MOVIE REVIEW: Thor (No Spoilers)

Thor

Paramount Pictures / Marvel Studios

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Written by Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne
Story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich

Starring Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Stellan Skarsgard (Erik Selvig), Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), Colm Feore (King Laufey), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Jaimie Alexander (Sif), Josh Dallas (Fandral), Ray Stevenson (Volstagg), Tadanobu Asano (Hogun) & Rene Russo (Frigga)

In 2008, after a string of hit movies that they didn’t benefit from financially as much as they would have liked, Marvel Entertainment took control of its movie destiny with Iron Man. That film was not only a huge hit, but it answered the question: could a character, popular with Marvel Comics readers, but with low name recognition among the general public, carry a big time tent pole film?

The answer, of course, was yes.

Iron Man lead to The Incredible Hulk (solid if not spectacular) which was followed by Iron Man 2 (bloated and forgettable) in its shared universe of films whose ultimate and ambitious goal was to assemble The Avengers on screen. Ever since that first Iron Man movie, Marvel Studios has been searching for the next film to set the world on fire and match not only the box office, but the excitement and the wonder that was generated by that first film.

WIth Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, Marvel Studios has finally found that film.

Part of the reason why Iron Man was so successful (other than the fact that it was well written, well acted, and well cast with an uber charming lead) was that it exposed the audience to a world and a set of characters that it did not know. As great as Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man are, they are familiar. Sure, familiar can be good, we want familiar sometimes, but there’s always a certain level of excitement inherent in discovering something new. For most people who go to see Thor, this world and these characters will be wholly new, and they will be exciting.

Thor is a unique character among his Marvel superhero brethren. He’s not just a superhero, he’s also a Norse God (or something similar here in the movie) and heir to the throne of Asgard. He straddles two worlds, and it’s that juxtaposition that not only drives this movie but sets it apart from the previous films that Marvel Studios has produced. The key difference? Scope. This film is all about giant scope. After a brief pre-credit scene on Earth, we spend much of the first act on Asgard, learning about the history of the Asgardians and the relationship between Odin and his sons, the arrogant Thor and the scheming Loki. These scenes on Asgard are all about giant, sweeping vistas showing off a world the likes of which we haven’t seen before. It’s Lord of the Rings on a cosmic scale. I’ll just put it this way: if you live in a small town and you think you’ve got a nice view of the stars, you ‘ain’t got nothing on Asgard. With every scene set on Asgard I spent much of the time marveling (sorry) at the art design. The majesty of Asgard, the pageantry of the royal court, and the flamboyant costuming all create a world totally unique to Thor and set the Odinson apart from his fellow Avengers. I came out of this movie feeling like Thor was the first of these films that truly made me feel like I was seeing a Marvel comic book on screen.

If you’ve seen the trailer you know the basic gist of this film. Because he’s an arrogant cur, Odin casts Thor out of Asgard and down to Earth, powerless and unable to lift his hammer Mjolnir, to learn some humility. Once Thor is sent to Earth the movie branches off into two storylines — while a powerless Thor is bumbling around on Earth, Loki is making his moves against Odin on Asgard. Eventually and inevitably, these stories collide like two freight trains on the same track.

The least surprising thing about Thor is that the cast is fantastic. Casting has been a Marvel Studios strong suit and here it is no different. In fact, this might be the strongest cast yet. When you have characters walking around in giant helmets and capes speaking regally about frost giants, you need actors with the chops to make it all seem normal and not ridiculous. As Odin, Anthony Hopkins carries himself with the requisite gravitas, natural authority, and regal bearing that one would expect from the Academy Award winning veteran. As Loki, Tom Hiddelston oozes resentment and insecurity-fueled rage. Then there is the most important bit of casting of all, that of Thor himself. Chris Hemsworth is probably best remembered by most people as Kirk’s dad (one single tear) in the most recent Star Trek movie, but beyond that he’s a relative unknown. And that’s a great thing because there’s not much better than a relative unknown breaking out a star making performance in the vein of Christopher Reeve and Hugh Jackman. You don’t often think of super hero films being a showcase for acting range but here Hemsworth runs the gamut. His Thor is at times arrogant, remorseful, funny, flirty, heart broken, raging, and regal. He nails all of these different facets and makes Thor’s emotional journey a believable and relatable one.

The rest of the cast is great. As for the rest of the Asgardians, The Warriors Three and Sif play off each other well and are a joy to watch bicker and fight on screen. I did not expect to like the controversially cast Stringer Bell Idris Elba as Heimdall as much as I did. When he first appears I could not decide if I liked this particular version of the character, but by the end he was one of my favorites. On Earth, the trio of Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, and the Academy Award winning Natalie Portman are all solid as the scientists who find Thor on Earth. Fans of Thor: The Mighty Avenger are going to get a kick out of the Thor and Jane romance. It’s awkward, it’s sweet, and they have a great chemistry together. This movie is, in many ways, a romance. Thor and Jane falling in love is certainly the most believable and endearing pairing of the Marvel Studios movies to date.

