Luke Owen continues on the road to The Avengers, revisiting Thor…
Directed by Kenneth Branagh.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Anthony Hopkins, Kat Dennings, Idris Elba, Ray Stevenson, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander, Joshua Dallas, Tadanobu Asano, Colm Feore, Clark Gregg, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson.
Stripped of his powers by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is exiled to Earth where he discovers what it takes to become a true hero.
Much like Iron Man, Thor was finally getting his first big screen film adaptation after a lot of stop-start movie productions (although his first film appearance was in The Incredible Hulk Returns in 1988). After finishing Darkman in 1990, Sam Raimi pitched a Thor movie to 20th Century Fox who apparently did not understand it. It wasn’t until the success of Bryan Singer’s X-Men that Fox thought they could get some mileage from the character as a TV series with UPN and cast Tyler Mane in the lead role. After the project was scrapped, Sony Pictures bought the rights to the character in December 2004 with Blade: Trinity (and future Batman storyman) helmer David S. Goyer in the director’s chair. However, in 2005 Goyer announced that he was no longer interested in the idea.
In 2006, Paramount acquired the rights with the idea of fitting Thor into their Avengers plans. After Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn vacated the project in 2008, legendary Shakespearean director Kenneth Branagh stepped into the role. It was Branagh’s addition to the project that attracted a lot of cast members including Natalie Portman, Stellen Skarsgard, Sir Anthony Hopkins and, most importantly, Tom Hiddleston. The role of the God of Thunder himself came down to brothers Chris and Liam Hemsworth, with Chris getting the final nod. Once again, the casting for Thor made it sound like a possible Oscar contender rather than a comic book film about an exiled God with a magic hammer.
As one would expect, our story centres around Thor, the son of the King of Asgard, Odin. When Thor breaks a fragile truce between the Asgardians and Frost Giants, Odin casts him out of Asgard to live on Earth as a mortal. But to test him, he also sends down his hammer Mjolnir – casting a spell on it so that only the worthy may pick it up. With Thor now off to Earth, his brother Loki ascends to the throne and begins to set about destroying Thor and ruling Asgard with the help of the Frost Giants and the Destroyer. Now Thor must prove his worth so that he may take back Asgard and save his father.
If you remember a couple of days ago, I mentioned that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Iron Man as a comic book character but the film did a great job of turning me round to him. Well, Kenneth Branagh and his team were going to work pretty darn hard to convince me about Thor. As much as I wasn’t the biggest Iron Man reader, I’d have taken his books over Thor’s any day of the week. When the trailers hit the net I was still unconvinced but I did admit that Chris Hemsworth looked pretty cool as the God of Thunder. Having watched the film on day one (well, I was always going to see it on day one, wasn’t I?), I can safely say that I was pleasantly surprised.
Thor is actually a very good movie. Surprisingly good actually. When you write the plot down on paper it all sounds so silly but the film makes it seem almost believable. Hemsworth not only looks the part, but is superb as Thor and the rest of the cast around him are fantastic, but the man who stole the show for me was Tom Hiddleston as the meddling Loki. Boy oh boy did this man take to this role duck to water. From his menacing glare, to his sinister sneer and his excellent dialogue delivery, Hiddleston makes you stand up and take notice that Loki is not a man to be messed with. The action sequences, while few and far between, are very well choreographed with Thor’s siege on the S.H.I.E.L.D encampment around Mjolnir a particular highlight. It’s a testament to Branagh that he made a film that not only appealed to comic book fans, but even to people who weren’t fans or familiar with the character.
Another man who really stepped up his game was Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. While he was always an entertaining entity in Iron Man and Iron Man 2, in Thor he was given more time to shine and make the character more than just a dogsbody for Nick Fury. However, I would argue that they dropped the ball for the debut of a character that was going to have a big role coming up – Clint Barton.
Prior to the movies production, rumours had circulated that this film would debut Hawkeye just as Iron Man 2 had debuted Black Widow. It seemed like a smart move as Paramount and Marvel did not have time to make a solo film for every character, so using these movies to establish them with an audience was the next best thing. However, Hawkeye’s appearance in Thor is resigned to a line of dialogue and a cut away shot, in the worst blink and you’ll miss it cameo I’ve ever seen. I think Stan Lee was given more screen time!
While Thor was not the best movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it was a lot better than Iron Man 2 and in some ways, was better than The Incredible Hulk. The acting was good, the dialogue was great and the whole film looked fantastic. Branagh’s vision of Asgard was incredibly impressive and the design of the characters was brilliant – they even managed to make Loki’s helmet look natural.
Our post-credit sequence for the movie was not intended to set up the upcoming Captain America as we’d all thought, but was actually either a subtle nod to either a potential Thor sequel or The Avengers. Nick Fury has now hired Erik Selvig (Skarsgard) to help him with a glowing object in a briefcase the audience can’t see (sound familiar Pulp Fiction fans?). Suddenly in the background we see a ghostly vision of Loki who prompts Selvig into accepting Fury’s offer. We now know that this was in fact a scene to set up The Avengers with Loki as the lead bad guy (which was great news). And the glowing light? Well, we were about to find out what it was in our next instalment.
We’ve got one more film to go before we arrive at the biggest super-hero team up…
Tomorrow: Captain America: The First Avenger
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.