“Thor” hammers away at box office

thor

"Thor"
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins
2011, PG-13, 114 minutes

In Norse mythology, Asgard is one of nine worlds; it is inhabited by gods, and contains part of a giant tree named Yggdrasil. Also of import is Bifrost - a rainbow bridge that connects Asgard to Earth. So how do you translate these peculiar things to film? It's a tall order, even for a Hollywood flick. But Marvel Studios never ceases to prove that anything is possible, with the right cast and director. Rather than coming off as corny and preposterous, Thor contains scenes that are grandiose and moving.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the God of Thunder and son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Thor defies his father's orders by breaking a truce between their race and beings called the Frost Giants. Angered by his son's arrogance, Odin exiles Thor to Earth, where he lands in New Mexico and meets scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her colleagues. Accompanied by Jane, Thor tries to retrieve his hammer, but fails. Meanwhile, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) collaborates with the Frost Giants, and puts father Odin into an enchanted slumber. Loki then makes plans to keep Thor banished, and proceeds to take over the throne of Asgard. As creatures make their way to Earth and cause destruction, Thor must prove himself worthy to wield his hammer, and make his way back to Asgard to set things right.

The design and tone of the film separates it from other mythology-based efforts that ended up being flops (like Clash of the Titans). But this film is more than just pleasing to comic book and mythology fanatics; it is highly critical of manipulative profit-driven groups. When government organization S.H.I.E.L.D. tries to take Jane Foster's research away, the film makes a point of addressing a real world situation - one in which big corporations try to step on individual rights.

Thor also has the benefit of having a strong female lead in Jane Foster. Said Portman of the role, "What a great opportunity, in a movie that is going to be seen by a lot of people, to have a woman as a scientist. She's an astrophysicist. I got to read all these biographies of female scientists like Rosalind Franklin who discovered the DNA double helix but didn't get credit for it. It is these little things that make girls think it's possible - it doesn't give them a role model of 'oh, I just have to dress cute in movies.'"

If this film has any shortcomings, they lie in its unsteady beginning (was a flashback truly appropriate, rather than simply showing the scenes in sequential order?). However, once we start to get into the swing of things, we enjoy the action, the humor (there's plenty of it!), and a somewhat epic, Shakespearean feel to the whole affair.

Bonus points go to Marvel Studios for a clever decision: In a post-credits scene that features Samuel L. Jackson, we learn information that links the plot of Thor with the upcoming Captain America. The creators plan to integrate their heroes into a shared universe, culminating in the Avengers in 2012. It's a novel idea, but it has to be done right, and offer something of value to the audience. We need to walk away from a film feeling as if we've learned something. Thor certainly provided that feeling, and let's face it: In the midst of bad sequels and rehashed ideas, we needed a progressive fantasy film to captivate us. Thor tried very hard to do that - and it didn't disappoint.

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  • To Jim Lane:

    You and I spoke of Joss Whedon's work in the past. I think you and I know what we are in store for with "Avengers." I also think that people who didn't watch the progression of the stories and themes in shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel," really missed a great deal in the subtext.

    The same holds true for "Thor." While not a Whedon production (though Chris Hemsworth was cast as "Thor" on his recommendation), it has both anti-war and anti-corporate subtext to it. If a viewer is fixating on surface appearances (which to me, were also well done and visually stunning), they may miss the actual theme of the story.

    Posted by Robin Brownfield, 05/16/2011 7:55pm (4 years ago)

  • I think "Avengers" will not disappoint. It is being written and directed by Joss Whedon (whose birth name is Joseph Hill Whedon, comes from politically progressive parents, and is himself, among the most progressive filmmakers in the industry). Joss Whedon is the best there is in terms of character development, story, and infusing deeper meaning into his productions. Anyone familiar with his work knows that it is never what it appears to be on the surface - and there is ultimately always an anti-corporate, anti-right-wing, anti-misogynist, anti-war bent to his stories.

    Posted by Robin Brownfield, 05/16/2011 7:43pm (4 years ago)

  • I went to see Thor wanting to be "entertained" and was delighted! Great cast, interesting contrast between the somber mythology and Thor's humorous encounters with how we do things on earth -- some laugh out loud scenes!
    Although the film is shown in two versions, I did NOT go to see the 3-D version -- to me that is just an expensive rip-off.

    Posted by Barbara R., 05/15/2011 11:00am (4 years ago)

  • I thought the second half of the movie, where Thor is the hero because he is willing to sacrifice himself for others has a better idea of heroism than most movies and TV nowadays, where the hero is the guy (occasionally, gal) who can kick the most ass with the coolest quips. And the climax where the villain is a villain because he wants to commit genocide and is stopped by the hero destroying some of "his" own weaponry, by Hollywood's deranged modern standards, verged on the subversive.

    Verged mind you. I can't say the movie is very good. The visualization of the frost giants homeworld and the big action piece set there is stale. Asgard has no people to speak of and all the characters look like eccentrics pretending they live in the Lincoln Memorial instead of a real home. Part of the problem with the movie is the subordination of sense to spectacle. For a tiny example, there is some bizarre set of labyrinthine man-high plastic tubes over the crater the hammer falls into. Why is it there? Only so Thor, without his god-powers, can fight his way through!

    But isn't it a shame that a mediocre comic book movie knows more about real heroism than most other Hollywood products? This was so embarrassing to the producers they had to hint at a love relationship between Thor and Portman's character. Apparently your average Hollywood producer can't manage to grasp a disinterested motive!

    Posted by s johnson, 05/14/2011 11:30am (4 years ago)

  • Nice review! I hadn't planned to see this one, since recent comic-book adaptations haven't been very good. We need to cover more of popular movies AND television.
    --jim lane in Dallas

    Posted by jim lane, 05/12/2011 3:56pm (4 years ago)

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