Monday, 23 May 2011

Film Review: Thor

Thor has always remained the character most at odds with the Marvel universe. Indeed, he is the trickiest to deal with when integrating him with the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk in the upcoming Avengers movie. Thor suffers none of the inherent weaknesses which make Marvel's superheros more balanced, and, dare I say, interesting. Thor is a God. He can fly, has superhuman attributes and approaches levels of invulnerability. He is, essentially, the cop out that Superman is in the DC universe. It is this type of overpowered character which must be handled with extreme care when trying to incorporate him into the larger universe of Marvel, lest he become camp, cheesy and laughable. With great power does indeed come great responsibility, and thankfully, Marvel studios have taken great care in their portrayal of Thor.

Thor (Hemsworth) is on the cusp of ascending to the throne of Asgard when Frost Giants from Jotunheim interrupt the ceremony in a daring raid to reclaim a casket containing the source of their power. Livid with the audacious nature of the assault, and against his father, Odin's (Hopkins) wishes, Thor travels to Jotunheim in a quest for vengeance. As Thor and his party face defeat, Odin intervenes to save the Asgardians, destroying the fragile truce between the two races. Furious with Thor's impertinence, Odin strips Thor of his powers and banishes him to Earth along with his hammer, which Odin enchants with a spell by which only those deemed worthy may wield it.

Thor opens with a rather dense, thirty-minute introduction to the trans-dimensional beings who are the Asgardians. So far removed is Thor from the Marvel universe on Earth that there was always a risk that it could turn into a cheese fest. But such is the attention to detail in the fantasy world created here and the seriousness with which it is all taken that it creates a satisfying degree of believability. One definitely senses the painstaking efforts to take this film solemnly.

Hemsworth is excellent throughout, dexterously adept to a wide range of roles. Petulant teen, humility, serious, humourous, action-hero and big romantic softy, Hemsworth slides in and out of each with ease. Indeed, Thor's more jocular moments make for a mouth-watering prospect when contemplating how Hemsworth will interact with Robert Downey Jr. in the Avengers movie. However, there is a detectable missing link as to how Thor develops from ungracious plank to humble mountain. The whole point of Odin banishing him to Earth was so that he may learn a thing or two about life, and while this is the end result, we aren't actually shown how Thor comes to this sudden realisation in what is almost an instantaneous shift in personalities. Even so, this doesn't detract from how Hemsworth portrays these traits. Hiddlestone's Loki, revealed as the first villain for the Avengers movie, is also played with gusto as a complex, layered and enjoyable character.

Thor stands well on its own, despite being part of Marvel's series of extended trailers for The Avengers movie. Along with the first Iron Man, it is certainly one of the best of the lot so far and will certainly, like Iron Man, boost Thor from a fringe Marvel character to one of your favourites. This film is good! Another!