A number of cinemas across Britain showed Thor on Monday, a couple of days early, an Easter treat. Despite the hot sunshine and blue skies, I committed myself to a good couple of hours in a darkened theatre to watch a film that I have seen trailered for months. I’m not much of a fan of Marvel, I’ve had my fill of superheroes and I’m more than a little bored of The Avengers even though it has only just begun to shoot. Nevertheless, despite all of this, plus my general unease with Natalie Portman’s acting, I took a chance on Thor, not expecting much.
Not long into Thor I realised with a thunderbolt that I was thoroughly enjoying myself. Far from taking itself too seriously, this preposterous tale of Viking gods invited me to laugh and grimace and marvel. I obliged.
The plot, such as it is, tells the tale of Thor, the vain and foolhardy Norse god who reignites an ancient war with the Frost Giants and for his presumption is cast out of Asgard by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and stripped of his divine powers, most notably his mighty hammer. In the wings, watching his brother’s fall from grace, is Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the other son who is not what he seems. On earth, Thor is run over (twice) by scientist Jane (Natalie Portman), who is just on the cusp of discovering something marvellous, and so begins Thor’s journey to humility, self-discovery and love. Only when he has achieved these traits can he again hold the hammer. Not surprisingly, the hammer, which landed on earth moments after its former owner, attracts quite a bit of attention, much of it from Shield, the organisation that you’ll remember from Iron Man. That’s the grand story, the joy of this film, though, is in the less grand moments that drive along a much more human story.
There are plenty of preposterous moments, many of them centred around Anthony Hopkins, but despite the splendour of Asgard and the thrill and danger of the battles with the Frost Giants, Thor comes to life in the scenes on earth. The secret to that success is Chris Hemsworth, the actor who plays Thor and looks every bit the part. He is extremely difficult to dislike and strangely vulnerable despite his massive strength. Watching his interaction with Jane, an equally charming Natalie Portman, it’s hard not to want events to resolve as both would wish. Also interesting is Jane’s protective and open-minded colleague Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård).
Thor does not take itself too seriously, there are moments of disarming humour, especially from Hemsworth, and this is far more funny than the less well-realised and conventional banter with his Asgard friends, who look all too much like a bunch left over from the Lord of the Rings fellowship of the ring.
The action never lets up, whether it’s Thor trying to reclaim his hammer or fighting the nasty robot (presumed for a moment by Shield to be one of Stark’s creations) sent to destroy the young hero at any cost to human life.
Thor is most definitely not to be taken too seriously. And if you don’t, you might find that you are enchanted by Hemsworth’s portrayal of a young impetuous god who discovers that he is a loving and loveable young man. Having grown up watching Kenneth Branagh, Thor‘s director, on stage and on screen, I was relieved to find he did good.
I saw the 3D version and in places I was tempted to remove the glasses – parts of it were too dark and too fast-moving. I also found it a little blurred but that could be the fault of the cinema. However, there were other parts of the 3D presentation which were much more enjoyable and immersive.
There were a couple of disappointments: the revolting Foo Fighters’ song that closed the film and the final ‘surprise’ at the end of the credits, about which there was nothing surprising whatsoever. But regardless of this, I came out of Thor with an interest in The Avengers, which began filming this week. More than anything, I want to see Chris Hemsworth as Thor again. Move over, Tony Stark!