The most surprising thing about Thor is that it is, at times, extremely funny. There hasn’t been a Marvel Studios movie this funny since Iron Man. The fish out of water scenario that Thor finds himself in on Earth is a tried and true comedy trope and there’s a reason for that – it’s funny. There is a fantastic physical gag and a great joke about horses that I’m still laughing about. A lot of credit goes to Chris Hemsworth for showing some very able comedy chops.

But this isn’t all kissing and pratfalls. No, there is big action to be had in Thor as well. As a long time fan of The God of Thunder, it was extremely satisfying to see him smashing things with his hammer. And it’s not all just smashing, but there’s the spinning of the hammer, and the calling down of the thunder, and all that awe-inspiring stuff that Thor does on the page that is even more awe-inspiring on screen.

(Yes, there’s a cameo in the film by an Avenger we haven’t seen on screen yet. Yes, we have reported on it. But do yourself a favor and go into it knowing as little about that cameo as possible, like I did. You will enjoy it all the more. It’s awesome.)

What we have in Thor is a film that stands up next to Iron Man in terms of over all quality and entertainment value. I haven’t yet decided if it’s better than Iron Man — I think I need to see it a few more times — but the fact that I’m having the debate in my head should tell you something about how good of a time at the movies Thor is.

And finally, don’t make the mistake that about 20% of the audience at my screening made and bolt for the door as soon as the credits start to roll. Yes, there is a post-credits sequence and it might be the most important (and surprising) one yet.

 

4.5 Stars

(Out of 5)

(This review is spoiler-free and keep the comments that way too. Any comments with spoilers will be deleted. For a full-on spoiler filled review of Thor, stay tuned for a Special Edition Podcast when the movie officially comes out in North America.)

Comments

  1. Sounds great! Looking forward to seeing this this weekend!

  2. I was so surprised how much I enjoyed this film. I’ve seen it twice now; and it MIGHT be hovering just above Iron Man in terms of pure enjoyment.

  3. Is this film accessible for non Thor and non comic fans? Does it pass the “my wife has never read a comic and has only seen Iron Man” test?

  4. @ComicBookGuy37  How have you seen it twice?

  5. Can’t wait to see this movie on Sunday.

  6. While I am extremely excited to see it, I work at a movie theater, so I’m equally not excited for it.

  7. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    @SamIAm  You will find that many in the iFanbase have already seen the movie because it’s already out in other countries like England and Australia. 

    Excited to see this on Friday morning! Will probably see it a second time with my dad, who loves the Marvel Studios stuff so far. 

  8. I’m unsure whether this is my favourite Marvel Studios movie so far, as I haven’t seen Iron Man in a while, but I definitely can’t wait to see it again. Excellent stuff! Great review also.

  9. Thank you for this great review, Conor. I’ve lept into too many reviews for movies like this (and indeed, this movie) that tauted themselves as spoiler-free, but were either lying or useless. This is a great analysis for the film completely free of surprise-ruining info. Kudos, sir.

    Man, I am so damn hype for this movie.

  10. @PaulMontgomery  Ah. I didn’t think about that. Thanks.

  11. Cool.  I’m excited.

  12. @ComicBookGuy37  That is VERY high praise. 

  13. I couldn’t agree more with this review. Conor hit all my favourite points on the head (with a hammer — couldn’t resist). I don’t think I could say better.

  14. Since the movie been out for a week here in Sweden I saw it last friday.
    I have been waiting for the iFanboy-review since then to find out if the movie really was as good as I thought.
    Seems like it was 🙂
    Going to see it again on saturday.

  15. So glad to see this movie is good. I was really nervous about this one.

  16. The Avenger’s cameo, that Conor mention was effin’ awesome.

  17. Nice Review, totally agree that Idris Elba as Heimdall was Awesome, and I love that Ray Stevenson has made it into another Marvel movie, I liked his take on The Punisher (so-so on the movie itself unfortunately), but his Volstagg was fun.

    The <3-D> Glasses do Nothing! At least for this movie I personally felt they were annoying, When the movie finally comes to my local theatre I’ll see it again the plain way, it’s going to make a GORGEOUS Blu-Ray Watch on a decent HDTV 🙂

  18. @jackietam Was it ever! Funny too, because there were only 6 people left in my theatre when it came on, we all had to put our 3D Glasses back on, all the while the cinema had turned on the lights and the staff were cleaning around us, we couldn’t barely make anything out it was so washed out, damn lights, lol

  19. Just watched this early this afternoon with my parents and I loved it, not as much as Iron Man, though. The strong suit of this movie is definitely the visuals. The cinematic debut of the nine realms is definitely a sight to behold. The only thing I didn’t like here was the romance part. Contrary to Conor’s take, I think the romance between Thor and Jane was forced and rushed. They had like 4 scenes max together and only 1 of those were heart felt, but in the end they we’re passed of as being in love. But I guess it’s a matter of opinion. Overall I’ll give it a B+ or a 4 stars or a 90 or whatever the equivalent of these are on some other scale. Just know it’s good.

