Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Ashley Miller (screenplay), Zack Stentz (screenplay), J. Michael Straczynski & Mark Protosevich (story)
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman
Kenneth Branagh (yes loveys, that Kenneth Branagh) brings us the fourth film to be released in the MCU with a slightly humorous script from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Andromeda writers Miller and Stentz. This was a film that puzzled me when I first watched it as I really didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. Maybe the setting and the company at the time perhaps but I certainly found a new appreciation for this feature upon a subsequent viewing and found it much better than I originally thought.
We start in the desert of New Mexico as we follow a small group of people monitoring the skies during the night. Suddenly the heavens open and as they tray to high-tail it out of the area, what appears to be a man comes crashing down to earth. We are then transported back to Nine sixty-five A.D. and a monologue informs us of the past and the Gods who gave us their help before returning to their ever eternal Asgard and the peace they brought to all worlds.
Branagh was certainly an unusual pick to make this kind of film given his usual work but he really steps up to the plate and delivers us a good solid superhero film. The fantastical and mythology regarding Norse legends and their Gods perhaps suited him and along with the screenplay he did a good job of bringing Thor to the big screen and into the Marvel cinematic Universe. Branagh’s style is actually perfectly suited to Thor’s grandeur and own style as well as the old English that he so often uses.
This is pretty much both an origin film for Thor (a dashing Hemsworth and his brother Loki (Hiddleston) and a film to bring them into the universe in preparation for The Avengers. It works in both ways as we find out about them as children and screen time is split steadily between Earth and Asgard. While Thor amuses himself on earth we see Loki bargaining a deal with the frost giants of Jotunheim but the main problem here is that, while all this is going on the actual story is perhaps a little on the dull side.
Chris Hemsworth makes the film though without a doubt. He is every bit the image of the mighty Thor with his blue eyes and flowing golden locks. Arrogant, cocky and full of himself, Hemsworth well and truly steals the show and that is a good thing, as without his presence, ability and charisma I fear this could have turned out to be another Incredible Hulk. As it was this proved another huge success for Marvel if not quite to the excellent standards of the first Iron Man film which still stands head and shoulders over the other released films.
Natalie Portman (in a more reserved role this time) and the ever wonderful Stellan Skarsgård add extra chops to this feature and while neither are terribly central to the film or its plot, both play their parts well and add extra quality to a film that would have missed their ability also. I do unfortunately have to say that Hopkins does play Hopkins rather than Odin and I personally think he has become far too samey in his performances of late. Likewise Hiddleston while also an excellent actor is not very imposing here and just seems far too whiney.
As is par for the course now, Agent Coulson pops up (which you should have guessed from Iron Man 2 (or the Marvel One-Shot) and we also get our first glimpse of Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton in a small cameo role (though uncredited), also in preparation for The Avengers. Idris Elba also crops up as Heimdall, the guardian of the Bifrost which allows the Asgardian Gods to traverse worlds. A small role perhaps but one he excels at and looks every bit the part.
Visually the film is highly impressive with its special effects and photography, especially the Jotunheim segments. The action scenes are all well choreographed and shot even if some of the close up action gets a little dizzying. A solid entry in the franchise with a likeable and humorous Thor but which also tells a deeper story within its actions. I just wish we could drop the shoe-horned love interests as they really don’t add a great deal to the stories we are being told. Recommended to even non superhero fans.
The Sage’s Rating: