THOR Review

"Thor" could have been bad. I mean really bad. And after the second or so trailer that was released I honestly did begin to worry. It is with great relief though that I am able to report that "Thor" is in fact pretty sweet. Is it awesome? No, it didn't hit me with that kind of "wow" that the first "Iron Man" did, but it captured that same tone rather well. It never takes off with an expectation-fulfilling quest that most films with such bombastic heroes do. It is in fact quite a simple movie, stripped down to its basic conflicts. What makes "Thor" succeed rather than becoming a laughable attempt at getting this whole "Avengers" thing off the ground though is the guidance of a prestige director and a cast more than capable of making all these other-worldly semantics seem plausible. Kenneth Branagh picked an unknown Chris Hemsworth as his pitch perfect Norse God and then fleshed out the supporting cast with Oscar caliber actors such as Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman. It is to this commitment from the cast that "Thor" probably owes its salvation.

It is fitting that Branagh, a veteran of Shakespeare, was picked to direct probably the only comic book movie that will ever somehow have incorporated an old English vernacular into its plot. What seems the only odd choice about the film is that Branagh has elected to spend just as much time in the realm of Asgard (Thor's home planet) as it does on earth. i thought we might get a little prologue type deal, see our hero get cast out and from then on things would evolve on earth and the film would set up Thor's involvement with "The Avengers". It does do these things to some degree, but we don't leave Asgard to never return, in fact it is the most important of plot points that occur there and move our story on earth along as it gets to where it's going. I would have liked to have seen more of the action take place on earth for the only time "Thor" begins to drag is when it takes too extended of a trip to Asgard. Though the scenery conjured up by the visual effects team here are truly stunning and a few stills offer pure magic, it all feels to great a contrast between which setting we should root our hero in. We want to see him as a protector of our own planet inherently, but the real conflict of the film deals with his brother and that brothers betrayal back home.

What really causes this rift though is the obvious fact that the plot on Asgard is strictly for the purposes of this film as it exists on its own. Once we get to earth the story is focused on S.H.I.E.L.D and getting everything set-up for the other films that will have to work off of this one whether it be possible sequels or just "The Avengers" film. Personally, I am very fascinated with the thought of witnessing a complete universe come together over several films and mixing so much history and story that they all overlap making a satisfying unit. I want to see that plot move further along and more quickly, but it is clear Branagh wants to focus on Thor and who he is as a man and what he is bringing to the table. Can he overcome his naive ways of thinking and mature into the King his father wants him to be? As I said earlier, the plot is basic, it is essentially a story of redemption. It is an origin story of sorts that brings us up to speed on how Thor became a man suitable and smart enough to be part of that inevitable team. I am in no way a comic book expert and won't pretend to know any of Thor's mythology but in giving us the back story on the God of Thunder, the director and his writers have delivered a bill of credible characters in a world that could have just as easily come off as cheesy.

And thus, the real challenge of "Thor" is making him believable, connecting him to earth without stretching so far it is only the comic book geeks in the crowd who understand all of what is going on. That is where I breathe my biggest sigh of relief. The acting is solid, the citizens of Asgard projecting that very classical, stage-trained presence being balanced by the modernization Thor must endure once he lands on earth is all played at just the right pitch. Hemsworth knows when to go for the laugh and when to hold back and let the audience know his Thor is a formidable threat, a man and a king not to be tested. While I didn't feel the film built up to as big a finale as it could have this is all in all a much more accessible and grounded film than I ever expected it to be. As the first summer blockbuster out of the gate, "Thor" has much to prove, especially with Marvel banking that it and "Captain America" will build enough momentum for "The Avengers" next year. "Thor" gets them off to a good start, lets hope things only get better from here.

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