Tenth-Review-Extravaganza Part 1: "Thor" (2011)!

Thor (2011)
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Running time: 114 minutes approx.

Howdy internet! I am proud to announce that this week marks the week when “Now Showing with Tom Heath” reaches double digits with ten reviews! And in celebration of this occasion, I have decided to treat you all to not one, but two reviews this week. That’s right, I saw two films recently that I am so compelled to review that I have decided to give you reviews of both of them; one now, the other one in a few days. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all my readers for supporting my blog and my aspirations as a film critic at it’s very early stages. You are all awesome. Go on, give yourselves a pat on the back, you’ve earned it!

Anyway, let the “Tenth-Review-Extravaganza” begin!

Now Showing this week is the latest edition into the Marvel Comics films and lead up to The Avengers: Thor directed (surprisingly) by Kenneth Branagh. Now I only learned of Thor being a Marvel Comics character in the last few years. I only ever knew him as the Norse mythological character, but after Iron Man came out in 2008 and I learned about The Avengers did I discover that there was a series of comics about the Mighty Thor. I thought he would be very out of place given Marvel has always seemed, to me, to contain lots of superheroes who were humans who via some sort of mutation (either evolutionary or via some sort of scientific accident) gain super powers and go on to fight bad guys. So where the hell does an actual GOD fit into this universe of such iconic mutants like Spider-Man, The Hulk, Wolverine and Daredevil? Well, I won’t find out exactly how he fits in amongst them until The Avengers comes out in 2012; but I must say that on his own, Thor is a very awesome superhero.

Basic plot info, a race of super powerful humanoids called the Asgardians once stepped on Earth to guide the Vikings and were worshiped as gods (but are now forgotten into legend). They now reside on their planet of Asgard and are the rulers of the 9 Realms (Earth being one of them). Thor (played by Australian Chris Hemsworth) is the son of the king of Asgard, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and is the heir to the thrown ahead of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The Asgardians are now at peace with another realm of ice men following a very long war; but after one incident of espionage, Thor is convinced that the Asgardians must wipe them out. He attempts to do so against his father’s wishes and as a result is stripped of his powers (his mighty hammer) and is banished to Earth until he can learn humility. He there meets some humans, among them Jane (Natalie Portman), and he must figure out how to get home. The rest I shall not reveal.

So already we have a huge difference between this film and many of the other Marvel films and that is the fact that it feels like a fantasy film. The opening section on Asgard feels very much like something out of Lord of the Rings only where the main character is so unbelievably powerful that he could have taken on the entire forces of Mordor himself. The sections on Asgard are very beautiful and the design aspects of the film are very impressive. There’s a rainbow bridge reminiscent of anyone familiar with Mario Kart, and the armour and weaponry of the Asgardians look very cool. Even the enemy ice monsters are very Lord of the Rings-ey in that they look like Orcs only blue and are more eloquently spoken. The Asgardian scenes make for a very solid fantasy story, full of treachery, family, honour and sacrifice.

The Earth segments, on the other hand, are completely different but just as good. Thor feels very out of place in the film’s location and his mannerisms and behaviours are very reminiscent of cliched “ye-olden” stereotypes. And while this works, and is hilarious, I felt it was played up a little too much. There were times when his ignorance of human customs were tear-jerkingly funny but at other times it almost felt like the kind of thing one would see in a summer holidays, crappy comedy. You know what I’m talking about, a film that would have a trailer voice say: “but suddenly the mighty God of Thunder finds himself stranded in middle America and now must get to know the locals and figure out a way home!” and he would walk into a bar and say: “I, Mighty Thor, demand a flagon of your finest ale!” and all the soccer mums with their kids would laugh all the way back to their my-kids-are-better-than-your-kids SUV’s to go home and play Nintendo Wii in their pastel coloured shirts and nuclear-family home. At times the film feels like this, but when the jokes aren’t so overly done, they are very entertaining.

All the actors give very stronger performances, especially Hemsworth himself as Thor. What I was surprised at was that the filmmakers let him keep his Australian accent rather than forcing an American one. I suppose letting him keep it helped him seem more different from the human characters, but I appreciated the courtesy. The only problem I would point out with characters performance would be the love interest bond between Thor and Jane. It just seemed to be too intense way too fast! He’s only known her for about two/three days and they fall head over heels for each other. Granted: he’s a muscle bound, blonde, blue eyed, (literally) god! But what does he see in her? She’s a puny mortal! Perhaps if they toned back the intensity of love until the final revelation towards the end (that I shall not spoil) it would have worked. But how it is is just way too fast.

All in all, this is a great film. I had a lot of fun watching it, and I would definitely not put it in the list of bad Marvel films (Spider-Man 3, Daredevil, X-Men: The Last Stand & Origins: Wolverine). It’s engaging, funny, action packed, well acted, and continues the build up to the all mighty The Avengers next year. If I did the whole stars thing, it would get a 3.5/4 out of five from me, but I don’t so let me just say it’s great. There is a fantastic “Yeah!!!!! Go son!!!!!!” bad-ass moment that no one should miss in the cinemas. With the big screen, surround sound and just amazing visual effects, you don’t want to miss it!

Anyway, that’s all from me. I shall see to you in a few days for the thrilling conclusion of my “Tenth-Review-Extravaganza”!* See you next time!

*I know that means the second half of the “tenth” review celebration will be the eleventh review but shush! Let me have some fun!

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