Lamar Reviews: Thor

Thor
****

Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Screenplay by Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne
Story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich

Cast
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Anthony Hopkins as Odin
Stellan Skarsgard as Erik Selvig
Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis

Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence

You’d be hard-pressed to find anything going on at the movies these days I’m less objective about than Marvel Studios’ multi-film ramp up to the 2012 all-star superhero movie The Avengers.  It all started after the opening credits of 2008’s splendid Iron Man, when Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury turns up to inform Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) of something called… “The Avenger Initiative”.  A few minutes later, I picked my jaw up off the floor, because The Avengers (Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, as their subhead assured me each month) were THE comic book superteam of my youth, and the adventures of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and less famous heroes like The Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and The Vision are hard-wired cornerstones of who I am.

Granted, I don’t read any monthly comics anymore (I’ll pick up the occasional graphic novel collection, but DC’s always been much better at that format than Marvel and its multi-title special edition sagas that sprawl like TV soap operas well beyond any point other than to fill pages), but as an adult movie-lover, the chance to see these iconic characters come to life as an interconnected series of film franchises much like the Marvel Universe itself is, well, more than my geeky little heart can bear.  And so I have gone on to love Chapters 2 and 3 of the Avengers Epic, 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and 2010’s Iron Man 2, at times against my own better judgment (IM2 might be the worst movie I’ve given 4 stars on this site, but it delights me for all its flaws).  Now comes Part 4, and I can happily (or delusionally, or possibly both) report that Thor is another rock-solid outing, probably the 2nd best movie in the series to the original Iron Man (which is really on a level all its own). 

 

On paper, Thor is a daunting adaptation:  the Norse God of Thunder is physically imposing, dressed in an outlandishly comic-friendly costume and speaks like a character from The Iliad.  To say nothing of how little his universe has in common with the more realistic, science-based worlds previously established in the Iron Man and Hulk movies.  But Branagh and his team pull it off so well you wonder in retrospect what all the fuss was about.  The speech of all the Asgardians is seriously contemporized and by making it clear that both science and magic are at work in Thor’s world (he calls them one and the same), it’s far easier to imagine Tony Stark giving him the hairy eye but still fighting by his side.  I really liked the fact that the art direction makes things like The Destroyer and the Rainbow Bridge machines, albeit ones powered by principals we could not comprehend, and I liked the physical intensity of the fight scenes despite their reliance on special effects.  After two hours in their company, it’s really no harder to make the leap of believing in Thor and his world than that gamma radiation could turn a man into a mean green monster.  In particular, credit needs to go to the designers of the costume, which seems to have walked right out of the comic pages without sacrificing believability.

Thor is a lot more skillful than Iron Man 2 at putting Avengers pieces on the chessboard, introducing us to at least 4 significant characters from its cast, including a cameo appearance by Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton (aka the master archer Hawkeye) that’s not quite enough to get any real handle on him.  Gregg is once more a confidently awkward delight as Coulson, who I actually prefer to Fury as the Face of S.H.I.E.L.D.  It goes without saying that you should stay after the end credits for the now-de rigeur tag that may lead directly into The Avengers depending upon whether any of this summer’s 5th Avengers Epic chapter (Captain America:  The First Avenger) is set in the present day.

Thor combines well-executed drama, superhero action and a nice sense of summer movie fun into a potent entertainment machine that’s one of the better recent comic book adaptations.  Of course, you have to bear in mind that you’re hearing that from a guy who still gets a chill every time he thinks we’re now less than 12 months away from the motion picture event of his geeky dreams.  Avengers Assemble!

For the full review, get stamped at www.Lamarsmoviepalce.com/thor.html