Monday, May 9, 2011


This weekend marks the beginning of the Summer Blockbusters. In particular this season is the summer of the superhero with the release of three of the biggest movies from Marvel Studios which include: X-Men: First Class (Opens June 6) Captain America: The First Avenger (Opens July 22) and to start it all off: THOR! Directed by Kenneth Branagh (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Hamlet), endeavors to bring Marvel's hammer-wielding hero to the big screen with a production of god-like proportions!
Chris Hemsworth stars as Thor, who along with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been groomed since childhood to take the throne of Asgard by their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). When a conflict arises between their age-old enemies: The Frost Giants, led by King Laufey (Colm Feore), Thor goes against his father's wishes and leads an attack against them. Enraged by his son's actions, Odin takes his powers and banishes him to Earth, along with his fabled hammer Mjölnir, which settles in a crater in the New Mexico desert. Powerless and confused Thor "literally" runs into astrophysicists Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). While Thor adjusts to his now mortal life with the help of Jane, and no thanks to S.H.I.E.L.D., he must find a way back home to Asgard and stop his brother Loki from taking over the throne! Thor brings to the big screen all that we have come to expect from Marvel Studios, with the success of Iron Man (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010), this summer is going to be super-powered!
Whereas most Marvel movies seem to focus on more technological (Iron Man) or scientific (The Incredible Hulk, Spider-Man) themed heroes, Thor is based within more of a fantasy world; the scenes depicting Asgard and the realms of are some of the most beautiful settings ever seen. With huge, fantastic golden buildings, a crystalline rainbow bridge and colorful god-like characters like Heimdall (Idris Elba), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Fandral (Josh Dallas). For those who are fans of the over-the-top, old-English spouting thunder god, you may be somewhat disappointed. While Hemsworth brings to the part a very "human" Thor, he comes across as much more arrogant and annoying than usual, especially in the beginning of the film, but manages to pull off a much more experienced and wiser god by the climax of the movie; yet without saying a single "thee" or "thou" through the whole movie! This version of Thor also comes from less of the old-school Thor Marvel character (who first appeared  in "Journey Into Mystery" #83, Aug. 1962) and more from the recent "Ultimates" (2002) story-line. Although this (bearded) depiction of Thor is less like the classic Thor and more closely related to the 1990's Eric Masterson a.k.a. "Thunderstrike" version. While the main antagonists of the movie are the Frost Giants, the story of Loki is somewhat lessened, most likely due to his role as the major villain in the upcoming Avengers movie in 2012.

The movie's prologue is very fast but it quickly pulls you into the world of the gods and Asgard in an almost epic-Lord of the Rings-like battle, which sets up the whole conflict with the Frost Giants. Then we briefly see a young Thor and Loki being lectured by Odin only to quickly move forward to the (now adult) Thor's coronation ceremony which is unfortunately interrupted by...guess who? The Frost Giants! Upon Thor's banishment to Earth, he becomes this almost comedic-anachronistic character as he deals with modern day Earth. Soon it becomes clear why the story chose to set everything in New Mexico of all places, giving a clever nod to the original Marvel Comic with this billboard: "New Mexico...Land of Enchantment, Journey Into Mystery!" The most uninspiring aspect of the plot in Thor surprisingly comes from now Oscar-winner Natalie Portman and her involvement as the at-best mediocre love interest between her and Thor. Although Skarsgård's character becomes a surrogate father figure for Natalie's character, he remains an extraneous character along with Portman's atrocious teenage sidekick Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). I found myself really liking Thor's hilarious band of friends/minor gods, especially Volstagg, played by Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone). There's also a delightful cameo from comic creator Stan "The Man" Lee plus an appearance of fan-favorite Hawkeye a.k.a. Clint Barton, played by Jeremy Renner (uncredited?)!
The climax of the movie is an impressive battle with The Destroyer, a giant magic-fueled, armored robot (gotta love that)! The signature surprise epilogue following the credits is worth the wait as it features Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury character (of course), who first entered into the new Marvel continuity in Iron Man (2008)! Overall, Thor is an amazing and worthy installment into the Marvel movies as Marvel Studios whets our appetites with Thor and X-Men: First Class until the release of this summers' main course with Captain America: The First Avenger!