Thor (2011)

Kenneth Branagh

Chris Hemsworth - Thor
Natalie Portman - Jane Foster
Tom Hiddleston - Loki
Anthony Hopkins - Odin
Stellan Starsgard - Erik Selvig
Kat Dennings - Darcy Lewis
Clark Gregg - Agent Phil Coulson
Idris Elba - Heimdall
Colm Feore - Laufey
Ray Stevenson - Volstagg
Jaimie Alexander - Sif
Josh Dallas - Fandral
Tadanobu Asano - Hogun
Rene Russo - Frigga

Genre - Action/Adventure/Science Fiction/Comic Books

Running Time - 114 Minutes

In a faraway place called Asgard, there's a war brewing between the Asgardians [led by Odin (Anthony Hopkins)] and the Frost Giants [led by Laufey (Colm Feore)] over some magical artifact. While the tension between the two parties has been quiet, eventually the Frost Giants invade Asgard to steal the artifact. Coincidentally [or not], this invasion occurs during the ceremony of Odin's oldest son, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), as he plans to take over as Asgard's new king. Upset at the interruption and the invasion, Thor convinces his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and their friends to attack the Frost Giants at their world.

However, Thor's act of vengeance goes against his father's wishes, making more noise than needed. Feeling that Thor is too arrogant and not ready to be King of Asgard, Odin removes Thor's power, his hammer Mjolnir, and exiles Thor to Earth where he'll learn humility. Now a mortal, Thor becomes friends with a scientist named Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her colleagues (Kat Dennings and Stellan Starsgard), who wonder if Thor is really the God of Thunder as he claims he is. Thor figures out that Mjolnir is on Earth, but realizes he can't lift it due to not being considered worthy yet.

Meanwhile on Asgard, Loki plots to take Odin's throne for himself after learning his true origin. The stress of Loki's knowledge causes Odin to fall ill, leaving Loki as King. Addicted to the power, Loki befriends the Frost Giants and decides to give them the artifact, while plotting his own scheme. As Thor slowly realizes what Loki is up to, the Asgardian Destroyer arrives on Earth to destroy Thor and anyone in its path.


- The special effects. The effects team did a fantastic job in bringing the spectacle to life in THOR. For one, Asgard looks absolutely stunning and epic in scale. The rainbow bridge and just the landscaping and design of Asgard is just incredible. It's exactly how I would picture it looking like if the comic books came to life.

Jotumheim isn't as impressive, since it's just a world of snow and ice. But what we do see of it looks great. I thought The Frost Giants, especially Laufey and the Frost Creature, looked awesome. The CGI didn't look all that visible [although I could tell some of it was green screen], so it was good visually.

I thought the Asgardian Destroyer looked impressive. And watching Thor use his hammer and fly around was great as well. When I think of a Kenneth Branagh production, the last thing I expect are special effects. But THOR uses them well to create a visual fantasy fans will appreciate.

- The cast. THOR may have some underwritten characters, but the actors are more than solid. Chris Hemsworth, in his first lead role in a feature film, impresses as Thor. He looks the part and carries the film on his shoulders very well. He's charismatic. He handles fight scenes well. He has good comic timing. And best of all, he seems to be having fun with the role. Can't wait to see him continue the role in THE AVENGERS.

The supporting characters are good as well. Natalie Portman doesn't get all that much to do besides play the stereotypical smart love interest, Jane Foster. But she's always reliable and does what she can with the role. She has a fun chemistry with Hemsworth, although I wished they shared more scenes together. Sir Anthony Hopkins brings a lot of class to the film as Odin, stealing every scene he's in. Tom Hiddleston isn't used to his fullest potential as Loki [the comic book character is more villainous than the film portrayal], but he does a great job grabbing your attention and bringing a bit of sympathy to his evil motives. Kat Dennings is the comic relief as Darcy, being genuinely funny and looking hot as usual. Stellan Starsgard is very good as Erik, Jane's mentor and the one man who understands Thor's origins. He and Hemsworth have some good scenes together. Clark Gregg continues to bring the awesomeness as Agent Coulson. Idris Elba and Colm Feore don't get to do all that much, but do it well respectively. Rene Russo is window dressing as Thor and Loki's mother, Frigga. And we have a cool cameo by Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton, also known as Hawkeye. Some perform better than others due to how meaty their roles are in the film. But I did like the cast and look forward to seeing them again in THOR 2.

- The direction. When I heard that Kenneth Branagh was directing THOR, I was pleasantly surprised. While Branagh isn't known for his action/CGI expertise, the man can direct some good drama - especially if it's inspired by William Shakespeare. The relationship between Odin, Thor, and Loki is very Shakespearean in nature, and Branagh handles the rivalry between the two brothers as well as the script allows. Even though the love story aspect is lacking [I'll get to that], Branagh still manages to keep it together with a great level of confidence. The switching between Asgard and Earth are handled well, never becoming too annoying or confusing. The pacing is great, as the film feels shorter than it actually is. And the picture looks great and clear.

The most surprising thing about the direction is how well Branagh handles the CGI and the action sequences. While not exactly the most thrilling action scenes ever filmed, Branagh still manages to bring the comic book to life with exciting moments - the best being Thor vs. the Asgardian Destroyer on Earth. Branagh uses the framing and space well to create a bit of tension and drama to the visuals. Branagh tries to compensate for a shallow script by directing the hell out of THOR. I thought he did a very good job behind the camera.

