Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman & Anthony Hopkins
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Release date May 6, 2011
Thor is no new kid on the block. Centuries ago, Scandinavians thought the Viking warrior deity and his heavy-metal hammer caused the heavens to rumble, hence his designation as God of Thunder. Even today, his name is recalled at least once a week—every Thursday, or “Thor’s Day.”
But Norse mythology and the Roman calendar aside, most modern-day folks came to know him from the comic book The Mighty Thor, which began firing up young imaginations in the early 1960s. On the pulpy page, Thor was a cosmic commuter who split his time between Earth and his ancestral home in Asgard, light years away, wielding his massive mallet to keep order across the universe.
Director Kenneth Branagh, the esteemed English actor best known for his masterful movie treatments of Shakespeare’s Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, blends Arthurian grandeur, fanboy-pleasing whallop and special-effect razzle-dazzle for Thor’s movie debut, which explains the backstory of how the hunky hammerer got from Up There to Down Here.
Australian newcomer Chris Hemsworth (Capt. Kirk’s dad in 2009’s Star Trek) plays the blonde-tressed thunderer, am impetuous young man whose hot head and war-mongering arrogance gets him the royal boot from his father, Zeus-like King Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Thor is stripped of his Olympian powers, relieved of his hammer and banished him to Earth to live among the lowly mortals.
How convenient that he meets (and falls in love) with a pretty astrophysicist, Jane (Natalie Portman), who’s been looking to the stars for cosmic answers to ancient universal mysteries.
Meanwhile, trouble’s a-brewing upstairs, where Thor’s evil brother Loki has hatched a sinister power play for the throne, one that involves dispatching Thor and his newfound terrestrial girlfriend.
As Jane’s co-researchers, Stellan Skarsgärd and Kat Dennings sprinkle some well-timed laughs into the smash and spectacle, and Hemsworth plays the title role with just the right balance of hubris, heroism and humor. Most females will agree he looks pretty good strutting around shirtless, out of his god garb.
Thor drops in an inside Marvel-ite reference to Iron Man, and Marvel founder Stan Lee crops up in a quick cameo as the driver of a pickup truck.
Jeremy (Hurt Locker) Renner makes an uncredited appearance as an archer, whose role will be expanded in next year’s The Avengers, another Marvel property currently getting the Hollywood treatment. (Stay after the credits for a sneak peek.)
Sure, Thor has its shortcomings. The 3-D seems like an afterthought and isn’t really worth the extra ticket price, the movie sets look like movie sets, and the computer-generated effects are as noisy and busy as you might expect for a movie based on a comic book about a bring-it-on deity whose intergalactic troubles trail him to Earth.
But c’mon: This is the God of Thunder we’re talking about here, not Ghandi.
If it’s peace and quiet you seek, mortal, hie thee to another, more tranquil corner of the multiplex. Otherwise, hang on—it’s hammer time!