The God of Thunder gets the Hollywood treatment in Marvel's latest comic-book adaptation of the mighty Thor. Directed by Kenneth Brannagh and boasting a high-profile supporting cast of Natalie Portman and Sir Anthony Hopkins, Thor aims to take the super-hero movie by storm with it's whizzy effects and complex Norse back-story. But does it live up to the hype and expectation? Will it leave you hammered with disappointment, or struck with excitement? And, most importantly, can it manage to pull off fantasy-like Norse costumes without coming off overwhelmingly camp?
The story, would you believe it, follows Thor (relative Aussie newcomer, Chris Hemsworth), the son and heir to the King of the heavenly realm of Asgard, Odin (Hopkins). After tensions rise between the gods of Asgard and the Frost-Giants of Jotunheim, Thor takes it upon himself to sort things out, the only way he knows how; smashing heads with his almighty hammer, Mjolnir. However, a future king must know when not to fight, and so Odin banishes him to Earth with no powers, to learn a lesson. But it seems Thor's envious brother, Loki the God of Mishief (Tom Hiddleston) is up to, well... mischief, in the land of Asgard...
|Asgard looks lovely this time of the year...|
While on Earth, Thor will have to face a strange mortal world, devoid of his previous strength. But he's not alone, as astrophysicist Jane Foster (Portman) and her pals help the ex-god to reclaim Mjolnir and return home. But it's going to take a lot more than that to end his banishment, as the ever-medaling S.H.E.I.L.D. get involved, amongst over betrayals and problems.
The family drama of it all is very well done, specifically in the Asgard and pre-banishment scenes, and are perfectly pushed forward by the emotive performances of Hiddleston and Hemsworth as the rival brothers. The world of Asgard itself is pristinely imagined and feels every-bit the realm of immortals, despite the fact it's a little unlively. And the space/galaxy twist helps to make it more grounded and realistic to fit in among previous Marvel ventures.
The Earth locales, on the other hand, aren't so hot. Mostly taking place over a few days in a small desert town in New Mexico, our world feels a bit boring in terms of imagery compared to the great Golden towers of Asgard. Thankfully, it's lifted up by the delightful performances of the human cast. While Portman is just fine as the determined science-girl, Jane, it's her two friends, Darcy and Erik (Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard) that add dainty humour and humanity to proceedings, as they deal with this strange, new man of Thor.
Which is not to say Thor's time on Earth is entirely slapstick, as previous trailers might suggest, because there is still plenty of drama (namely unrealistic romance) and action going on around. While said action can at times be too fast and close-up, the effects and imagery are fantastic, and the 3-D is occasionally a blast. From the dazzling battles in the ice-realm to the gritty tussles in a rain-dampened S.H.E.I.L.D. base, the fights are stylishly executed. Plus, the costume design team should be commended for their electrifying renditions of the famous Norse outfits, which are sizzlingly modern yet creatively god-like, expertly side-stepping the disastrous trap of campness and cheese.
Although Thor isn't doing anything drastically new for the genre, it's a fresh break from certain over-used conventions of the superhero movie and feels vastly different (for better or for worse) than those in the same category. The family and betrayal angle lends something special to it all, creating a much more human sense to the otherwise ridiculous source material. Director Brannagh has done very well to bring a film about mystical gods into a relatable and dramatic environment, that you'd be hard pressed not to enjoy. The ending may be abrupt and the Earth parts somewhat underwhelming, but there's still all the classic comic-book action that we all know and love.
Oh, and you may want to stay behind after the credits for a little sneak at what's in store for both Captain America and The Avengers!