May 31, 2011


Rating: Meh.

As comic book adaptations go, Thor is fairly middle of the road. About as good as X-Men 3, I suppose. Faint praise for a faintly praiseworthy film. Director Kenneth Branagh has taken the nearly 40-year-old Marvel Comics version of the god of thunder and done ... fairly well with such a screwy premise.

To its credit, the scenes in the otherworldly realms of Asgard and Jotunheim are pretty interesting, and some of the action in these sequences are exciting. Unfortunately, they are bogged down by some pretty hard-to-swallow dialog and a few strange moments where actors almost seem to break character intentionally.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), in particular, goes from an angry, somewhat thick bruiser personality to a witty charmer seemingly at random. This is even more jarring once he is exiled to earth, stripped of his powers for being an idiot. In one scene, he is a boorish barbarian, shattering his mug and demanding more coffee. In another, he's a smiling, somewhat condescending superior being, explaining how science and magic are one in the same. And in another, he marches into a pet store and demands a horse, or a dog or cat large enough to ride. It's a very mixed bag.

Thor also suffers by shying away from the ugly aspects of its main character via a complete character reversal that seems to take place over about 48 hours. If humility and decency are this easy to pick up, it's hard to understand why Odin (Anthony Hopkins) didn't send his son downtown a long time ago.

Hemsworth does give a creditable performance as Thor, though, and Hopkins is surprisingly good as Odin, overcoming some seriously silly costume choices and dialogue to give his character great dignity. Tom Hiddleston, as Thor's brother god Loki, is also good, though he does become more cartoonish and generic as the film rolls into its third act.

In contrast, Natalie Portman, as Thor's love interest Jane Foster, is pretty weak. Portman can't shoulder all the blame here, though, as her character is almost completely superfluous to the plot. We are clearly meant to believe there is much more of a connection between Foster and Thor than is ever shown on screen. They make eyes at each other and share a kiss, but the movie earns no real emotion in that relationship. Stellan Skarsgaard, as Foster's mentor Dr. Erik Selvig, is considerably more interesting than Portman, and the part is better written.

Thor's fellow Asgardian adventurers, particularly Ray Stevenson as Vostagg, are entertaining, and could have used more screen time. Clark Gregg reprises his role as Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., providing a touchstone with the other films in the Marvel franchise, having played the same character in Iron Man and its sequel. He's fine, in a somewhat unchallenging role.

We'll see Thor again, next year, in The Avengers, but it's hard to see how he will stand up next to the vastly more entertaining and nuanced character of Tony Stark/Ironman that Robert Downey, Jr. will be bringing to the table. Hemsworth may be fine, but the character of Thor is a bore.

No comments: