Thor – It’s Hammer Time…
Kenneth Branagh – director of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, As You Like It, Love’s Labour’s Lost and… er… Thor.
It is perhaps unfair to pigeonhole Mr. Branagh, and he has plenty of movie titles to his name, but his work in performing and directing Shakespeare has dominated his career, so his selection for a Marvel Comics adaptation that has been a long time coming certainly baffled many. But then they gave the Hulk job to Ang Lee, a man known for directing Sense and Sensibility and The Wedding Banquet, and that worked out great.
No wait, that’s not right. Oh dear.
Moving on, Thor is one of the classic comic characters, but has been denied even a single big screen treatment before this effort, whilst Batman is awaiting his seventh Hollywood outing, Superman gets his sixth in 2013 and Spider-Man is chasing the pack with number four.
In all fairness, the man uses a big hammer as his weapon of choice, and it just isn’t as obviously cool as an array of Bat Gadgets, bullet- beating speed or the ability to sling spider-webbing from your wrists. Still, Thor is actually based on the Norse mythological God of the same name, and once you bring deities in, you can have plenty of fun with a big budget.
Branagh’s movie adaptation of Thor sees the eponymous character (played by Chis Hemsworth) banished from the Godly realm of Asgard by his all-conquering uber-powerful father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). He is slapped with this punishment when his rash actions bring about the threat of war with the neighbouring Frost Giants of Jotunheim. He was all set to be handed the title of King, but felt the urge to start a ruckus due to an overabundance of machismo.
His scheming brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes the opportunity to bring about his own plans for ruling the kingdom, once Odin suffers some kind of random collapse. Meanwhile, a disgruntled Thor finds himself landing on Earth with the commoners, much to his displeasure, but his father Odin was kind enough to send his big beast of a hammer, called Mjolnir for some reason, along with him. In a little bit of Sword in the Stone-type drama, Thor will only be able to wield this weapon and its power once he is worthy.
During his Earth-bound adventure, he meets some people from S.H.I.E.L.D. providing the foundation for his involvement in The Avengers movie, and love interest Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), as well as a confused pet shop assistant who tries to explain why he cannot sell Thor a horse, only to be met with a stern demand for any one of his domesticated animals large enough to ride.
Thor does a great job of keeping the action lively, and the pace of the film is never dragged by poorly executed exposition scenes or loose performances. It is great to see every single actor obviously having a ball in their respective roles. Anthony Hopkins is bloomin’ epic as Odin, whilst Idris Elba (RocknRolla, The Wire) wades in with a particularly likeable effort as gatekeeper Heimdall.
Portman breezes through her role, and considering her dubious contribution to a certain sci-fi series, this was a nice surprise. Tom Hiddleston is excellent as the malevolent Loki, and he will be welcomed back by viewers for The Avengers movie. Everyone does well, and, finally, Hemsworth was an outstanding choice for Thor, nailing the required blend of arrogance and defiance with potential for greatness. He can also deliver a comical one-liner obliviously.
Returning to Branagh, it’s nice to see that he can deliver a fast-paced, lively action movie, in between freely reciting lines from England’s famous bard. He never seems to be trying to overstate any aspect of the film; he allows it to flow seamlessly together, and it is never too much or too little.
The only real gripe stems from Thor’s inevitable change in attitude, which basically happens from nowhere, for almost no reason. It’s all glossed over cleverly through a string of visual and vocal distractions, but when it comes down to it, you have to ask why exactly Thor suddenly develops the worthy selflessness needed to pull that sword from the stone.
Still, the film works well as a brisk, bright and energetic action blockbuster, making for an entertaining watch without too much substance, and girls will undoubtedly think that a topless Mr. Hemsworth is a sight for Thor eyes…
DVDRental Rating 8/10