“Thor” is directed by Kenneth Branagh and it’s the fourth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this one introducing the god Thor. The story is that Thor has been banished to Earth by his father Odin after starting a war that could bring harm to the people of their home, Asgard. While Thor is powerless on Earth, his brother Loki is set on becoming king of Asgard and now Thor has to redeem himself, regain his power, and prove that he’s the true heir to the throne of Asgard.
Back when this movie was being released in 2011, I was one of those people who genuinely thought this movie wasn’t going to be any good at all. The MCU had a misfire with “Iron Man 2” and now they’re tackling the story of a god? No less, a god with a magic hammer? No thanks. Keep in mind that this was back before Chris Hemsworth was as established as he is now. I personally just saw Hemsworth as some pretty boy who looked like he should be in a Calvin Klein underwear commercial, not a Summer blockbuster that’s part of a major cinematic universe that was still in its early stages. Nevertheless, I walked into “Thor” as a very pessimistic teenager, but I walked out feeling like the MCU was back on track.
Like I just said, I was very skeptical of Chris Hemsworth’s acting abilities, but he really impressed me as Thor. He does a good job of playing the bratty, entitled prince of Asgard who basically just wants the throne because of the power that comes with it. He’s a reckless hothead, but he doesn’t cross the line into being an unlikable protagonist. And when he does start to undergo some change on Earth is when you really start to see Hemsworth’s range as an actor, what with his charm, comedic timing, and even raw emotion when he’s been dealt a personal blow. Thor himself goes through some noticeable changes as a character and it wouldn’t work as well if anyone other than Hemsworth was in the role.
To contrast Thor, we have Tom Hiddleston playing one of the MCU’s stronger villains, Loki, god of mischief and Thor’s adopted brother. What makes Loki work so well is his backstory. He’s spent so much of his life growing up believing Asgard to be his home, Thor and Odin to be his true family and all he ever wanted was their love, to be seen as an equal to them. But it’s revealed in the film that he was actually born a frost giant as a baby and he was taken from his home by Odin. He basically just sees himself as a stolen prize of Odin after a battle with the frost giants and now he sees himself as inferior to Thor. Everything he does in this movie is for the sake of trying to prove himself as more than just some relic and it’s quite a tragic story for him. And of course Hiddleston does a great job in the role, the scene with him and Odin perfectly capturing his devastation and anger at learning who he really is.
The one criticism aimed at this movie is how much time is spent on Earth as opposed to Asgard. I understand that criticism, but I personally think that setting the movie mostly on Earth is a key factor into Thor’s development as a character. He starts off this movie as what is essentially an Asgardian nationalist and he needs to be able to grow and care for other worlds, and what better way to do so than actually spending time on said world? For the most part, the elements on Earth work very well, thought it’s also a give and take situation.
Thor being on Earth creates a fish-out-of-water scenario for him and that results in a lot of humorous moments that work very well. There are some scenes such as Thor trying to buy a horse at a pet shop or him trying coffee for the first time. Pretty much any scene with him trying to fit in on Earth is funny, though some comedic elements don’t work at all, specifically anything with Kat Denning’s character of Darcy. He whole shtick in this movie is to just do stupid stuff like mispronounce Mjolnir as “mew-mew” and make off-hand comments about her Ipod and Facebook. Darcy could’ve been taken out of this movie completely and I wouldn’t have had an issue with that whatsoever.
This movie’s biggest flaw is easily the romance between Thor and Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman. Portman does good enough in the role and the character is likable enough as a scientist who’s understandably fascinated by Thor, but the fascination soon turns romantic and I simply don’t buy it. Jane is physically attracted to Thor, but the movie doesn’t give them a reason to actually connect and care for another as two people who genuinely love each other. At most, they spend one day together and suddenly Jane loves him and is crying over him when he’s near death in one scene. I don’t buy that they’re romance is based off of anything more than physical attraction and it gets my vote for weakest romantic pairing in the MCU.
In the end, I think “Thor” is a really good addition to the MCU and in terms of introducing mainstream audiences to Thor for the first time, it did its job well. Hemsworth kills it in the role, it has a great villain in Loki, the family dynamic is strong, and it has a story that I think works in developing Thor into the character that we know him as now. This was the MCU movie that we needed to introduce yet another Avenger and it’s brought us one step closer the Avengers movie that’s been built up for so long.
Rating: Full Price!