    PS: Loved the cameos, specially that of the avenger. Even before they showed his (or maybe her) face, I blurted out his name because of some clue that even the most casual marvel/avenger fan will get.

  20. Lol, still chuckling about the horse bit, you will all laugh. watch it in 2d as well guys. Waste of money in 3d.

  21. @Connor – I agree with everything you’ve said here. Listing all of the good things in this film would take a much longer post, but in a nutshell:
    – the production design does, indeed, rock.
    – Stan’s cameo is hysterical
    – Hemsworth is pitch-perfect in the title role
    – The Destroyer, Heimdal & Bifrost are so cool it’s ridiculous
    – As I said in another post elsewhere, treat yourself to IMAX 3D if you can; it is SO worth it.

    @ComicBookGuy37 – I’ve also seen it twice – if anything, I enjoyed it more the second time around (I can’t remember the last time I felt that way about a film).

  22. Hey thanks for spoiling the Avengers cameo – even though I didn’t click on the link, I just moused over it and saw the url…  ah well, not my favorite Avenger anyway…

  23. The most 3D bit in the film is the end sequence when the credits start. 

    It’s an amazing sequence, but it’s not worth the price of 3D 

  24. Connor’s spoiler-free review is spot on. Comic fans won’t be disappointed. My gripe was the beard: couldn’t we have had a baby-faced, clean-shaven god of thunder?

  25. I have to second the 3D comment. It’s not only not worth it, its hurts the first big action scene a bit. It’s a little on the dark side, and the quick action and cuts are not helped by the 3D. The asgard stuff in 3d is awesome though. Id place this a notch below iron Man and only because Downey is just more fun to watch. And the destroyer is just pure awesomeness wrapped in cgi metal. This is BIG and EPIC.
    .

  26. Thanks for a ‘spoiler free’ review that actually was spoiler free! Good review and it whets my appetite for this weekend. I was one of the fans who saw Branaugh’s name and immediately stopped worrying and as more and more information came out, it became clear that it would not be bad at least. Now an ifanboy review as well? Great! Cannot wait to drop my $ for some good times.

    The most surprising thing to me has been the people supporting the post-production 3D. Normally, it is universally hated, but it seems to have found some kind of support. Interesting.

  27. I’m really looking forward to seeing the movie this weekend.  I’m glad to hear such positive buzz.

  28. @wallythegreenmonster My girlfriend gets literally dragged to these things and she loved it, she loved Hemsworth, she loved the romance, and I thought she’d hate the sheer amount of in-your-face, unapologetic Asgardness in the film and she didn’t. 4 stars, she says! 

  29. I want to go to this… 😀

  30. Yeah, I went to see this with two no-Thor fans and they loved it.

    Just awesome fun.

  31. @Conor: simply a perfect review of the movie. Seen it last weekend, will see it again this weekend. (One of the perks of living outside the US.) I also gave it 4.5 stars… My review, in Portuguese, for those who can read it (or Google Translate it): http://b33p.me/2011/05/04/critica-thor-de-kenneth-branagh-2/

  32. @boosebaster  -hey thanks.  Yeah i was wondering. My wife is less than enthused for the previews but usually loves the Superhero ones i take her to. The only downfall is that as part of the trade, i have to see a rom-com with her..not fun. haha

  33. Yep, its a very, very good movie! Great review Conor, you really nailed it. I was pleasantly surprised by how funny it was in places, and how effectively they balanced those moments with the awesome action scenes. And the romance really is believable and a treat to watch unfold. Also: Idris Elba is amazing! i do have a few issues with it, but I guess I’ll save those for another thread, once a few more people have had a chance to see it.

    I will say this: for my money, I still think Iron Man just about edges it…

  34. I absolutely adored this movie. Everything Connor said was spot on and I believe just for the sheer design and scope, it’s better than Iron Man. I recieved the Simonson omnibus the day before I saw it so it was a wonderful  time to be a Thor fan.

    And yes forget the 3D, it adds nothing to the movie at all. 

  35. It’s a good fun action film, Hemsworth, Hopkins and Hiddleston were all great. The Avengers stuff seeemed crow barred in and the ending was a bit anticlimactic.

  36. How can anyone spoil it when it comes out Tommorow, I plan to watch it Tuesday to avoid the crowd either way I’m going to spend $7 to go see it conor how do you spoil a movie this early?

  37. @rottenjorge  It’s already out in the UK and Australia and other countries not in North America.

  38. Wow your serious about spoilers, you deleted what I typed I only made a guess, I guess It’s a good one that was there because I don’t what happens I’m just assuming from comicbook lore in the marvel universe, Hell I didn’t even watch what bleeding cool leaked of the last scene which is weird, can I atleast do a review of the new issue of the boys conor?

  39. @rottenjorge  “(This review is spoiler-free and keep the comments that way too. Any comments with spoilers will be deleted. For a full-on spoiler filled review of Thor, stay tuned for a Special Edition Podcast when the movie officially comes out in North America.)”

  40. worried how the earth scenes having boring sets, but I guess if the comedy and action hold up when I see it, should be fun