So I Thor-oughly enjoyed “Thor”. I’ll be honest; I was not expecting to. I certainly enjoy the occasional comic book film, be it about a boy with serious spider issues or a technology genius with a giant ego and a sharp tongue. That said, I’m hardly an enthusiast. Of late, I’ve felt like Marvel has been making anything they’ve ever drawn into a movie and when I first saw the trailer for “Thor”, I thought, enough already. The two mediums are not meant to be mutually exclusive and not every character deserves to be reinvented for the big screen. Fortunately though, director Kenneth Brannagh has proven me very wrong. Perhaps this might have something to do with Thor not being your typical superhero; Thor is a god and he is a mighty one indeed.
To be fair, Thor isn’t really a god. He was merely seen as one by Viking culture way back around 965 A.D. He is immortal though and I can see how that might be misinterpreted as god-like but no, Thor is just a man – from another galaxy, with super crazy strength, who can never die … and who has an insane body. Still, mistaking him for a god makes his fall from grace oh so much further. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is heir to the throne of Asgard and is on the cusp of inheriting the crown from his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) when he allows pride and selfishness to guide him down a path that leads his people into war. Odin banishes Thor to Earth and strips him of his power, including his infamous hammer, which some of you geekier readers may know as Mjöllnir. God or no God, everyone has their lessons to learn.
Once Thor is on Earth, the action cuts back and forth seamlessly between the mystical heaven-like beauty of Asgard, where magic and science are one and the same and this teeny tiny town in New Mexico, population next to nothing. While the setup that precedes this act is certainly densely weighted in mythology and mysticism, it gets decidedly lighter once Thor crashes to Earth from the heavens. This is in great part due to Thor’s interaction with the team of scientists he runs into, led by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and the quick witted repartee they partake in. Thor is now a strange demi-god in a strange land and Hemsworth plays his predicament with great resolve. He cannot help but be humbled by the damage he has done, his inability to rely on the strength he always has and the genuine caring he gets from Jane. The real chemistry between Hemsworth and a hilarious Portman plays a key role in grounding this otherworldly tale.
What truly cements this fantastical story as still undeniably human is the father-son struggle between Thor and Odin. Brannagh, with his extensive background in Shakespeare, both on screen and on stage, knows that the action in “Thor” is the easy part. That hammer gives him the strength to defeat armies practically on his own and so whatever action he gets himself into, it will take care of itself. But the heart of the film has to be relatable. Thor is but a boy learning how to become a man, learning to put the good of the universe before himself. Odin is just a father, waiting for his boy to find the inner virtue he knew all along to be there. We’ve all been there, more or less. And so, Brannagh becomes his own incarnation of Odin, providing the tools that make it possible for a comic book to grow into the movie it was always meant to be.
Review by Joseph Belanger