So Thor, the Norse god of lightning, thunder and Oak trees (look it up) who was remodelled and repackaged by Marvel in the 1960s, has become the latest of their characters to get his very own big screen production.
Chris Hemsworth stars as the brave, strong and annoyingly arrogant Norse warrior, who as the preferred son of the current king Odin (Hopkins), is set to become the king of Asgard. The realm of Asgard has been at war with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim for generations, and when they attempt a daring raid on Asgard on the day of Thor’s inauguration, he is persuaded by his manipulative brother Loki to go against his father’s wishes and launch a counter-attack on the Frost Giants. As punishment for his reckless actions, Thor is stripped of his powers and banished from the realm by his father, plummeting to Earth. He would have to end up in America wouldn’t he? Thor arrives on Earth with his trusty hammer, but is unable to lift it, only those deemed worthy are able to harness its power (yes, it’s Excalibur). Thor must prove himself to Asgard once again.
It’s the kind of redemption story we all know and love, but unfortunately Thor feels like a throw-away release by Marvel, churned out as preparation and groundwork before the ‘The Avengers’ hits our screens next year. All the major characters are introduced, decades of Asgardian history is summarised and the set up is explained during a 30minute long section set in the realm before Thor is banished to Earth. It’s what i would call nuts and bolts filmmaking. Insert tab A into slot B. There is nothing original and nothing unexpected. The result is a narrative that is almost offensively predictable. Everything you expect to happen does happen, right down to that most trusted of Marvel climaxes, a fighting sequence involving a giant mechanical robot thing. Dull.
Perhaps a bigger problem is that we are given absolutely no reason to care about Asgard, or any of the characters. There is no impression of what life is actually like in the realm, no shots of the streets, the normal people or day to day life. In fact barring a couple of short but impressive flyover shots we see nothing of the realm outside the Palace. The little we do see is computer generated. Does it really matter if Asgard gets destroyed? The characters on Earth, including the astrophysicist who discovers Thor in New Mexico, played by Natalie Portman (who appears to have turned up read a few lines taken the paycheck), have no back story and are underdeveloped. We’re supposed to care when her life’s work is snatched by S.H.I.E.L.D, but it’s hard to.
With Thor turning up on Earth, a god stripped of his powers and wearing his warrior costume, there was the potential for some good comedy. In a similar way to Crocodile Dundee discovering Manhattan, he’s a fish out of water with no understanding of social etiquette or the society around him. But where Crocodile Dundee succeeded in providing some hearty chuckles and plenty of smiles, Thor only manages to be sporadically entertaining and struggles to unearth much decent comedy. I did have one good laugh when our hero storms into a small town pet shop and demands a fine horse to ride out of town.
Thor: “I need a horse!”
Shop worker: “We don’t have horses. Just dogs, cats, birds.”
Thor: “Then give me one of those large enough to ride.”
It seems to be a common theme that runs throughout Marvel films. They think they’re a lot funnier than they actually are.
The performances are generally good enough, if not spectacular. Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins are both well cast as Thor’s overshadowed brother Loki and his father Odin respectively. Kenneth Brannagh, an interesting choice for director, brings a certain Shakespearean drama to the family dynamic, with the resentful overshadowed brother plotting away in the shadows. It works well and for me is the most impressive and enjoyable aspect of the film.
Yes it’s knowingly ridiculous and yes it’s tongue in cheek, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s lazy, predictable and not as funny as it thinks it is.