Those of you who have been regularly reading the blog over the last few months may have noticed a lack of big box-office hits being reviewed here. In fact the last five films I reviewed were Pina, Meek’s Cutoff, Norwegian Wood, Route Irish and Fair Game. All of whom probably made less than the budget of Thor between them.
As this year’s big films go, they don’t get much bigger than Thor. Marvel has become adept at making huge summer blockbusters like Spiderman, Iron Man, and X-Men, and they are hoping Thor, Captain America, and X-Men: First Class will continue the trend this year.
Thor is Marvel’s latest film in The Avengers Series. Unlike fellow-avengers Iron Man or Hulk, Thor is not a human who gained his powers from some strange series of coincidences, but rather because he is an alien. Like Superman. But with a hammer.
The plot concerns him getting exiled to earth after brazenly declaring war on another alien race, the Frost Giants. Once there he comes into contact with scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). The two end up working together as she believes he may hold the key to her research, and he needs her help to get his hammer back.
As superhero movies go, Thor largely feels like a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t involve a traditional origin story of a random guy discovering he has superpowers and coping with the changes this brings to his life. In fact, in many ways it’s the opposite of that; a superhero having to come to terms with losing the powers he has always had.
It’s also a story with a lot of ambition. The audience is expected to buy into three different threads: The first involves Thor’s relationship with his father, the King and his younger brother. The second the budding romance between him and Jane. And finally the ongoing establishment of S.H.I.E.L.D. as we move towards the Avengers movie next year.
Thor’s director, Kenneth Branagh, manages to balance these three elements with great expertise. Knowing precisely when to cut between the different strands of the story. This gives the film a great togetherness and momentum which will keep you engaged through out.
It’s important to give Branagh the credit he deserves for making the story and characters so accessible. This is after all a character based on Norse mythology from this strange shiny alien planet who speaks in a manner more in keeping with Hamlet than Spiderman. By realising the strength of the story was in the characters, as opposed to the bizarre world from which they originate, such problems are largely forgotten.
If there is to be any criticism of Thor, it’s that the story (like that of X-Men and Batman Begins) has an awful lot of set-up without very much pay-off. There’s very little that’s unpredictable in this film, and while the characters are well-drawn and developed, you wish there was more for them to do, more actual drama for them to deal with.
In particular the romance between Thor and Jane feels very much like a first chapter of a story, rather than something we are really expected to be caught up in.
Also, arguably the film lacks the kind of moral dilemmas one associates with the best films of this genre, such as The Dark Knight or X-Men 2. The tension created between the brothers and their father is great, but there seems to be a scene missing when they all confront one another with their differing opinions and motivations on how Asgard should be run.
Despite not having the film not having the weight to its story I would have liked to see, ultimately it is a very fun, entertaining film with just enough intelligence and depth to keep you engaged through out. Thor-oughly enjoyable then? Just about.