[Click below to hear the audio version of this review which aired on WAMD 970 AM.][audio:http://www.daggerpress.com/wp-content/uploads/DAGGER_THOR-MOVIE-REVIEW.mp3|titles=DAGGER_THOR MOVIE REVIEW]
The latest installment in Marvel Studios’ buildup to the highly anticipated “Avengers” film next year, “Thor” provides plenty of backstory but leaves the casual comic book movie fan wondering if it added anything to the pending “Avengers” franchise.
Odin (Anthony Hopkins) casts arrogant son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) from his home of Asgard for violating a long-standing peace treaty with the Frost Giants. Fallen to Earth, Thor must discover how to regain his powers to protect the innocent humans and return order to Asgard.
Marvel knows its fans better than anyone. Judging by the packed screening theater which turned out for a character that usually only has name recognition in a sixth-grade English class mythology unit, the studio will be cashing in big on this gamble. The film does a surprisingly good job of bridging the fantastic elements of the story with real-world dynamics without alienating casual fans.
The special effects are the strongest aspect of the film, outpacing the limited abilities of the actors—other than Hopkins and Natalie Portman, cast as love interest Jane Foster. The sweeping shots of Asgard are phenomenal and the strategic use of 3D to add texture and depth work well. Hemsworth does a good job for a guy whose previous film credits were five minutes George Kirk in the “Star Trek” reboot, and the short film Ollie Klublershturf vs the Nazis, which began with the always classy sound of flatulence. That said, he manages to pull off the Shakespearean edge of Thor without getting bogged down in the script.
The script is extremely well done for the subject matter. It provides exactly what the audience wants to see: simple story lines, plenty of action, touches of humor, and stunning visuals complementing the original graphic novel art form. Hopkins does his best to stretch his lines and screen time by chewing on any scenery within three feet of his character, but it’s forgivable as he is the most senior member of the cast. In a way it works, as an overblown world would have an overblown character as its king.
The film falls apart slightly during the action sequences. The close camera shots combined with the 3D makes the scenes hard to distinguish and, ultimately, a muddled mess of flying debris, weapons, and bodies. Once the camera pulls back and the 3D is again applied as a texturing element, the action is easier to tolerate. That being said, a stronger choreographer should have been brought in to arrange the action sequences. They are sloppy in a way that a film of this budget shouldn’t have to suffer.
As a casual fan, it seems that this film doesn’t seem entirely necessary in terms of the larger “Avengers” franchise. It’s admirable that Marvel made an effort to create a feature-length film containing the history of each character prior to the “Avengers,” but “Thor” doesn’t seem to add much to the final product except his own backstory. While “Iron Man” included elements which explained the world of the franchise, “Thor” does nothing but tell his story and then return him to limbo to wait for the final film. Ask yourself: if he showed up in the “Avengers” without this film would you have noticed? It seems like a bit of a money grab, but then again, it is also a gift to the fans who love the franchise and the characters. It’s hard to argue necessity when the audience is full of people who constructed their own Thor costumes out of love for the genre.
Certainly enjoyable, “Thor” is not the best of the films leading up to “Avengers,” but it doesn’t disappoint either. Both casual and hardcore fans will find much to enjoy.
“See It/ Rent It/ Skip It”: See it, and enjoy the best Stan Lee cameo in any comic book film to date.
THREE STARS out of four.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence.
Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes