Movie Review: Lightning Strikes with ‘Thor’

Aliens, rainbow bridges, frost giants, Norse gods, mystical beasts and fire breathing robots.  Thor has everything you expect from a Marvel superhero movie, and some unexpected surprises that hit you like a bolt of lightning and have you begging for more.

If Thor is any indication of the quality of the upcoming season’s blockbusters, then audiences will be in for one hell of a treat for Summer 2011.  Thor is the perfect example of how to make an epic superhero popcorn-action flick — incorporating humor, wit and near Shakespearean undertones.  Thor, played by Australian newcomer Chris Hemsworth, is exactly what you would expect from a god of thunder.  He’s tall, ripped, handsome, dashing, and yet a little full of himself and eager for battle.  After crossing his father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins), Thor is stripped of his powers and banished via wormhole to Earth.  Crash-landing in the New Mexico desert, he is rescued by a team of scientists lead by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).  While most of the story’s humor relies on ‘fish out of water’ scenarios, there is a stirring core of emotional connections — both to the characters and the story itself.

What I really liked about Thor is that most of the story takes place on Asgard, rather than having an unholy war brought to the unsuspecting Earth.  There is really only a small sliver of the movie that focuses on Earth, allowing us to get lost in the immersive atmosphere of the world of these Norse gods and goddesses.  I wasn’t sure how well Paramount and Marvel Studios could attack a story this epic and fantastical, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the humor and locales were balanced to make this godly story believable and current.

If you’re debating whether or not to see Thor in 3D, please allow me to make a suggestion: Spend the extra couple of dollars and see it in 3D.  The 3D effects lend a heavy hand in fully fleshing out the CGI landscapes and fight scenes, without being gimmicky and silly.  I think we have finally graduated from the days of 3D gimmicks and antics, thank God.  People have realized the full potential of what these graphics can do, and Thor is yet another example of how to use them well.     All the CGI is exceptionally good, and there is quite a bit of it in this film.  Asgard is a mountainous and beautiful planet.  The atmosphere is thin enough to see galaxies and stars in nearly every shot, and there is a waterfall of epic proportions that seemingly drops off into the depths of space.  Then of course, there’s the Bifröst Bridge (a really cool way to jettison yourself between worlds on a ‘Rainbow Bridge’) and  Jotunheim — the home planet of the enemies of Asgard, the Frost Giants.  Let’s talk about these Frost Giants for a minute.  Thanks to some crafty CGI, these guys look like they would be right at home playing for the Monstars in Space Jam.  They’re gigantic, blue and scaly, have blood red eyes, and can turn you to ice with a mere touch.  Not to mention they have some pretty intimidating guard dogs to boot.  Thor nails the desired agility, depth, and fearsomeness of these adversaries to a tee.

The graphics weren’t the only impressive aspects to Thor; the acting was superb.  Anthony Hopkins does a fantastic job of making you forget that it’s him under that beard and eye patch, leaving no doubt in your mind that he is truly Odin, King of Asgard.  Not only does Chris Hemsworth make one stud-muffin of a Thor, he completely brings the character to life, adding many different layers to the character as the story progresses.  I really hope to see more out of him in the near future.  Natalie Portman is Natalie Portman — amazing as usual.  While her role wasn’t a big one, she made Jane feel totally believable, giving here that ‘head in the clouds’ nerdy personality, while retaining a connection to the audience.

There were only a few small complaints that I had with Thor, and neither were enough to dampen my mood while watching the film.  The first being that there were many skewed camera angles, in what I assume were an attempt at creating a little anxiety in the viewer.  It makes me wonder what the director, Ken Branagh, was trying to convey. Also, for being 2 hours and 10 minutes long, it only felt like I was sitting there for about an hour and a half.  I attribute that to the fact that there was only a handful of major plot points distributed throughout the film.  It’s not exactly a bad thing, really, since a lot of that time we were being introduced to the fantastic characters, learning the back-stories, and enjoying the character interactions and landscapes.  As I said, these were only minor complaints, but overall didn’t detract from my Thor experience in the least.

For those of you who are looking forward to the upcoming Avengers movie, you definitely don’t want to miss Thor.  There are loads of easter eggs in this flick, and the script is loaded with obvious hints and clues.  One highlight is that there is a well anticipated cameo by Jeremy Renner, in which his character is working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and wielding a pretty significant weapon: a bow.  While they didn’t come out and say it, if you’re a Marvel fan, you’ll recognize him right away as Hawkeye, and member of the Avengers.  As usual, if you need your Sam Jackson/Nick Fury fix, stay in your seat until after the credits roll.  You won’t be disappointed.

If you are looking for a superhero action flick that will knock you off your feet, Thor‘s your huckleberry.  Riveting and witty, with a splash of well timed humor, Thor is the best Marvel superhero movie since the original Spiderman (2002) and Iron Man (2008).  Thor is a go-see film that sets the bar high not only for summer movies, but for superhero movies in general.

I give Thor 4.5 “Pop Tarts” out of 5.

by Rachael Edwards

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