The summer movie season has officially hit (yes Fast Five came out in April, so I’m considering that the “unofficial” start) and much like a giant Norse hammer to the face of an angry Frost Giant, it’s hit hard. “Thor” is the latest film in Marvel Studio’s series leading up to next summer’s “The Avengers” but it is no mere superhero film. Thor is a God among Gods, Norse Gods actually who live in the mystical realm of Asgard. It is one of nine realms, which includes Midgard, aka Earth and Jotunheim, home of the Frost Giants. After an assault on Asgard by renegade Giants, Thor disobeys his father Odin’s wishes by leading a retaliation attack on Jotunheim. This act of defiance shatters the already fragile peace between the two realms, and Odin has no choice but to cast out his son on the same day that he was to be made King of Asgard. Odin strips him of his power and his mighty hammer and sends him to Earth. Thor awakes on Midgard, powerless and confused when he is discovered by Jane Foster, an astrophysicist and her team. Continuing the minor plot thread from “Iron Man 2”, the government agency SHIELD discovers Thor’s hammer Mjolnir not far from where Thor himself fell. As he searches for his hammer and the hope that it will help him regain his powers, Thor strikes up a friendship with the lovely Jane and in doing so learns what it means to be human, and finally comes to care about others more than he does himself. Unbeknownst to Thor, however, Odin’s adopted son Loki has other plans that prove his own selfish desires.
Thor remains powerless for much of the movie and while it drags at times, it goes from what seems to be an origin/fish out of water tale to a genuine character study with Shakespearean undertones, thanks mostly to the expert direction by Kenneth Branaugh. He does an excellent job of balancing the epic scope Asgard’s beauty, and perfectly orchestrated battle sequences with the softer character moments that make up most of the film’s second act. As an actor himself, he knows how to get good performances and Chris Hemsworth delivers an outstanding portrayal of the titular character, big and booming in the beginning of the film, while showing an excellent range of character as Thor is disgraced and humbled before triumphing yet again. Natalie Portman delivers another quality performance and has excellent chemistry with the rest of the cast, particularly Hemsworth. Tom Hiddleston is most certainly the breakout star as Thor’s secretly villainous brother Loki who plays the part with a quiet subtlety that gives way to a mischievous, deadly personality, all the while never letting go of the fact that both brothers love one another, even if they don’t like each other. Loki’s screen time is fairly minimal as this is Thor’s story after all but if the end-credit scene is any indication, they’ll most likely meet again next summer.
All in all a straightforward origin tale that is faithful to the comics, well acted and directed and definitely delivers a great start to the summer movie season. “Captain America” has a lot to live up to.