"Do you always look like this?" A giggly, love-struck Earthling named Jane (Natalie Portman, channeling Denise Richards) asks the fully armored and bronzely buff otherworldly God of Thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth, channeling Kevin Sorbo). When he responds that yes he does, she zings back, "It's a goooood look!" And then everyone chuckles.
I honestly have no idea whether the Thor comics from Marvel are ludicrous and lightweight, so if they are, then my apologies in advance for bagging on this feature. While the source material is indeed a considerable part of the package, the movie should stand alone. It does, but for me the Scooby Doo style humor and angle (the Mystery Bus is now a Humvee, and Velma is a bespectacled Kat Dennings) along with the cheesy, shoehorned romance were not expected from the likes of director Kenneth Branagh.
I guess everyone's gotta pay the rent, but there must be a better way (like, Scooby Doo 3 theatrical, perhaps? Bring back James Gunn, and it's a party). Or maybe he was trying to remake Much Ado About Nothing with this? His 2007 presentation of Sleuth, which not many people aside from me raved about, was more exciting than Thor even though it basically took place in just one entirely mortal location.
That's not to say Thor is all bad. Anthony Hopkins, as ever (even last year in the otherwise abysmal Satan movie), brings his Sir A-game to each and every scene (even when he's in a coma as Odin, he commands the screen and draws your eye [the good one, without the designer patch] away from every other actor in the room). The special effects are quite cool, and the 3D adds nicely to the story without being too much or too little.
The fable follows Thor from a quick intro in cute tow-headed childhood to The Mighty, all flowing flaxen locks, blue eyes, muscles and cornball. There is trouble in Asgard, the home planet of the Norse Gods. Everything's been just fine there for centuries, until Odin's adopted son Loki (Tom Hiddleston) starts stirring trouble with a race of powerful Frost Giants. The best "genre" aspects of the film are explored through the Frost Giants, but there's not a whole lot for fans of the gloomier stuff to glom onto. They're not very scary, but Colm Feore does a magnificent job as their chilly, seemingly soulless leader, King Laufey (though I kept thinking he looked too much like Tim Curry as Darkness in Ridley Scott's Legend from 1985).
Asgard under attack and Thor ejected, the saga moves to puny Earth, where the now-mortal God of Thunder is stuck in New Mexico with a trio of bumbling self-employed astrophysicists — Portman as Jane, Dennings as Darcy, and Stellan Skarsgard as Erik — in search of his almighty Hammer, Mjolnir (which just happens to have the John Paul Jones rune from Led Zeppelin IV on it… who knew Thor was a heavy metal fan?). Bad guys (Clark Gregg) are on the third rock from the sun too, so Thor's got it coming and going as he battles for right. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The movie does switch-back nicely between Asgard and Earth, so the pacing is fine. The special effects are dazzling enough to ooh and ahh over, and most of the actors are pretty good in spite of their clunky dialogue and sit-com style one-liners; so if you like your comic book movies light and frothy, you could do worse than Thor. Me? I'd rather watch Ghost Rider again (at least that was so bad, it was good… Thor is just straight-up flaccid).
When it comes to the home-theater 3D experience, the picture is kind of dark (compared to, say, the 3D DVD of the Tron remake). I viewed the Blu-ray on a LG HD flat-screen television with the compatible glasses (those are not included with the DVD set… gone are the carefree days of cardboard with red and blue anaglyph) and I also spot checked the 2D version. 3D is definitely the way to go! The compact boxed set includes a digital copy, regular Blu-ray, and 3D discs of the movie, as well as several featurettes.
Branagh's solo commentary is a bit dry and predicable, but he has some reasonably interesting things to say about the special effects involving even the things we see for just a second (such as Odin's legendary 8-legged horse, Sleipnir, who's given the short-shrift in the CGI saga). There are also a few featurettes, one of which is called Hammer Time! and is about, you guessed it, Thor's bangin' boomerang weapon of choice. There are also in-depth looks at the music (typical 'epic' humdrum), assembling the troupes, creating Laufey, and much more — including 11 deleted scenes and a sneak peek at the upcoming Avengers extravaganza.
My own cheesy one-liner? Thor... thud.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson