skarsgard is awesome as the scientist enchanted at seeing his myths come to life around him, and even Natalie Portman, to whom I have not been kind in the past, is actually well cast here as the hero’s love interest.

The action switches back and forth between Thor’s legendary home of Asgard and earth, with Thor’s brother Loki getting up to all sorts of mischief in Asgard. Tom Hiddleston is great as Loki, not too overtly villainous at first (well, he had me fooled, but I’ve never read the Thor comics) but thoroughly believable when his true colors are revealed. That isn‘t just a metaphor, either, they truly are revealed.

The CGI is literally out of this world – that’s where it takes you. Branagh uses it very cleverly, but he doesn’t let it overwhelm the basic humanity of the story. Sir Anthony said what attracted him to the movie was the father/son dynamic between Odin and Thor, and certainly his scenes with Chris Helmsworth are particularly effective in this regard. There does seem to be a genuine rapport and affection between the two.

It was the rapport and interchange between the characters in X-Men that made those movies so enjoyable. I do like the fact that they are real people, with character flaws, and real actors, not muscle bound robots stalking through a script. Thor takes this even further with the Shakespearean foundations of Branagh in charge. Helmsley looks buffed up, but not so much that he can’t use tender body language, and neither is he invincible when on earth. A lot of the laughs come naturally from the situations faced by a Norse god encountering cars, syringes and cute girls with tasers.

I will certainly be buying the DVD, as this one is a keeper, entertaining enough to be seen again and again. I am also going to be watching for the sequel. More of Thor? Heck yeah.

I paid to see this movie with my own funds.

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