Thor (2011)
Main cast: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Stellan Skarsgård (Dr Erik Selvig), Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis), Colm Feore (Laufey), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Ray Stevenson (Volstagg), Tadanobu Asano (Hogun), Joshua Dallas (Fandral), Jaimie Alexander (Sif), Rene Russo (Frigga), and Sir Anthony Hopkins (Odin)
Director: Kenneth Branagh


If movies based on comic books have anything to go by, Thor may prompt instinctive running for the hills on my part. Still, such movies have undergone a bit of a renaissance recently, as films like the Iron Man franchise and Christopher Nolan's retooling of Batman into a franchise for emo kids everywhere are either pretty solid or, at the very least, do not cause brain hemorrhage. Fortunately, Thor is good enough to watch without enduring too much agony.

This movie is actually a very loose adaptation of the comic books, because the screenplay takes considerable liberties in the lore of Asgard's favorite hero. You may know Thor as the Norse god known for his mighty hammer and great strength. Or, and the silly helmet, but fortunately, this movie prefers to spend more time showing off Chris Hemsworth's blond locks in all their Fabio-loves-you glory instead. This movie is basically all about how Loki betrays Thor, causes Thor to be banished to Earth, and attempts to usurp his daddy Odin. Thor, stuck on earth, generally tries to bash his way back to Asgard, but failing to do so, finally learns to cool down and use his brain. Along the way, he falls for Jane Foster, an astrophysicist who takes him as part of her crew along with her sarcastic assistant Darcy and her amusing mentor Dr Erik Selvig.

The rest of the cast, including Natalie Portman's Jane, actually take a back seat to Chris Hemsworth's Thor and Tom Hiddleston's Loki. Thor turns out to be more Blood Brothers than Odin's Son Does New Mexico, as in its very heart, it's a story of two brothers torn apart by circumstances rather than by design. In this case, circumstances turn out to be Odin's unfair and hammy efforts at parenting. Well, it's not like a director such as Kenneth Branagh could avoid including such theatrical melodrama in his movies.

In fact, this movie actually encourages sympathy for Loki. I don't want to go into spoilers so much, so let me just say that he does have a good case to feel unfairly treated by Odin. In fact, everything he pulls here is a stunt to win his father's approval. That's not to say that he's misunderstood or anything like that, but rather, Loki makes evil a pretty good place to be in this movie. Tom Hiddleston isn't exactly conventionally good-looking like Chris Hemsworth, but his charismatic portrayal of Loki easily steals the show from Mr Hemsworth. He's easily the best thing about this movie.

Thor is the hero, I suspect, mostly because general convention demands that the good guy be the hero. Unfortunately, Thor may be the good idea, but he's the dumbass who gets everything handed to him by a grossly unfair father, so it's hard to root for him over Loki. Thor starts out as someone who charges blindly into trouble, nearly instigating outright war with the frost giants by attacking their leader Laufey in his realm with his one-dimensional multi-national United Sidekicks of Benetton followers, and is cocky and unrepentant when dressed down for his actions. He eventually learns to think and control his impulses, but "dumbass jock with sense of entitlement grows up" isn't exactly the most compelling story line around. Still, it's a nice touch for the flick to have Thor mourning the loss of his brother even as he has to take Loki down to save Asgard.

Still, Chris Hemsworth - who looks like Brad Pitt from some angles, Dominic Monaghan from other angles - manages to look pretty, taking off his shirt to reveal a very pretty body at one point, and pouts a bit, letting Mr Hiddleston do all the dramatic angst while he wisely smiles and invites people to swoon at the sight of him. Poor Loki - he really has to do all the work while Thor just looks pretty and gets everyone to adore him instead.

Natalie Portman just has to act kooky and ditsy, but her character plays very well with her assistant and mentor to deliver the laughs. Jane's romance with Thor is actually sweet, if superficial, and there are some nice romantic moments here.

The tension and conflict between Thor and Loki make this movie very compelling to watch. The pacing never lets up, even during the quiet moments between Thor and Jane, and it has a nice balance of action and humor. The only downside is the final confrontation between Loki and Thor on earth, when the movie momentarily turns into a Transformers parody. The movie people has $150 million to play with, and that's the best they can come up with?

Still, all things considered, Thor is a great popcorn flick with unexpectedly moving emotional components. This is definitely one of the better comic book adaptations out there.

Rating: 88


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