has always been a strange property. The origin of superheroes has always been tied with the myths of old, their creators having drawn from the stories of the demigods that walked the Earth in legends. Thor
takes things further, lifting its characters directly from Norse mythology and placing them in the modern superhero context. It always seemed like the kind of thing that would be a challenge to translate to the big screen, and indeed, in some ways, Thor
does falter. But when it lets the gods be gods and the thunder roll, it is an oddly powerful film. Though undeniably clunky in some parts, the commitment to the conceit makes Thor
Thor (Chris Hemsworth), god of thunder, is set to take over for his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as king of Asgard. But on the day of his coronation, frost giants sneak into Asgard to steal back an artifact taken from them long ago. The brash and arrogant Thor seeks to travel to Jotunheim to wage war of the frost giants, but Odin forbids it. Against his father’s wishes, he goes there anyway and picks a fight with the king of the frost giants. Odin punishes Thor by stripping him of his powers and banishing him to Earth. Thor must prove himself worthy of his godhood, while back in Asgard, the throne is threatened by the plotting of his scheming brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
isn’t as straightforward an action movie as the rest of the superhero milieu. It’s surprisingly dedicated to depicting the godly drama that occurs in Asgard. It isn’t a simple question of good guys versus the bad. The film cleverly dissects the motivations of its villain, Loki, and goes out its way to ensure that the family drama stands at the center of all the superhero chaos. Director Kenneth Branagh attaches Shakespearean nuance to the scenes with Loki, and here the film becomes something remarkable. The film stays true to the story’s mythological beginnings, and plays out the celestial drama with real aplomb.
It’s a little disappointing, then, that they chose to water down the language. There’s a real dichotomy between the atmosphere that the film sets and the words that the characters speak. The Thor
comics were long known for their flowery language, and while it’s easy enough to understand why they made the choice, it still draws away from the gravity that the story is trying to build. In a larger sense, the film does falter when it’s made to conform to mainstream tastes. The romance between Thor and Jane Foster is tepid at best. The character of Darcy, who exists because mainstream movies need comic relief, is largely extraneous.
The film is much more interesting when it breaks the rules of mainstream superhero filmmaking. The battles are much more engaging when the characters aren’t quipping their way through them. Branagh’s use of oblique angles and the production design combine to give the film a really unique look, and his penchant for allowing his actors to give counterintuitive deliveries gives the drama a different texture. This is most evident in Anthony Hopkins’ performance, where he might sneer and grunt rather than give a long-winded speech. Tom Hiddleston brings all sorts of weirdness to Loki, and it’s fascinating to watch. Chris Hemsworth comes out the worst among the three, but he gains charisma as he goes. The supporting cast is solid as well, with colorful performances from Idris Elba and Josh Dallas. The only extraneous cast member is the usually vital Kat Dennings.
It’s hard to deny the places where Thor
just goes wrong. It could have been a little shorter, the language could have been better, and almost everything that happens on Earth feels interminable. But to be honest, it’s ridiculously easy to forgive once Branagh pumps up the godly family drama. In these scenes, the film pulls from the oldest stories, playing on themes that have consumed mankind for centuries. It can be pretty weird, but in its weirdness, the film manages to deliver something quite unique in a genre that’s largely become homogenous.