- "A fish out of water". THOR's flaws stem from the script and some of actions the characters make within the story. But the entire "fish out of water" arc with Thor not understanding the way Earth works is done really well. Watching Thor smash glasses after finishing them like a true Viking, and then going to a pet store and demanding a horse to ride is pretty funny. Thor also doesn't understand how traffic works, as he walks through the street without a car. The Earth scenes also give Thor a ton of character, as he becomes humbled by his Earth friends after being an arrogant cad for the first act of the film. It's a pretty cliche plot device, but THOR uses it well - especially since Chris Hemsworth has a blast with the arc and never makes his character look like a total fool, even while trying to be funny and make fun of Thor himself. It's your typical "alien-invades-Earth" story, but the writers use it to the film's advantage to build character for our hero by grounding him.

- Not enough substance. THOR is pretty much all style and not enough substance in terms of its story. While all the elements for a typical origin story are there, they don't really mean as much as they should. The biggest issue happens to be the love story aspect between Thor and Jane Foster. Comic fans know that the two characters become an item, so it's logical to have the same happen in the film. The problem is that the two characters barely share any scenes together. The closest we see to any sparks are during moments where the two characters make googly eyes at each other - or rather Jane lusting after Thor because he's different and works out every day inside a gym. There's a nice moment where the two discuss how Thor sees the universe. But that's pretty much it. After it, they fall in love and pine for each other when they're separated again. This would be awesome if more scenes beefed up this love story. But instead of coming across as believable, it's forced because that's what we would expect to happen between these two characters. We don't care about their attraction other than the fact that it needs to be there to move the narrative forward.

Also, Thor and Loki's relationship isn't as strong as the film needed it to be. Anyone who knows anything about Thor and Loki, you know the two brothers don't like each other due to jealousy on Loki's part for being in the shadow of his older brother. We don't get enough scenes [sound familiar] of the two together to really establish a brotherly relationship. We do get hints of Loki's frustration with Thor and the fact that everyone looks up to Thor rather than him. But the animosity tends to come from nowhere, as if the script left out the development of the rivalry. We know Loki is jealous and wants the power for himself. But it never really goes as deep as that. For much of the film, Thor and Loki are separated from each other - which doesn't allow the two to really interact. It's great to watch the two characters separately and when they do interact, it fleshes out their relationship a bit. But I can never really buy them as brothers in a narrative sense. The only reason I know they are is because I know the history. At least the elements for a great origin story are there in the script. It just needed to focus less on setting up for THE AVENGERS film, and more on being its own film where it could flesh out relationships to make them mean something at the end - and then later for a sequel or two. It's not totally shallow, but it's not exactly deep either.

- Loki's plan. This doesn't really ruin the film for me all that much, but I felt the way Loki went about things was a bit ridiculous. So let me get this straight - Loki forms an alliance with The Frost Giants in order for Thor to look like a fool and get exiled out of Asgard so he can become King, while The Frost Giants get their artifact back. Odin is on his death bed, which would benefit for both parties in different ways. Laufey could get revenge on his biggest rival by killing him. Loki would unquestionably stay as King if his father was dead. Hey, it makes sense to me!

What doesn't make sense is that Loki tricked The Frost Giants so he could prove to Odin that he's not a screw up like Thor by destroying them and saving Odin's life.


Any logical villain would have The Frost Giants kill Odin. After that, he would kill The Frost Giants just so there aren't any hints of his evil plan so he looks like a hero. Doing anything else is just stupid. Wouldn't killing The Frost Giants just prove to Odin that Loki is as unworthy of being King as Thor, who got sent to Earth because of the same thing? I just watched that whole thing just scratching my head. Nice try, Loki.

While not perfect, THOR still manages to be a good time. It has a strong cast, solid direction by Kenneth Branagh, a typical but well-presented "fish-out-of-water" story, and great special effect and action sequences. The story could have been more dramatic and have more depth. But it's easy to follow and sticks to a simple narrative that logically makes sense. Not the best comic book adaptation, but it's nice popcorn entertainment that sets up THE AVENGERS well for the most part. Worthy enough for a watch and a sequel.

3 Howls Outta 4


  1. Nice write up, Fred. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Thor. Branagh's involvement intrigued me - and I agree with what you said about his direction; he handles all the drama really well. Thor is almost Shakespearian in its themes of familial dysfunction, sibling rivalry, treachery and bloody revenge. Some of the performances felt a little tongue in cheek, but it didn't matter - everyone was clearly having a ball. Myself included!

  2. I enjoyed this movie - and I enjoyed your review of this movie. Cheers!

    1. Hey Fred - popping back in with a link to my review - we seem to agree pretty much down the line again!


  3. Thanks, guys! Even though the Misses section was pretty long, that no way reflects me hating THOR. In fact, I dig it quite a bit. I think Branagh was a great choice to direct the film because these type of stories fit what he's good at - Shakespearean themes. And I didn't mind that it was a bit cheesy at times. It actually was nice to laugh at certain things because the idea of The God of Thunder can be pretty silly in a semi-realistic world. I hope THOR 2 is just as good or better when it comes out in November of 2013.


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