Saturday, 21 April 2012

Thor (2011, Kenneth Branagh)

Thor could have been a throw away effort, existing only for the benefit of the ever looming Avengers film. After the diminishing results since Ironman (2008) one can be forgiven in fearing the worst, since the sequel lacked the charm and entertainment factor present in the stellar first instalment, throw in The Incredible Hulk (2008) for a painful reminder and the odds were hardly brilliant. It's relieving news then that Thor is in fact one of the most entertaining films one could possibly hope to endure, and an instalment that stands strong on it's own and apart from the collective piece it belongs to.

The character of Thor played by Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth literally lands into the lives of astrophysicists Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgard. Through flashback we understand why our God of thunder has been exiled from his world of Asgard. Thor is the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) king of Asgard, Odin has waged war with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim for many years but has managed to secure peace through stealing their main power source. Thor is heir to Odin's throne and is an arrogant soul who craves attention and battle. Through his arrogance and pigheadedness he goes against his father's wishes after an isolated attack by the Ice Giants, his defiance proves fatal, and through his brother Loki's (Tom Hiddleston) jealous manipulation of events Thor is stripped of his powers and cast out of Asgard, sent to live as a human on Earth.

Our introduction to Asgard is a stunning one full of vibrance and splendour; save for a few over elaborate shots, the fantasy world of Thor's birthplace feels nicely grounded and lived in. Director Kenneth Branagh has mainly forged a career out of great literary adaptations and is best known for his takes on Shakespeare. Comparisons can be drawn from Thor's story and of Shakespeare; Thor as a man has the thirst for blood and sense of honour as Henry V , the familial treachery apparent in Hamlet is also present as brother Loki's malignant presence and eventual attack on Earth makes him our key antagonist.

Comic book material could be viewed as beneath Branagh but he clearly didn't see it that way, respect for the source has given way to a thoroughly enjoyable blockbuster full of action, spectacle, and humour. The scenes of action are well handled considering Branagh is still cutting his teeth in that area of expertise. The visuals of Asgard beautifully captured, holding as the place where much of the film's story takes place. It is, however, the scenes on earth and the fish out of water scenario of an Earth-bound God that packs most of Thor's satisfaction.

Chris Hemsworth shows to be be a fine comic actor here; though Thor isn't a character set up for mockery, it's hilarious to witness every line delivered by Hemsworth as he still plays up to the royal warrior he is while simple town folk look on astonished. The romance between Thor and Natalie Portman's Jane is spelt out from scene one but is developed nicely in a touching fairytale manor seldom seen these days. Supporting player Skarsgard is better than what he's given here, but is clearly having the time of his life on such a production - he and Thor drinking together is a standout delight. Kat Dennings spends most of her time delivering cheeky one liners, but Tom Hiddleston as Loki steals the show in many regards as he gives the villain of the piece a worthy layered presence.

Thor is the most enjoyable of the recent run of Marvel adaptions due to its perfect mix of mayhem and jesting, making it extremely desirable to return to. This film has everything a blockbuster should have, if I was 10 this would have been my new favourite film, and I mean that in the best possible way!