"Thor" a Thunderous Success

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Arriving in theaters with exactly the type of bombast befitting the film debut of the God of Thunder, Marvel Studios’ Thor is not only perhaps the most polished of Marvel Studios’ outings thus far—due in no small part to some excellent directing by Kenneth Branagh—but is also the most ambitious. After the relatively down-to-earth Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2, Thor brings a grand, otherworldly mythology to the cinematic Marvel Universe that will no doubt be expanded upon in this summer’s Captain America: The First Avenger and next summer’s highly anticipated film union of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, The Avengers.

The film kicks off when a team of researchers (played by Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings) comes across a strange phenomenon in the New Mexico desert. At the center of this supernatural occurrence—later revealed to be a wormhole to another realm—is a bulked-up drifter (Chris Hemsworth) claiming to be a Norse deity. While her teammates are wary of this potentially dangerous stranger, Portman’s character, Jane Foster, finds herself drawn to him. Could it be his piercing blue eyes, chiseled physique and lady-killing smile? Or does Jane somehow believe him when he says he is Thor Odinson, heir to the throne of Asgard?

Although we’re inclined to avoid people who claim to be Viking gods, Jane is right to trust Thor, who, after disobeying his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), is stripped of his powers and banished to Earth. In Thor’s absence, his calculating brother Loki (played to mischievous perfection by scene stealer Tom Hiddleston), seizes the opportunity to take the throne and claim what he believes is rightfully is. Assuming lordship over Asgard, Loki sets into action a treacherous plot that calls to mind several of the films in Branagh’s Shakespeare-heavy résumé. The film switches back and forth between Loki’s familial machinations on Asgard and Thor’s fish-out-of-water shenanigans on Earth, which can be jarring at times. But once Thor is reunited with his iconic hammer Mjolnir, both stories converge wonderfully for a fast-paced climax that hints at major things to come in the cinematic Marvel Universe.

From an early sequence pitting Thor and an assemblage of Asgardians against hordes of snarling Frost Giants to a thrilling battle against the armored Destroyer in the New Mexico desert to the sibling smackdown between Thor and Loki on the Bifrost (the Rainbow Bridge connecting Asgard to the other eight realms), Thor isn’t short on action or special effects, putting to rest concerns that Branagh couldn’t handle a blockbuster of this magnitude. On the contrary, Thor at times resembles a superheroic Lord of the Rings in the best way possible.

At the center of all the action and intrigue is Thor’s blossoming romance with Jane, a character played with subdued sweetness and a dash of moxie by the Academy Award-winning actress. In his breakout role, Hemsworth dons Thor’s chainmail and crimson cape with effortless nobility, and even shines surprisingly well during the film’s more comedic moments.

Like all of Marvel Studios’ films, Thor is laden with in-jokes and nods to the source material. Look for cameos from other stars in next year’s Avengers—which won’t be spoiled here—in addition to references to team members we’ve met previously. In one of the most humorous winks to the fans, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent wonders aloud of the hulking mechanical terror known in Asgard as the Destroyer is “one of [Tony] Stark’s,” to which our old pal Agent Coulson (Gregg Clark) replies, “I dunno, he never tells me anything.” In keeping with Marvel Studios tradition, fans would be wise to stay to the end of the credits for a brief (and, frankly, very cool) bonus scene.

Easily on par with the first Iron Man film, Thor is a thrilling adventure that balances grandiose mythology, high-octane action and—dare I say it—romance. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s hammer time!

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  • Eric Lindberg

    Eric Lindberg May 9, 2011 at 12:51am

    Agreed. I enjoyed this a lot. I thought it balanced the high fantasy scenes with the modern day America ones well and had a good mix of humor, drama, and action. I also liked how they reconciled the mythological elements in Marvel's otherwise science-based universe. The audience could accept the gods and magic or interpret it as advanced other-dimensional science (whichever worked for you).

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