FlixChatter Review: THOR

Summer blockbuster season has finally arrived with a thunderous bang. I can tell you right off the bat that Kenneth Branagh has set the bar for a highly entertaining superhero flick, not bad for a director known mostly for his Shakespearean works.

The gist of the story is this: A young warrior is stripped off his power (that is his powerful hammer Mjolnir) by his father for his disobedience and arrogance, and is banished from his home in Asgard to earth as punishment. Right away we’re introduced to three storm-chasing scientists on that fateful night when Thor falls to earth. Then the film swiftly gives us the rundown on the cosmic realm of Asgard, with Anthony Hopkins’ narration as the battle-weary and wise chief Odin, and the relationship of his people with the neighboring enemy, The Frost Giants. It’s a spectacular establishing scenes by Branagh, within a few minutes I’m already invested in their world and wanting for more. Though it may seem cheesy in the trailer, the world of Asgard with its shiny, pipe-organ-like skyscrapers look majestic and impressive in 3D.

The day Thor is about to be crowned king, a security breach prompts a reckless decision by the hotheaded warrior that inevitably re-ignites an ancient war, something Odin’s been trying to prevent. Thor’s impudent confrontation with his father lands him in a far away land we call earth, so the intro comes full circle when the team of scientists find him laying in the middle of the desert, all disheveled and discombobulated (perhaps the fact that he runs forcefully into an oncoming van might have something to do with it).

Total Film’s feature article on the film puts it amusingly enough, “Thor is part RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company), all OMG…” 😀 What a fitting description. Branagh puts his Bard-training to good use — the complicated relationship between Thor and his father and brother Loki, as well as the people on earth, are handled well. He also infuse witty dialog and draw compelling performances from his actors, whilst still delivering satisfying special effects for fans of the superhero genre. All the fight scenes involving the all-powerful Mjolnir are super cool and get people like me to revel in its inherent geekiness.

Branagh decided not to set Thor in ancient Vikings realm, instead opting to inject the comical fish-out-of-water scenarios during his temporary banishment to earth. Not to mention the kind of shenanigans the hammer-stuck-in-a-rock brings about to the sleepy town, which perfectly calls for a gleeful cameo from Stan Lee. It’s a pleasant surprise how well the Shakespearean tone in Asgard actually meshes well with the um, grounded scenes and dialog of the earthly creatures. My favorite part is when he smashes his coffee cup in a small town café while shouting, ‘Bring me another!’ The one-liners from Kat Dennings are a hoot, it doesn’t feel jarring or annoying. Even the usually-serious Stellan Skarsgård drew riotous laughter in much of his scenes.

I was skeptical of Chris Hemsworth in the lead role, having been disappointed by the relative-newcomer leading men in Clash of the Titans and TRON: Legacy. But I’m glad to say Hemsworth doesn’t disappoints here, not only is he more expressive than both Sam Worthington and Garrett Hendlund combined, he’s also got charisma in spades (apart from that shirtless scene, mind you). He’s also got a pretty credible chemistry with Natalie Portman, the workaholic scientist who practically goes ga-ga over Thor the minute she lays eyes on him.

The rest of the performances are great as well. Hopkins’s gravitas as the wise king is to be expected, but it’s Tom Hiddleston who’s the revelation here by infusing the conflicted Loki with the right amount of sinister undercurrent and dejection. He’s not your typical power-hungry villain, in fact, at times I can’t help feeling sorry for his predicament. Idris Elba is also memorable as Hemdall, the loyal guardian of the Bifrost bridge that connects Asgard with the other realms, including earth. If I have to nitpick however, Rene Russo is hugely underused here, and the two out of the four friends of Thor practically weren’t given anything to do.

I also have to mention Patrick Doyle’s affecting music. The classically-trained composer has worked with Branagh before on Henry V and Hamlet and his soundtrack of Sense & Sensibility is one of my all-time favorites. I really enjoyed the glorious-sounding music, definitely worth buying I’d say.

Lesson learned, never judge a movie by its trailers. I felt the same way about Iron Man 2 trailer but ended up really enjoying the film. Alas, the opposite was true for Clash of the Titans. The ending is so satisfying and naturally set up for a sequel. It doesn’t seem forced at all, in fact, Branagh gives us much to look forward to. Alas, I missed the post-credit scene at the theater, but my hubby found it afterward on YouTube. Let’s just say I’m now mildly curious about The Avengers as well.

4 out of 5 reels

If you’ve seen THOR, what do you think of the film? For those who haven’t seen it yet, are you looking forward to it?

46 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: THOR

  1. Ted S.

    I listened to the soundtrack to this film and I like it. In my opinion none of the Marvel based films had memorable themes. Only DC’s Superman and Batman themes are the ones I remember most.

