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May 6, 2011
Review - " Thor "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom
Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings and Rene Russo.

The story is fairly basic  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is cast out of Asgard
by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) for breaking the peace between Asgard
and Jotunheim. On Earth, he meets and befriends astrophysicists
Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard).
While he struggles with what it means to be a hero of Asgard, his
brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) ascends to the throne through
treachery, eventually threatening all three worlds.

It’s a straightforward redemption arc for Thor, and while I think it might
have been forced in some spots, it worked and worked well. Brannagh’
s attention to detail pays off big time in many ways. Even the lesser
characters act in manners that are consistent and natural throughout
the whole film, be they SHIELD agents or Thor’s fellow Asgardians.
Four key elements stood out in my mind.

First, they didn’t overdo the “stranger in a strange land” trope. The
smashing of the cup on the diner floor, the little cultural differences, all
that did not lead the film makers to doing things like Thor marvelling at
the sight of a car or an ATM. My impression of Asgard was that of a
technological society so advanced as to appear magical — that’s
supported by Jane quoting Arthur C. Clarke. While they might have
appeared god-like, the people of Asgard were more transhuman
demigods/immortals. It appealed to both the fantasy and SF fan in me,
and it was made better by the lack of dumbing anything down.
The second is Odin. I had feared that Sir Anthony Hopkins would be playing a “bookend” character. That Odin would be
someone who would show up in the beginning to cast Thor out, and then show up at the end to say “atta boy, here’s your
power back.” While he did spend some time in Odinsleep, his presence is still felt throughout all of the scenes in Asgard.
Hopkins played the role well, and he was utilized just enough to be a fully viable character without overpowering the film.

Next is Jane Foster. I fully expected her to be Thor’s love interest in the film, however there’s a couple of things about her I
didn’t expect. First, she goes after him. The most “pursuing” Thor does of Jane is to kiss her hand. Twice. He doesn’t really
try to woo her at all. He acts like a gentleman to her throughout the film and when she kisses him before he goes off to fight
Loki, it makes sense. Here’s a woman who just got out of a lousy relationship, meets a handsome guy who is genuinely nice
to her, and it turns out he truly does have the power of a god to match his personal magnetism. Ladies, am I right in think
that the whole god thing kind of seals the deal?
But what’s critical is something that doesn’t
happen. Thor never rescues Jane. More
importantly, Jane is never in a situation
where Thor has to rescue her. The Damsel
in Distress card is never played, and while I
can’t argue that Natalie Portman makes for
wonderful eye candy, we still have in Jane a
well drawn character that’s more than a
pretty face. I liked that and it raised the film
to a higher level.

Lastly, we need to talk about Loki. By and
large this is one of the best cinematic villains
I’ve seen. Loki is not just some evil-for-its-
own-sake-because-it’s-in-my-nature type of
antagonist. It would have been easy to make
him this way, but the filmmakers avoided that
trope. Some of Loki’s early antics were done
because he could get away with them, but
for the main plot-arc Loki has some complex
motivation going on. He struggles with his
identity and tries to prove himself a worthy
son to Odin - and he believes that latter part,
even if his actions speak otherwise. He’s a
sympathetic villain, and his characterization
raises the bar even further.

I did not see this film in 3D, but from what I’ve
heard I’ve made the right choice. Thor is one
of the best comic book screen adaptations to
date. It’s worth seeing, and it makes me all
the more eager for The Avengers.