When making a superhero film, many filmmakers are faced with the task of taking these heroes (that some are essentially Gods) and making their characters interesting. “Thor” is one of those characters. He is a God, how can a God be an interesting and relatable character? Tasked with this question the screenwriters and director Kenneth Branagh find their groove with a superhero venture that mixes together Shakespearian qualities of gods and kings with a mainstay superhero film. A couple elements hold “Thor” back from being able to match “Iron Man” or “Incredible Hulk” but it isn’t too far off either.
Unlike “Iron Man”, “Spider-Man”, or “Batman Begins”, in “Thor”, Thor already has his powers and all his weaponry (which goes as far as a giant Hammer). The next in line to be king of the realm Asgard, Thor is ripe with pride and arrogance. After almost starting a war with a former enemy of a different realm, the mighty king Odin banishes him to the Earth realm. Stripping him of his power until he can rediscover his humanity while his slippery brother starts to make a bid for Thor’s throne.
Like Tony Stark before him, Thor starts off rather unlikeable. He is the king’s first born son and heir to the throne, if you grow up with that being a reality you are more than likely going to grow a bit of a spoiled attitude. Thor, although having his charm and charisma, still acts like a pestilent child. After Odin banishes him to Earth, Thor has to go through a journey to discover his own humanity. This time around Marvel casts unknown Australia Chris Hemsworth to fill the role of this God fallen to Earth. Hemsworth portrays a range that makes us believe he has been in the business crafting his skills for at least a decade worth of work. Hemsworth is able to make the weakest moments of the film (we’ll get to that in just a second) watchable, and make his transformation believable and not feel rushed or contrived even if the script does at points feel that way.
As I’ve been alluding to the entire paragraph above the script isn’t always strong. While on Thor’s home world on Asgard, the movie and it’s story excels locking the viewer into the drama that’s occurring on screen. However, when Thor is on Earth, the movie isn’t nearly as strong. Although it has it’s moments, which I attribute more to director Kenneth Branagh’s direction and Hemsworth acting chops than anything else, the Earth sections are overwrought with horrible conceived romances and “avengers” buildup and some rushed development. The romance between Thor and Jane (played by Natalie Portman) is honestly pathetic. Almost no chemistry to speak of and the relationship mostly starts because Thor is “well cut for a homeless guy”. I bought the romance between Anakin Skywalker and Padme (also played by Natalie Portman) more than this one. Most everything else, the action and whatnot feels like pretty generic superhero fare (made better by Hemsworth’s performance).
Back on Asgard we see Loki schemed his way to the top of the throne. Thor’s trickster brother, played by Tom Hiddleston, steals the show here. Smooth, witty, and oozes with seduction and danger. Loki is a multi-dimensional character that plays multiple sides of the conflict for his own gain. His relationship with other members of the cast of characters is another thing the movie excels at. He’s easily the best antagonist that Marvel has to offer, if only Marvel could apply this type of character development to their other rogues.
I’ve said this in other reviews, but Kenneth Branagh truly is an underrated and overlooked director with “Henry V” and “Hamlet” under his belt. Here he continues to show why he is so good, this movie drips with the eye of a veteran behind the camera. Brannagh crafts the story of Gods and kings to be comparable to the stories of Shakespeare, and it’s nearly always apparent in every single frame. Had this just been a political drama about Loki trying to take over the throne then Brannagh wouldn’t have to have changed much on the look and design of Asgard (more than likely nothing at all). It has that sort of effect. Yet all at the same time this feels very sci-fi fantasy. Like “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” (or “Game of Thrones” if we’re staying the political realm) mashed together.
I wish the mythology got explored more, but there is plenty to sit back and enjoy. Less time needs to be devoted to Earth and more needs to be in Asgard. “Thor: The Dark World” although made the Earth aspects more enjoyable, it still was the least interesting part of the film. For the third film (coming in 2017), “Thor: Ragnarok”, I hope Marvel will realize that the best parts of Thor and the proper setting for his film is Asgard, a unique setting that needs more exploration. There are many aspects of “Thor” that are better than “Iron Man” but the flaws here are heavier than the ones in “Iron Man” which keeps it just down (but not out).