Thor (2011)

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo

Part of growing up is learning how to set aside selfish thoughts. If more people figured this out, the world we live in would be quite different indeed. I suspect that, if there is life like ours on other worlds out there as I believe there to be, the same then can be said for them. Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth) is one such individual. Much too eager to prove himself worthy of being the first line of defense for his beloved realm of Asgard, Thor runs headlong into battle when he should be more patient and strategic like his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Now, the Asgardians are typically much more powerful beings than those of us mortals here down on Earth, which they refer to as Midgard. They’ve been here before, to defend us from the Frost Giants of Jotunheim back in the 10th Century A.D., thus creating the basis for Norse mythology. Thor, known to us as the God of Thunder, unexpectedly pays us a visit here in the 21st Century A.D. when he is banished by Odin for invading Jotunheim without his father’s consent, nearly costing the lives of Thor’s entire party and breaking the truce between Jotunheim and Asgard.

The above serves as the preamble to the heart of 2011’s “Thor,” as the title character, now mortal and unable to reclaim the source of hs power, a hammer called Mjolnir, is forced to play out a fish-out-of-water scenario. This suits his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), just fine, as Loki will no longer have to compete for his father’s attention. Upon Thor’s arrival on Earth, he is promptly hit by a van driven by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), which will comically happen once more. Earth is as strange to Thor as Asgard would be to us. He feels threatened by doctors at the hospital (Haven’t we all felt that way, sometimes?), and delighted by the taste of a marvelous drink we humans know as coffee. Thor doesn’t realize it yet, but his interaction with Jane and her friends, Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy (the movie’s plucky, comic relief character, played by Kat Dennings) is the key to his understanding the life lessons his father so desperately wishes him to learn.

Never having read the Thor comics, I had no preconceptions about what to expect from this movie. With the sequel, “Thor: The Dark World” now in theaters, Chris Hemsworth has made a total of three appearances as the God of Thunder, including 2012’s “The Avengers.” He established himself so well in his origin story, 2011’s “Thor,” that I cannot imagine anyone else in the role. The casting of Natalie Portman is also a plus, as a filmmaker truly has to work hard to take the joy out of my seeing her on the big screen. (George Lucas, I’m looking at you, buddy!) Anthony Hopkins could read from the telephone book and give it an epic feel. The genuine surprises, I thought, were Tom Hiddleston and Kat Dennings. Until seeing this movie theatrically in May 2011, I had yet to familiarize myself with Kat Dennings, who has many of the funniest lines in the Earth section of “Thor.” She’s doing well for herself, having since gone on to star in the CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls.” But it’s Tom Hiddleston who steals the show. The actor couldn’t have asked for a more appropriate director than Kenneth Branagh, as Hiddleston’s interpretation of Loki is so very Shakespearean, owing to characters like Iago from “Othello” and Cassius from “Julius Caesar.”

When the movie’s plot takes it into either Asgard or Jotunheim, the visuals are quite stunning, to the point where they make you realize that “Thor” could not have been made as is until now, at least not believably. Had it been made twenty years ago, Black Sabbath’s “Valhalla” ought to have been part of the soundtrack. Some of the Earth scenes are reminiscent of another tale of an alien who lands on Earth and falls in love with a human female. In particular, the diner scene is much like a similar moment from John Carpenter’s “Starman” (1984), one exception being that no ceramic coffee cups were harmed in the filming of that movie. But our extra-terrestrial heroes’ delight in trying out new foods that don’t exist where they come from is the same in both cases. Try the Dutch apple pie, Thor. It’s terrific.

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Comments
  1. Elmo Shell says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the review, and the 2nd one is certainly on my must watch list for this year. lol When you said 20 years ago i thought of that Hulk tv movie….huh glad that didnt get a spinoff!

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