I don’t normally write movie reviews, but seeing as how it’s expected of me as both a writer and as a comic book reader to do so for this movie and others like it, I guess that it can’t be avoided. However, I would like to make it very clear that my desire to write this is simply that–I desire to and there is no degree to which I am being forced to do so. In fact, I’ve seen the movie four times now with each experience being the best superhero movie I’ve ever seen.
I’ll begin this how it should–with mythos. In both comic book lore and Norse mythology, Kenneth Branagh has managed to take seemingly silly or impossibly lame aspects of both sides and create in them a new world full of spectacle and logical progression of modern ideas. Instead of a literal rainbow bridge as seen in both mythologies, a solid bridge of rainbow quartz is used and each step upon it lights up like a rainbow. Brilliant. Whoever came up with that idea needs a raise, because they single handedly came up with a solution to a seemingly impossible problem in terms of badassery.
Asgard is a realm of castles and mysticism, but Branagh makes it modern with futuristic metallic covers and shiny otherworldly architecture befitting a science fiction world; tying together the aspects of magic and science so often mentioned throughout the film. The task of making their ridiculous clothing as close as they could to the comic was easily mastered, and though some may question my resolve I’ll explain why. In the scenes taking place in Asgard the wardrobes match the world and all of the scenery therein. The metallic armor and capes blend in with the bright and exciting world created there. And when they are seen out of that context–it surely does throw our gaze and make us question the validity of what we are seeing. Which by the way is the purpose. By juxtaposing Asgard from Earth, Branagh makes it brutally clear how different their world is from ours. They don’t fit in and they stand out as ridiculous costumes, but in their own realm they perfectly blend in with the surroundings and hold our eyes with the sheer beauty.
The characters are spot on to the mythos with the Marvel side taking precedence over the Norse continuity. A few minor changes were made, but none that would scour the characters in any way for avid Nordic fans. Loki evolves from his mischief to true chaos as Thor learns humility and becomes both mighty and noble for the first time in his life. Odin strikes fear into his enemies and even his own sons. His horse has many legs and the two birds picking at his brain, Idea and Thought, are seen by his thrown. Yggdrasil the World Tree is mentioned as well as the names of the 9 realms—even the correct pronunciation of Mjolnir is used.
On to the actors to which I will begin with a simple truth: There is no movie in which Anthony Hopkins is bad, mediocre, or good. He is simply amazing in every regard and as the Allfather he stuns the viewer with his silent observation and lightning quick animosity. Chris Hemsworth, the bright new star, is a beacon of likable manliness that can be appreciated on any level. Women will adore his charm and his godly physique; men will admire his wit and tenacity for battle; and children will look up to him as he earns strength through humility and puts others before himself. As an actor in his first really big role—it’s a homerun. He is a truly enjoyable treat for any viewer. Natalie Portman carries her own weight as a genius astrophysicist and brings her usual witty charisma and beauty without being left behind by the stellar performances around her. Idris Elba, Heimdallur, just wow. A cold and fearless warrior with the most human characteristics in the film. He acts as a bridge himself between all realms and carries the plot with ease. Every moment with him is full of interest. But really, when I look back on the four times I’ve seen this film now…the true star is none other than Tom Hiddleston, Loki. At times you love him. You are on his side and you fight with him. Then you question him and hate him terribly. You despise every word he speaks. Then you agree with him and understand his pain. You are back on his side and you want all to be well. And then you feel his sorrow and you mourn for him. Then you hate him all over again. Brilliant performance and cunning portrayal of the mischievous god. He truly stole the show and gave us the reason Branagh was chosen for this movie—experience with great drama and spot-on line delivery.
Now the only critiques I had for this movie were in the effects. A scene where Thor falls from the sky, yet his cape doesn’t follow suit and stays down as if not moved. A scene where he is struck and is obviously thrown upward and then pulled back by a line. But these things are small and easily missed in the quick paced battle sequences that Branagh has never done before. Experience will be kind to him and I have no doubts that his next feature will be flawless if this was his first attempt. His choices for shots are well thought out and clever concoctions of subtle filmography. Many diagonal shots help frame the characters and build their scale, while close ups of Hemsworth’s beautiful blue eyes in true pain keep us wanting. Even cleverer, I thought, was the use of only 2 songs in the movie’s conception. The instrumental theme song is used so appropriately that the viewer only feels the song in moments—experiencing the scenes while the music flows through their emotions. A truly remarkable feat that few films accomplish without seeming lazy.
As a tie-in feature to the upcoming Captain America film and then The Avengers, Thor gives us every tether we could ever need. Stark, Banner, Hawkeye, The Cosmic Cube, and Loki’s involvement make Thor the true first step in the right direction to solidifying a universe and its continuity. Marvel should be very proud of the efforts put forth here and I hope that Captain America delivers the next step up toward a climactic Avengers film that is sure to pack the ultimate punch for fans and regular audiences alike. As for Branagh..I wish with all my heart that the Shakespearean scholar continue his work and treat us again with another fine taste of his knack for all things dramatic.