by Tim Ross
The latest Marvel film is thundering its way into the franchise pantheon of fan boy favorites. While “Thor” hasn’t yet reached the heights of “Spider Man” or “Iron Man” in popularity, the film about the iconic god of thunder had the third largest opening in Marvel history.
The film diverges in large ways from its comic book incarnation, but the creators, including director Kenneth Branagh, stay faithful to the core tenets of the story.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the greatest warrior in the otherworldly land of Asgard and son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and is essentially a mere mortal without his magical hammer, Mjolnir. He’s a vain and overly proud young man bent more on destruction than diplomacy as a path to power.
Faithful to the Marvel telling, Thor is exiled to earth after his arrogant, aggressive behavior strains peace relations with the Frost Giants, Asgard’s ancient enemies.
His expulsion to earth through some sort of wormhole is viewed by scientists Jane Porter (Natalie Portman) and Erik (Stellan Skarsgård), who had been investigating atmospheric phenomena. They soon find themselves helping this intriguing, strange-talking newcomer who says he’s from another realm.
Other elements retained from the comic franchise include Thor’s adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), painted in this film with a nicely complex brush. Elements that have been left out include Thor’s dual existence as a mortal doctor named Blake who can transform into a hero when needed. Gone, too, is the backstory of his birth and upbringing.
Asgard, as a realm in another part of space and, perhaps, another dimension, is a nifty way for us to accept notions of alien visits, as is explaining physical phenomena through mythology. Thor explains to Jane that magic and science are one and the same in Asgard.
“Thor” tells a compelling story of a man who can only find his true worth when he learns more about what it is to be a man. Still, it’s a big-budget summer blockbuster offering, so even a filmmaker as classically trained as Branagh sticks close to blockbuster formula. The film is loaded with action sequences, special effects and a sexy physicist. Will a Hollywood filmmaker ever cast a regular-looking person as a brainiac?
This film entertains on many levels, from a strong cast to a story that both introduces the franchise in a comprehensible way and sets it up nicely for Thor’s next appearance in the future Marvel offering, “The Avengers.”
Viewers don’t need to know the first thing about the comic book character to enjoy this story and the special effects don’t hurt. I enjoyed the use of 3-D here perhaps more than I ever have. Instead of constantly bombarding us with projectiles, the most compelling use of the 3-D technology, at least for me, was during the quieter moments. I remember thinking to myself a few times that it seemed as if I was looking through a window at the actors, and I appreciated Branagh for not forcing script elements to accommodate 3-D.
I suspect Thor will continue to pound his way into box offices everywhere and Marvel Comics clearly has another hit on their hands.
Grade: 3/4 Stars