50- Thor [6.0]
The epic adventure spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the mystical realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. As a result, Thor is banished to Earth where he is forced to live among humans. When the most dangerous villain of his world sends its darkest forces to invade Earth, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero.
When it was announced that Kenneth Branagh was to direct Thor, it seemed to be a perfect match of director and material. With his background as actor and director of many Shakespeare adaptations, Branagh would be able to get the best performances from his actors. Considering he’s never worked on a project with such a large budget and expectations, the only worrisome factors were whether or not he’d be able to handle the fight sequences and find a way to make the Asgard sequences and costumes not look cheesy. For the most part, he succeeds.
The fish out of water trope has been used many times before, but it’s necessary for the portions of the film in which Thor is on Earth. Chris Hemsworth handles all facets of Thor (the arrogance, humility and charm) with ease, proving that his star-turning performance in Star Trek was no fluke. Tom Hiddleston was the highlight of the film, with his layered portrayal of Loki. The reasons for his actions, coupled with his intelligence and playfully mischievous side make Loki the best villain to appear in a comic book adaptation thus far. Idris Elba does a fantastic job as Heimdall, the guardian of the rainbow bridge (which is exponentially more awesome than it sounds).
Thor is not without its faults– the romance with Jane Foster, Thor’s personality change and the third act are all rushed. Though the film speeds along without losing its momentum, an extra few scenes to pad the Earth and Asgard sequences could have gone a long way to fleshing out some of the character development (it’s obvious that the majority of Renee Russo’s lines ended up on the cutting room floor). Depending on how you feel about Kat Dennings, some of the humor on Earth may feel unnecessary (though Thor gets some great lines– “I need sustenance!”).
I would have liked to see a Thor film that solely takes place in the nine realms, but perhaps that will occur in a sequel. I took most issue with Branagh’s incessant use of dutch angles (achieved by tilting the camera off to the side so that the shot is composed with the horizon at an angle to the bottom of the frame). The vast majority of the films’ shots appear sideways, and though I understand how it could be used to make Asgard feel more alien-like, Brannagh chooses to frame a lot of Earth sequences that way as well.
It’s frequently said that summer blockbusters should be mindless entertainment that allow the audiences to turn off their brain for two hours. On top of that sentiment being insulting to film viewers, it perpetuates the notion that there should be a four month lull of intelligent filmmaking. Thor challenges this idea by rooting the central conflict in Shakespearean themes. Though the film has an abundance of special FX shots and the origin tale of this nature has been done before, Thor is a step above the rest of its class by pushing what is to be expected of a comic book film.