When I heard about Marvel’s plans for a Thor film I was not very confident about what the result would be since the character can seem very cheesy when badly handled. When I heard Kenneth Branagh was on board as director and they had Anthony Hopkins signed up to play Odin I thought the film might have good chance after all
The film opens on Earth with physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) looking at strange weather systems with assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and another scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). She thinks they are connected to phenomenon called an Einstein-Rosen bridge, commonly called a wormhole. They get close to a tall tight narrow whirlwind in the middle of the New Mexico desert and take readings and photographs to gather evidence for Jane’s research. They get far too close to column of debris and dust and suddenly they find they’ve hit someone.
There is complete change of scene to realm of Asgard, an elegant science fiction paradise inspired by Jack Kirby‘s original artwork. It is inhabited an advanced benevolent race whose science is so beyond our comprehension as to seem as if they were gods to our ancestors who knew of them. We hear the voice of Odin recounting the history of Asgard and Jotunheim, land of the Frost Giants. Odin fought against the Frost Giants in their home and defeated their king then took a casket containing the source of their power preventing them from attacking Asgard again. He is telling this story to two young boys, his sons Loki and Thor, inspiring a lust for violence in young Thor. He makes a point of telling the two boys that only one of the can succeed him to throne of Asgard
Years later there is a ceremony being held for Thor, that thing where the heir to throne gets officially recognised as such. We get to see adult Thor in all his big blonde Chris Hemsworth beauty and in a costume that looks a lot like those in the comics. The Asgard sets are really spectacular and have an immense sense of scale yet the characters in full costume really manage to occupy that space. Just before Thor is named as Odin’s heir Odin detects that Frost Giants have got into the palace to try to retrieve the power source casket. They don’t last long against a giant robot Destroyer guarding the casket that blasts them into dust.
Odin is concerned with finding out how the Giants got into Asgard but Thor is raging and wants Odin to take a more aggressive action against the Frost Giants. Odin rejects that idea completely causing a bit of a hissy fit from Thor. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) manipulates Thor into disobeying their father. Thor ropes in his companions the Warriors Three and Lady Sif into accompanying him to Jotumheim. Unfortunately for Loki he has to join them too.
They set off for the Rainbow Bridge Bifrost, guarded and operated by Heimdall (Idris Elba). It’s not an actual rainbow like in the comics but a bridge of quartz pulsing with energy from Asgard leading to a wormhole-creating thing that needs Heimdall’s sword to operate it and can open a wormhole to any of the other eight realms, including Earth or Midgard and of course Jotunheim. Heimdall agrees to let them go to Jotunheim but warns that he may not let them back if doing so would endanger Asgard.
The six figures enter a broken and decaying Jotunheim and confront the king Laufey (Colm Feore) who warns them to just go. He suggests that the source of their the security breach may lie closer to home, a remark that Thor takes great offence to despite it being totally true (here’s a hint, Loki is the god of being a total dick, especially in the Marvel Universe). He starts the fight and soon everyone else is roped into helping him smash Frost Giants. Unfortunately no-one else can actually keep going against countless numbers of Frost Giants and Fandrall gets injured. Thor wants to just keep fighting but they manage to return to the crossing point of the Bifrost as hordes of Frost Giants bear down on them
Bifrost appears but with very angry Odin incandescent with power and rage. He faces down Laufey and takes the Asgardians back to Asgard. Still in Bifrost Odin really lets rip on Thor calling him vain greedy and cruel. Thor is unrepentant and tries to hit back with petulant insults back at Odin. Realising Thor is too immature to wield the power he does, Odin strips him of his power and his magic hammer Mjolnir and banishes him to Earth. Just as he arrives he is hit by the car driven by Jane Foster.
The film changes gears here to give a bit of a ‘fish out of water’ comedy. On Asgard you can accept the wierd archaic language as part of the strange character of the place, but Thor-speak on contemporary Earth really marks him out as a bit of an oddball. They don’t take his claims to have come through the wormhole from Asgard seriously until Jane sees strange alien constellations and a pattern of a figure in the photographs they took of the wormhole.
Thor’s hammer Mjolnir has landed in the desert nearby and has attracted a lot of local interest as word gets out about how immovable it is. A large crowd of people are taking turns trying to move the thing, including Stan Lee. Coulson, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent appears on the scene and radios in that it has arrived, hinting at a certain level of foreknowledge of Thor’s arrival that is never really explained in this film but then this story is only part of the build-up to the 2012 release of The Avengers film.
This film is very entertaining and certainly does a great job of introducing us to most of the major characters in Thor’s world. The scenes in the fantasy realms of Asgard and Jotunheim are great, especially when Thor is fighting. The scenes on Earth are okay but to be honest we don’t get to see much of Thor the hero on Earth and we get more of Thor the loud pompous doofus. Film adaptations of comic book characters often find themselves forced to compress a character’s story arc into a single film and for better for worse that certainly happens here. That compression will not make fans of Thor comics happy, but I’m sure they will get as much pleasure from finding fault with the film as others will get from just watching it. At least Thor got a film which is more of an introduction than poor Hawkeye gets with his little cameo here. When Black Widow was introduced in Iron Man 2 she saw a bit of action. Clint Barton doesn’t even get that.
The cast in this film did great job but Anthony Hopkins really stands out, giving just as much to his portrayal of Odin as he gives any other character. Chis Hemsworth is big and pretty enough to play Thor. Natalie Portman was okay but there wasn’t a lot for her to do. The Warriors Three were a bit.. well Fandrall was okay as was Hogun was but what’s with the puny Volstagg? Ray Stevenson was okay but just needed to be bigger.