Movie Review - Thor
Immediately before this film is a trailer for Captain America: The First Avenger. Yet, according to the comics, Thor is a founding member of the Avengers, and, because Thor comes from a mythical figure that goes back to a time before Captain America, technically Thor is the "First Avenger."
The Avengers, if you don't know, are a team of superheroes not unlike the X-Men, except the team isn't limited to mutants. Some of the members include robots, men dressed as robots, and even gods who act robotically. Thor is one such being. He's the Norse god of thunder. He's immortal, and his powers include super strength, super speed, super stamina and super senses. With his magic hammer called Mjolnir, Thor also controls the weather like thunder and lightning, but also the wind, which allows him to fly. Take note of the red, Superman cape.
At the beginning of the movie, Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, is on Asgard with the other Norse gods. The totally CGI-created Asgard is reminiscent of Olympus in Clash of the Titans (2010). Thor is about to be crowned king of Asgard. His father, Odin, played by Oscar-winner Anthony Hopkins, is a few seconds from bestowing that honor when a group of monsters, known as Ice Giants, burst in and disrupt the place.
This causes concern for Thor who knows that there's only one way to get to Asgard from where the Ice Giants live, and that's the Bifrost Bridge. If you've ever seen Stargate (1994) or the alien ship in Contact (1997), the Bifrost is a mix of the teleportation devices in those two movies. When Thor abuses the Bifrost to flaunt his power and possibly start a war with the Ice Giants, Odin gets angry and banishes Thor to Earth without his super abilities.
Thor lands in New Mexico. Jane Foster, played by Natalie Portman, is a scientist who just happens to be in the area. She chases auroras in the sky and quickly reasons that the lights that dropped Thor on Earth, his so-called Bifrost Bridge, is actually an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, obviously. Whether it was magic or advanced technology, Jane wants to know all about Thor and his Bifrost.
But, when Thor starts talking Bifrost and Asgard, Jane's friends think him crazy, but Thor overhears that his hammer is also on Earth. Odin placed it in stone and like Excalibur can only be pulled by the would-be king after he learns to lose his bravado.
Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Thor's brother, Loki ascends to the throne after Odin falls into a coma. Loki comes up with a plan to defeat the Ice Giants, but it amounts to genocide. When Thor's friends, Sif and the three warriors learn this, they decide to go to Earth and retrieve Thor. Loki tries to stop them by launching a secret robotic weapon after them.
All of this attracts the attention of Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., who was introduced in the Iron Man movies. S.H.I.E.L.D. is the fictional, government organization that deals with things, such as the ones encountered in these Marvel comics. It's also the connective tissue for this loosely held movie series, which started with the Iron Man movies, continues with Thor and Captain America, and will culminate in 2012's The Avengers.
As merely an installment in that series, as merely a way of introducing Thor, this film satisfies as a sort of run-of-the-mill comic book movie. It hits all the notes one would expect, but never really goes any further. The movie actually bears the most resemblance to Masters of the Universe (1987), which was based on a Mattel toy. It's almost as if the writer of Thor had that 24-year-old movie starring Dolph Lundgren playing next to him as he was writing. The similarities abound. Lundgren played He-Man, a muscle-bound hero who also had long, blonde hair. Instead of a magical hammer though, He-Man had a more Excalibur-like sword. Instead of a Bifrost Bridge, He-Man had a Cosmic key. He-Man also landed on Earth, but, instead of a desert, he landed in a suburb and instead of a scientist, He-Man meets a teenage girl. Both have enemies that sit on thrones and meet similar fates, but with secret and surprise endings after the final credits.
Even though Masters of the Universe was considered a flop and was negatively reviewed, I have to admit that I thought it was better than Thor. Yes, the costumes and special effects in Thor are more advanced, but the look of Asgard has that Phantom Menace-look of glossy fakeness, and the battles and fight scenes are choreographed as to be barely exciting. I never felt like anyone was in any danger in Thor. For example, there's a moment when a huge monster is unleashed, and it's a "release the Kracken" moment. Yet, the attack is played so ridiculously like the Jabberwocky scene in the recent Alice in Wonderland (2010). As such, it actually becomes boring and it's easily forgettable. As such, all the action scenes are forgettable.
Sadly, Portman, herself now an Oscar-winner, is also quite forgettable. She might have received as much screen time as Gweneth Paltrow in Iron Man. I doubt it, but, even if she did, she, the director or the writer don't give us enough to make Jane memorable. Her character could have been excised from the film entirely and the film wouldn't have lost anything. Her character is not really integral to the plot at all. It's so much so that I completely didn't buy the supposed romance between the Jane and Thor. Jane is given no back story, nothing really to make us care about her. At least, Courtney Cox in Masters of the Universe was given the stuff about her parents. Portman has nothing.
Therefore, everything is put on Hemsworth to carry, and he does carry it well. He's not so robotic as Dolph Lundgren can be in most of his movies, but certainly not as charismatic as Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man. Hemsworth is a good actor. He's winsome and funny, and that maintains the movie, but I dare say that it isn't enough. All that I've read and heard about Hemsworth prior to the film's release is how much of a hunk he is and how much he bulked up for this role. There's even the requisite, shirtless, beefcake shot to show off his brawny body. It's not as gratuitous as all the beefcake shots of Taylor Lautner in the Twilight movies, but still
I first saw Hemsworth in a starring role last year. He was the lead character in a movie called Cash. From that appearance to this one, he really ballooned, almost unnaturally so. There's a joke that Stellan Skarsgård makes about Hemsworth's character in Thor being on steroids, which is funny because it smacks of truthism. It just looked like Hemsworth was stretched, and while I think he is physically stunning and just awesome in this role, I loved his performance in Cash a million times more.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for intense scifi action and violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 54 mins.