    I’ll see Thor sometime this week, if I missed the first week it opened, I tend to wait till it hits Blu-ray.

    1. Glad you think so, Ted. Patrick Doyle’s music is definitely the kind of stuff I LOVE, so it’s great to see his name in the end credits. No wonder I like the music as I was watching the film, and like you, usually I don’t pay attention to it unless it’s really memorable. I’d love to hear what you think of Thor, so you’re gonna see in in IMAX as usual?

      1. Ted S.

        It’s not playing on the true IMAX theater, only the smaller fake ones and you know how I feel about them. I’ll probably go see it on the regular 2D theater in Southdale. I haven’t been back to Southdale theater since last summer, even though it’s only a block from my house.

        1. Ahah, it’s funny how you call it ‘fake’ IMAX. I went to the ICON cinema in St. Louis Park, I love that place, it’s got great seats and is never as busy as AMC theaters.

          1. Ted S.

            Ha ha yeah, I call them fake because they use digital projectors as oppose to real film projector like the one at the zoo. Also, the screen size is tiny compare the real IMAX theater. I’m not going to pay high ticket price for fake ones.

            I like the ICON theater too and it’s great that you can reserve your seats in advance. AMC southdale is always packed and I can’t stand it.

  2. Lovely review, Ruth.
    I was planning to see this because Kenneth Branagh is involve in this movie. I have seen the poster in the cooming soon area…tho not sure when it will actually come.

    1. Thanks Nov. Oh I truly hope you get to see this soon in Jkt. At least the poster’s already showing up, so fingers crossed the movie isn’t too far behind. Btw, what other Branagh’s movies have you seen? I’m thinking of renting Hamlet now.

  3. woohoo!! LOVE IT!!

    I am so pleased that this isn’t utter tosh. I was so expecting that all the films I want to see this year turn out to be real turkeys..(Battle : LA, SuckerPunch).

    It is nice to hear that the next one on my list hasn’t fallen at the first hurdle..

    Thanks Ruth


    1. I know Custard, I was disappointed by Clash, Expendables and Tron Legacy so that’s why I kept my expectation in check for this one. But I think even if I had a higher expectation, this movie will still exceed it. It’s massively entertaining, I don’t even mind seeing it again before its theater run is done.

  4. I knew the film would be good when it was directed by Branagh, and I liked the trailer too.
    Loved Hemsworth and Hiddleston.
    Too bad the film had such a horrid lead actress.

    1. Have you seen it Dezzy? I’m so happy for Branagh, I hope they make the sequel soon 😀 Ah Dezzy, you’re referring to Natalie, right? I don’t consider her a lead actress as she doesn’t have a ton of screen time. I’m not a huge fan of hers but I like her here.

  5. Paula

    I was wondering if you were going to review this, I saw it Saturday night & i LOVED it. Even sitting in the third row…which might as well be 3D LOL

    Like Custard, my expectations were a bit low. I have comic book movie fatigue. (Though I’m looking forward to X-Men, we got the trailer again & it looks awesome.) And though I knew Branagh could do action no problem, I didn’t know how he’d handle effects. Cheesy effects are a major bummer…but I needn’t have worried.

    As Ruth said, his mix of the serious and the comedic isn’t jarring. The trail of chaos following Thor (the character) as he does his thing on Earth is pretty hilarious. I also liked how it kept MOVING…a comic book movie should be ~snappy…and how the script referred to other Marvel characters.

    Hemsworth is a pro, at this point I’d go see anything else he was in just to see what he does with it.

    Just go see it you all 😉

    1. Woot, woot! Glad you enjoyed this too, Paula. Oh boy, 3rd row? Your eyes gotta hurt. I think after reading the reviews, I was expecting it not to suck, but it proves to be more than that, it’s excellent! Yeah, I was surprised how well Branagh handled the sfx, but he did great, and I knew he can handle comedy because of Much Ado About Nothing.

      I reckon someone has a crush on Mr. Hemsworth? 😉 I don’t blame you, that shirtless scene was quite um, memorable, he…he…

      1. Paula

        LOL there is no denying that he is lovely to look at 😉 and his looks are perfect for this…but i honestly thought he did a good job with a role that could very easily have turned ridiculous in a hurry.

        thx for the Thor sidebar…interesting stuff

        1. He’s not really my type but Chris is a great eye candy nonetheless. There are lots of cool trivia on THOR, I should add one about Hiddleston winning the Olivier award in 2008 as well, no wonder Branagh likes him.

  6. Yeah, i love this movie also. And i wasn’t too familiar with Dennings before this, but i may put her on my fav actress list after this. I feel in the wrong hands her character could have ended up annoying, but she was just so likable and fun in the role i never got that feeling. Although like you said, all the performances in this movie was pretty top notch.

