This review includes full spoilers. Proceed accordingly. For other movie reviews from me, click HERE:
Dusty: You think me strange?
Dusty: Good strange, or bad strange?
Commenter: I’m not sure yet…
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Ashley Miller (screenplay), Zack Stentz (screenplay), Don Payne (screenplay), J. Michael Straczynski (story), Mark Protosevich (story), Stan Lee (comic book), Larry Lieber (comic book), Jack Kirby (comic book)
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Denning
Release Date: May 6, 2011
Run time: 1 hour, 55 minutes
In 965 AD, Odin, king of Asgard, wages war against the Frost Giants of Jotunheim and their leader Laufey, to prevent them from conquering the Nine Realms, starting with Earth. The Asgardian warriors defeat the Frost Giants in Tønsberg, Norway, and seize the source of their power, the Casket of Ancient Winters.
In the present, Odin’s son Thor prepares to ascend to the throne of Asgard, but is interrupted when Frost Giants, secretly allowed in by his brother Loki, attempt to retrieve the Casket. Against Odin’s order, Thor travels to Jotunheim to confront Laufey, accompanied by Loki, childhood friend Sif and the Warriors Three: Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun. A battle ensues until Odin intervenes to save the Asgardians, destroying the fragile truce between the two races. For Thor’s arrogance, Odin strips his son of his godly power and exiles him to Earth as a mortal, accompanied by his hammer Mjölnir, now protected by an enchantment that allows only the worthy to wield it.
Thor lands in New Mexico, where astrophysicist Dr. Jane Foster, her assistant Darcy Lewis, and mentor Dr. Erik Selvig find him. The local populace finds Mjolnir, which S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson soon commandeers before forcibly acquiring Foster’s data about the wormhole that delivered Thor to Earth. Thor, having discovered Mjölnir’s nearby location, seeks to retrieve it from the facility that S.H.I.E.L.D. has constructed, but he finds himself unable to lift it and is captured. With Selvig’s help, he is freed and resigns himself to exile on Earth as he develops a romance with Foster.
Loki discovers that he is Laufey’s biological son, adopted by Odin after the war ended. Loki confronts Odin, who wearily falls into the deep “Odinsleep” to recover his strength. Loki takes the throne in Odin’s stead and offers Laufey the chance to kill Odin and retrieve the Casket. Sif and the Warriors Three, unhappy with Loki’s rule, attempt to return Thor from exile, convincing Heimdall, gatekeeper of the Bifröst—the means of traveling between worlds—to allow them passage to Earth. Aware of their plan, Loki sends the Destroyer, a seemingly indestructible automaton, to pursue them and kill Thor. The warriors find Thor, but the Destroyer attacks and defeats them, prompting Thor to offer himself instead. Struck by the Destroyer and near death, Thor proves himself worthy by his sacrifice to wield Mjölnir. The hammer returns to him, restoring his powers and enabling him to defeat the Destroyer. Kissing Foster goodbye and vowing to return, he leaves with his fellow Asgardians to confront Loki.
In Asgard, Loki betrays and kills Laufey. Thor arrives and Loki reveals his plan to destroy Jotunheim with the Bifröst Bridge. Thor fights Loki before destroying the Bifröst Bridge to stop Loki’s plan, stranding himself in Asgard. Odin awakens and prevents the brothers from falling into the abyss created in the wake of the bridge’s destruction, but Loki allows himself to fall when Odin rejects his pleas for approval. Loki ends up falling into a wormhole and arrives at Earth. Thor makes amends with Odin, admitting he is not ready to be king; meanwhile, on Earth, Foster and her team search for a way to open a portal to Asgard.
In a post-credits scene, Selvig is taken to a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, where Nick Fury opens a briefcase and asks him to study a mysterious cube-shaped object, which Fury says may hold untold power. An invisible Loki prompts Selvig to agree.
Thor is a highly enjoyable spectacle. The story feels a bit like a a Shakespearean drama, with Anthony Hopkins giving the scenes in Asgard a heavy amount of dramatic gravitas. Hemsworth’s Thor and Hiddleston’s Loki have great on-screen chemistry. Both are perfect for their respective roles, each embodying and bringing to life a pair of relatable and three-dimensional characters that might have been sillier and more two-dimensional in lesser hands. Branaugh does a great job throughout of finding a balance between telling a story that feels like a serious intra-family theater drama, while also including enough comedy and extravagance to properly accompany a comic book hero movie.
The movie centers around Thor’s character arc. When we meet him, he is a warrior who only knows how to think and solve problems in the way that a warrior does. He ignores his father’s orders, invades a foreign territory, and does so without a thought about potential loss of life that might follow. Odin intervenes and punishes him after.
Odin: You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!
Thor: And you are an old man and a fool!
Odin: Yes… I was a fool, to think you were ready.
By the end of the movie, Thor has been humbled, learning to value life even above his own.
Thor: Brother, however I have wronged you, whatever I have done that has led you to do this, I am truly sorry. But these people are innocent, taking their lives will gain you nothing. So take mine, and end this.
This is a standard superhero character arc but those arcs are repeated so often because they resonate. The key is to do them well and the film executes this one in an entertaining way. Thor’s grief in the middle of his arc, when he is no longer worthy to lift the hammer ,and when he believes Odin has died, sells the audience on the change that he undergoes as much or more than the new-found love does. By the end, the willingness to self-sacrifice is believable.
Loki is afun antagonist. He is motivated by a desire to outshine his brother. Jealousy and bitterness are standard villain characteristics, but Hiddleston’s Loki – the God of Mischief – manages to remain likeable while doing terrible things. Some of that is due to an innate sympathy from the audience regarding his adoption story, but some of that is also Hiddleston’s charisma. He made me believe that in spite of what Loki might be doing, he actually does love Asgard, and his mother, father, and brother. As the movie ended, I was unclear about where he stood morally and what lessons he might – or might not – have learned. It’s an excellent and nuanced performance, laying the groundwork for him to continue on with the character ever since.
The cinematography and special effects are outstanding. I particularly loved the CGI rendering of Asgard and how Marvel managed to bring it to life. I also thought the Frost Giants looked great, too.
Thor’s love interest in the film is Jane Foster, portrayed by Natalie Portman. She is a great actress, but she does not have a lot to do in this role, except convey beauty, intelligence, and an attraction to Hemsworth’s Thor. She plays her part very well, but as the story largely revolves around the Asgardian family politics and not around the newly formed romance, an actress of Portman’s caliber felt a little bit underutilized in this role. However, you can certainly sense that the writing team at Marvel had plans to take better advantage of her talents in the future.
A consistent comedic highlight of the film is Darcy, played by Kat Dennings. She delivers funny quips and one-liners throughout the film.
Darcy: [On seeing Thor, who’s been hit by their car, lying on the ground] Whoa, does he need CPR? ‘Cause I totally know CPR!
Darcy: [staring at Thor] You know, for a crazy homeless person… he’s pretty cut.
Jane Foster: Years of research, gone.
Darcy: They even took my iPod.
Erik Selvig: What about the backups?
Jane Foster: They took our backups. They took the backups of our backups. They were extremely thorough.
Darcy: I just downloaded, like, 30 songs onto there.
Despite a lot of relatively harsh reviews from professional critics when it opened in theaters, I remember liking this movie. I did not understand the animosity at the time. I still don’t. Thor and Loki are well-cast characters, with good arcs, the story has a great drama and comedy balance throughout, and the visual look of the film is excellent. It was a fun movie from beginning to end. Rewatching Thor reminded me of why I originally loved the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What do you think about Thor?