Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Thor (2011 film)



Based on the Marvel comic by Stan Lee, Larry Leiber, and Jack Kirby, Thor is the story of a demigod who has been banished by his home planet as he lands on Earth. Falling for a scientist while learning that his brother is taking over his home planet, Thor has to return to reclaim his power. Directed by Kenneth Branagh and screenplay by Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz, and Don Payne from a screen story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich. The film is an origin story of how Thor came to power as he’s played by newcomer Chris Hemsworth. Also starring Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Tom Hiddleston, Ray Stevenson, Jaime Alexander, Idris Elba, and Anthony Hopkins as Odin, with special appearances from Clark Gregg, Jeremy Renner, and Samuel L. Jackson. Thor is a big and bombastically entertaining film from Kenneth Branagh.

After a war with the Frost Giants led by Laufey (Colm Feore) that led to the victory of Odin and the Asgardians where they claim the Giants’ source power in the Casket of Ancient Winters. An uneasy truce was made for many years as Odin is set to give his throne to his son Thor, a break-in for the Casket by a few Frost Giants failed as Odin thinks it’s just nothing. Thor however, thinks it’s an attempt to break peace as he decides to defy his father’s orders as he along with his younger brother Loki, their friend Sif (Jaime Alexander) and the Warriors Three in Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Joshua Dallas), and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) go to Jotunheim to confront Laufey and the Frost Giants leading to a battle. After Odin arrives to stop the battle and save his sons and friends, he decides to banish Thor from Asgard and strip his powers from him.

Thor suddenly lands in the planet Earth as he is discovered by an astrophysicist named Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings), and their mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) who take him to a hospital unaware of who he is. After some complications where his hammer has gotten the attention of S.H.I.E.L.D. and its leader Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), Thor hopes to retrieve it as he tells Jane about what he is. After an attempt to retrieve the hammer where Thor was unable to pull it out of its stone, Thor is taken by S.H.I.E.L.D. where he gets a visit from Loki claiming that Odin has died. With Thor accepting his fate, he is retrieved by Selvig who discovers that Thor might actually be the legend he had read as a child.

Back in Asgard, Odin has fallen into deep sleep where Loki learns about his true parentage as he takes over the kingdom of Asgard where Sif and the Warriors Three suspect something is wrong. Wanting to get Thor back to Earth, they convince the gatekeeper Heimdall (Idris Elba) to transport them to Earth as he is aware of Loki’s dark rule. With Sif and the Warriors Three arriving at Earth to convince Thor to return to Asgard, they all deal with the Destroyer that Loki sends forcing Thor to do something that is unexpected of him in order to deal with his brother.

The film is essentially an origin story of how Thor came to be what he is through his father’s rule and then be banished for his arrogance only to learn about what he must do to save both Asgard and Earth from evil forces. During the course of the story, Thor reveals the world that he lives in to this astrophysicist who has been trying to uncover the mysteries of the universe where the two fall for each other. Still, there’s the matter of what his brother is doing as he starts off as this very quiet and innocent individual who always felt being in his brother’s shadow only to learn about his true parentage. This discovery would crucial to Loki’s development as he becomes an antagonist to Thor much to Thor’s dismay as he loved and cared for his brother.

The screenplay is a by-the-books kind of story in terms of what is expected in an origin story involving superheroes. Still, it has moments of character development for both Thor and Loki where they each would have an understanding of who they are. Notably the former who is this demigod with amazing powers where once he arrives to Earth. He’s still a strong and powerful man but is forced to realize that he can become human as well giving him the chance to understand things that his father had been trying to tell him. It’s a very good script that does what is needed to do as well as provide some substance to some of the characters in the film.

Kenneth Branagh’s direction is definitely ambitious in terms of the way he presents Asgard as this bombastic yet beautiful planet while going for a more straightforward look for the scenes in New Mexico. Branagh opens with the film with Jane and her team trying to find something that leads to them to discover Thor. It is followed by the origin story of how Odin lost his right eye during the war with the Frost Giants as he tells that story to a young Thor and Loki including the importance of the Casket. The rest of the film does become this very vast and interesting origin story that features some wonderful compositions including slanted camera shots. Branagh wisely avoids some of its tropes like fast-cuts and overwhelming the film with lots of action sequences. Instead, he allows the story to play out with bits of humor drama while balancing with some exciting action scenes. Overall, Branagh creates a very enjoyable action-blockbuster that does a lot for what is expected and more.

Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos does nice work with the film‘s cinematography from the dark setting of Jotunheim to the more colorful yet stylish camera work for the scenes in New Mexico. Editor Paul Rubell does excellent work with the editing to help establish some of the action that is happening while playing up to some of the film’s humor as it’s tightly-paced for what is expected in a comic-book film. Production designer Bo Welch, with set decorator Lauri Gaffin and supervising art director Maya Shimoguchi, does amazing work with the set pieces for the Asgard palace and halls while going for a more low-key approach in the base that surrounds Thor‘s hammer along with some wonderful sets for the New Mexico small town that Jane lives in.

Costume designer Alexandra Byrne does very good work with the costumes from the armor and regal look that the Asgardian characters wear to the more casual clothing of Earth that Thor later sports. Visual effects supervisor Wesley Sewell does superb with the visual effects such as some of the exterior set pieces for the Asgardian palace and the bridge that connects them to the Bifrost transporter along with the effects for the Destroyer in the film’s New Mexico battle scene. Sound designers Michael Babcock and Richard King do terrific work with the sound work from the spectacle of the action scenes with its explosions and clanging objects to the tense atmosphere that occurs in Coulson’s interrogation for Thor. The film’s score by Patrick Doyle is brilliant for its orchestral bombast and sweeping arrangements to play up the action and drama that occurs as it’s a very thrilling score by Doyle.

The casting by Sarah Finn and Randi Hiller do amazing work with assembling the film’s ensemble cast that includes notable small appearances from Dakota Goyo and Ted Allpress in their respective roles as the young Thor and Loki, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, Rene Russo as Thor’s mother Frigga, and cameo appearances from Stan Lee as a truck driver, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Other small roles include Tadanobu Hogun and Joshua Dallas in their respective roles as Warriors Three members Hogun and Fandral while Ray Stevenson is funny as the big and gluttonous Volstagg. Colm Feore is pretty good as the villainous Laufey who despises Odin while Idris Elba is excellent as the very wise gatekeeper Heimdall. Jaime Alexander is wonderful as Thor’s close friend Sif who is proven to be a very able warrior while Kat Dennings is hilarious as Jane’s assistant Darcy.

Stellan Skarsgard is superb as Jane’s mentor Dr. Erik Selvig who is intrigued by Thor as he reminds him of a children’s book he read years ago. Anthony Hopkins is great as Thor’s father Odin who is overwhelmed with Thor’s arrogance as well as keeping a secret about Loki’s true roots. The film’s big breakthrough is Tom Hiddleston in the role of Loki where Hiddleston brings a wonderful restraint to a man living in his brother’s shadow only to become a more intense character as he suddenly starts to take over. Natalie Portman is terrific as Jane Foster by exemplifying her intelligence and determination to discover Thor’s background while there’s also a bit of subtle humor to the way she is smitten with Thor.  Finally, there’s Chris Hemsworth in a phenomenal performance as the titular character as he displays wonderful charisma as well as sense of humility to make his character more human as it’s a true star-making performance for the young actor.

Thor is a fun action-blockbuster from Kenneth Branagh that features top-notch work from Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. Armed with a strong supporting cast and an engaging story, it is a film that does what is needed to do to entertain but also has some substance to make it more worthwhile. Notably as it involves some crucial development for Thor and Loki as they’re set to face off again in The Avengers. In the end, Thor is a stellar yet spectacular film from Kenneth Branagh.

Kenneth Branagh Films: (Henry V (1989 film)) - (Dead Again) - (Swan Song) - (Peter‘s Friends) - (Much Ado About Nothing (1993 film)) - (Frankenstein (1994 film)) - (A Midwinter’s Tale (1995 film)) - (Hamlet (1996 film)) - (Love’s Labour Lost (2000 film)) - (Listening) - (As You Like It (2006 TV film)) - (The Magic Flute (2006 film)) - (Sleuth (2007 film))

Marvel Phase One Films: Iron Man - Iron Man 2 - (The Incredible Hulk) - Captain America: The First Avenger - The Avengers (2012 film)

Marvel Phase 2 Films: Iron Man 3 - Thor: The Dark World - (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) - (Guardians of the Galaxy)

© thevoid99 2012

11 comments:

Stevee Taylor said...

Thor was a pretty entertaining film, even if it was a fairly standard origin story. I loved Tom Hiddleston as Loki in this, and I can assure you he only gets better in The Avengers!

thevoid99 said...

I kind of knew what was going to happen but that didn't stop me from enjoying it. Plus, I like Tom Hiddleston. Loki is cool!

Chip Lary said...

It sounds like you liked this more than I did. I still felt it good enough to recommend, but only just. I actually thought the main character wasn't that well done. That's not Hemsworth's fault, but the writer's. The transition from jerk to nicest guy in the world just wasn't believable to me. I agree with you on Hiddleston, and am looking forward to seeing him reprise the role in The Avengers.

thevoid99 said...

@Chip-Well, I might agree with you on the writing on Thor's development being not that believeable. Then again, when you see someone as lovely like Natalie Portman. You probably want to be a nice guy.

I wish I had some Portman pie right now.

Chip Lary said...

Okay, that made me laugh. Thanks.

dtmmr said...

There was a lot here that made me laugh and be entertained, but there was also plenty more that felt like it took too much away from the fish-out-of-water comedy aspect. Still, a good Summer blockbuster from last year and it was also one that I remember everybody was worried about because it just looked like it was going to blow so much. Thankfully, Branagh proved us wrong. Good review Steve.

thevoid99 said...

@Dan-Thanks. It may not be a great film but it still quite entertaining.

I'll be watching Captain America tomorrow as I was able to get Epix this past weekend and DVR those films in anticipation for The Avengers.

Sati. said...

Great review! This is my favorite films out of all Marvle superhero films, mostly because of Hensworth's great performance and his wonderful chemistry with Portman.

thevoid99 said...

@Sati-Hemsworth won me over. Plus, I liked his scenes with Natalie as I found them to be genuine and charming.

Besides, anyone can have chemistry with someone as good as Natalie... unless you're Hayden Christensen, Ashton Kutcher, or any shitty actor.

Diana said...

It is probably one of my favorite Marvel movies, alongside Avengers and maybe Iron Man. I loved Tom Hiddleston as Loki (and I continue to love him in every role I've seen him so far), but I thought Portman was miscast...I just didn't buy her role or her chemisty with Thor. Kudos to Branagh (with so much Shakespearean background) for directing an action movie, it was very good and a very pleasant surprise coming from him!

thevoid99 said...

@Diana-I thought Portman was suitable for that part. Sure, it's not Black Swan but who else would you cast to play an astrophysicist?