    1. Hey Julian, did your dad like it too? He’s a big fan of the comics right? I had no idea who Dennings was either, but she’s funny! Her comic timing is perfect, it doesn’t feel forced at all and I love how nonchalant she is about the whole science thing.

  7. I liked it, too. It was actually a lot of fun although my expectations were admittedly low. BTW-I saw it from the first row, my preferred spot. When I go to the theater I like to be immersed in the film and forget about everything and everyone around me 🙂

    More of my thoughts can be found here: http://j.mp/jyDoO1

    1. Hi Weetiger! Wow, you like to be in the first row? It gives me a headache if I sit too close to the screen, I’m always at the 3rd or 4th row from the back.

      LOVE all the pics on your blog. Btw, aren’t you irritated we still haven’t seen a single trailer from Gerry’s upcoming movies?

      1. Yes! I’m hoping that since Coriolanus is showing at Cannes (in 3 days! Woot!) we might get something after that. MGP is due in September so hopefully we’ll get a trailer soon.

        1. That is awesome that Coriolanus premieres in Cannes, that’s quite a feat for the Weinsteins. I do hope we see something soon from either one of those, wouldn’t it be great if we see both trailers on the same day? I might spontaneously combust, ahah.

    1. Hmmm, underwritten? I guess I don’t know what they’re expecting. I though she has a decent amount of screen time and she’s not a damsel in distress like a lot of other superhero love interest. In fact, she’s an intelligent woman who is passionate about her work. She looks radiant, too, I like how she practically blushes at the sight of Thor.

    2. Totally underwritten Rich. It’s only because Portman can do this kind of role in her sleep that it didn’t feel totally problematic.

  8. Mike

    Sounds like it’s a “GO” for this flick. Perhaps I’ll take the girls to see it?

    For me, there’s ONLY ONE film I’m looking forward to this summer. Yup, “The Hangover II”. Period. Sorry, nothing made me laugh harder than the first one.

    1. I highly recommend it, Mike. I’d say yeah, take the girls. The movie is ‘clean’, the battles aren’t gory and there’s zero bad language or cussing, which is a welcome thing in my book.

      I still haven’t seen the original Hangover, and frankly, I don’t think I ever will.

  9. Glad you liked this Ruth! I was surprised how much I enjoyed it given that the trailers did absolutely nothing for me. It didn’t feel like a trailer for the Avengers (cough* Iron Man 2) and Chris Hemsworth was totally a revelation. Wished there was more of Idris Elba, he didn’t get to do much action-wise ahah 🙂

    1. Same here, Castor. As I’ve said before, the trailers really dampened my enthusiasm, but maybe that’s a good thing given that some of the other movies w/ GREAT trailers turn out to be disappointing! I like Elba and I applaud Branagh’s color-blind casting of Hemdall.

    1. Hey, thanks for encouraging me to watch it. You’re right, it is great entertainment and I think it works because of the way the villain role is handled. When you think about it, lots of great movies usually have compelling villains, i.e. Die Hard.

  10. Your review has given more of an appetite for this one. I was never much of a fan of the comic book, but it looks like this plays to the characters strengths. I am a fan of Branagh as a director, though.

    1. If you’re a fan of Branagh, you should appreciate this one, Rich. I didn’t read the comics either, but now I’m liking the character a lot.

  11. Rob

    Hey Ruth – You hooked me. Great review – now I’ll have to call up my superhero-fan brother-in-law and go see it.

    1. Yo Rob, glad to see you on FC 😀 Yes, go see it! Especially if your brother in-law loves superhero stuff. Let me know what you think once you see it ok?

  12. I’m really surprised how many good reviews I’m seeing for this movie. The trailers have done absolutely nothing for me other than to convince me this was going to be another generic comic book movie that wasn’t even going to have the benefit of looking cool due to cool special effects centering on “powers” (ie flying, teleporting, mutations, awesome gadgetry/suits).

    I really felt this was going to be the worst of the generic comic book movies this year. But it’s seeming like it could be the best and pretty good. Guess I’m going to have to break down and give it a try.

    1. Hi JL, I had the exact same reaction as you when I saw the trailer, but I guess we ought not judge a movie by its trailer because the movie is a heck of a lot better. As I said, all the scenes that seemed super cheesy and dumb in the trailer actually look good and make sense in the movie, they were not cringe-inducing. Give it a shot and you might be pleasantly surprised, as I was 🙂

  13. I had a real good time with this and I wasn’t expecting to but this really kept my interest. Mostly because the tone was so light and very simple. Can’t get any better than that. Good Review!

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