Monday, April 25, 2011

Thor Review

Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba and Kat Dennings
Running time: 114 Minutes

First off, let me get this off my chest. Marvel's last big screen outing was Iron Man 2 and for me it was one of the worst Marvel pictures that they've released. So when it came to Thor, I was hoping that the studio would redeem themselves -- And boy did they ever !

The movie takes place in two primary locations, small town USA and planet Asgard -- the home planet of Thor. The action is evenly spread between the two, which gives you pleanty of time to appreciate the beautiful set peices that director Kenneth Branagh has created on Asgard. One of the most striking things about this is the production value and the effects. You can actually believe that the budget was $150M, the cinematography and CGI effects are simply stunning.

The main plot sees Thor being cast out of Asgard and into Human form down to the planet Earth by his father Odin, the leader of the Asgardians. He is being punished for being selfish, war hungry and arrogant after bringing war to his home planet. After he gets blasted to Earth, minus his Mjollnir (Thor's Hammer), he is rescued by a band of scientists who are studying storm patterns. Soon after, the true intentions of some Asgardians are relaised, and Earth is placed in danger. It is up to Thor and this rag tag band of scientists to assist in keeping Earth safe.

The action is very thick and fast. The opening 20 minutes is jam packed with stunning CGI battles between Thor and the Ice Giants. They are the primary enemy here, trying to get back the "cradle" that Odin took from them years earlier. The action here takes place on the Ice Planet, where we are introduced to Loufey, the head of the Ice Giants.  After this opening battle, we zoom back to Asgard to soak up the wonders that Branagh has created. Special mention must go to the transportation device that teleports the characters to different realms. The production values here are extremely high.

I am pleased to say as well that characterization here is very prominent. You can tell that Branagh is a fan of Shakespeare, as there are elements of Shakespeare sowed into the story. Tragedy and family betrayel are big issues here. The action on Earth is also very well dealt with, never silly or over the top and the performances are all grounded too. Chris Hemsworth is so convincing as the Thunder God, Thor while Anthony Hopkins brings his wisdom to the role of Odin. One stand out performance here is from Brit Tom Hiddleston, who plays Thor's brother Loki. He reminds me of Scar from the Lion King, smart, but also very cunning and sly.

The story itself never loses pace or wonder off in different directions. Branagh keeps things moving at a very fast speed and even during scenes of dialogue you are never bored as the next action sequence is just around the corner. Every time I thought to myself, "Oh it would be great if they did this..." it happened! Thor really is a fan boys dream come true. An epic spectacle that does not disappoint. More passion and emotion in this than in any of the previous Marvel releases so you really connect with the characters and hope that the good guys prevail.

If I had to pick one fault with anything here it is the over abundance of sub-characters. Some are just not required as they get lost in the background. But they never distract from the action or story. And the much-hyped cameo from a fellow Avenger was quite pointless and for me, was awfully disappointing. But the overall feel and direction of Thor can only do the upcoming Avengers film a lot of justice. After watching this, I am looking forward to Captain America: The First Avenger even more and hoping that the Avengers is as good as its Thunder God hero, Thor. Also, please, please, PLEASE sit through the 10 minutes of credits at the end, as there is very nice surprise that could have massive implications for the Avengers!

4 and half out of 5 stars

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