Thursday, 5 May 2011

Great Odin's Raven! It's Thor

On the face of it, the premise of the God of Thunder fighting some Frost Giants, falling to Earth, falling for Natalie Portman, destroying some enormous robot thing and becoming an ally of humans is rather silly. Then you remember this is a MARVEL comic book, suspend all disbelief and really rather enjoy the film!

King Odin rules the Æsir in their city/world of Asgard. Many years ago there was a war between the Æsir and the Frost Giants, which spilled on to Earth where both were regarded as gods. When the Æsir finally won, the Frost Giants were defeated on their home world and Odin took the source of their power; this was kept secure in Asgard.

Years later, now Odin’s sons Thor and Loki are grown up, there is an attempt by the Frost Giants to reclaim the source of their power (a mysterious blue-glowy box). Thor (who was about to be crowned king) sees this breach of palace security as an act of war by the Frost Giants, and flies off to Frost-world to confront them, thus re-igniting an old war. On his return to Asgard, Odin punishes Thor’s hot-headedness by banishing him to Earth. He also separates Thor from his hammer, Mjölnir, until he is worthy to wield it once again.

If you’re confused by this plot synopsis, then imagine how difficult it must have been to interpret this onto film. I think that the writers do a very good job in condensing a lot of exposition from Stan Lee’s comics into a reasonably coherent introduction to the universe of Thor, Asgard, and Frost Giants. Kenneth Branagh also does very well with what can be considered his first real blockbuster. The realisation of Asgard and Frost World (don’t know it’s real name) are truly epic and stunning: Asgard is very golden, with a lot of greenery and waterways, Frost World is very stark and barren, but no less grand. Branagh’s direction also shines through in the script, as some of the lines are very pseudo-shakespearean; (he also seems to like filming at jaunty angles every now and again).

                                                             Asgard is stunning

Arguably the film really gets going upon Thor’s arrival on Earth as he is thrust into unfamiliar situations; “How dare you threaten the son of Odin!”. Obviously Chris Hemsworth was cast as Thor for his physique and Norse-ishness, but he manages to breathe enough life into his character so that he isn’t just a muscle-bound warrior, there is a little more depth to him. Natalie Portman is good enough as the love interest (particle physicist Jane Foster); though the romance between Thor and Jane is fairly shallow, and Portman doesn’t have the opportunity to shine as she does in Black Swan. Stellan Skarsgård adds a bit more history to the Earth story, and intrigue (if you wait all the way to the end of the credits). Odin is a character that Anthony Hopkins really got to grips with, he was wise, kingly, forceful and looked like he really enjoyed himself (plus he got to wear a gold eye-patch; Emilio Largo would be jealous!).

I thought the film was very enjoyable. I wasn’t expecting an amazing story, or in-depth character acting. I was looking forward to a cool cinematic experience with grand settings, a guy with a big hammer and some SHIELD intrigue; and that’s exactly what I got. But then I could have said that about Iron Man 2, and that was slightly disappointing. Thor is back to the entertainment quality of the first Iron Man or Spider-man. I saw it in glorious 2-D, and at several points I found myself thinking “What advantage would 3-D offer over this?” But that’s an argument for another day.