Wednesday, June 1, 2011

FILM: Wielding the Power of Thor (Review)

The much anticipated start of the summer of the comic book movie officially begins with Marvel Studios' release of "Thor", a theatrical film focused around their comic book character who is a Norse god from Asgard now a hero on Earth. "Thor" is the first of Marvel's three live action feature film entries this summer.

Directed by veteran actor of the silver screen and stage, Kenneth Branagh ("Hamlet"), "Thor" tells the story of a powerful but arrogant warrior who is cast out of the realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he gains a new perspective on his impulsive ways.

The redemption journey for Thor (Chris Hemsworth) starts and ends in Asgard where he was born and groomed alongside his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), to be the next heir for the throne of the King, their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Asgard is a realm with stunning visuals, full of palatial structures that befit the grandness of the characters. Everything in Asgard has a grandiose quality to it, like Odin's throne and especially the Rainbow Bridge - the mystical gate that gives the Asgardians the ability to transport to other realms.

Perhaps the most stunning battle in the film happens early on when Thor leads Loki and his friends - Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano & Josh Dallas) - to Jotunheim to confront the Frost Giants after Thor's ascension to the throne ceremony was interrupted. Each Asgardian is given a chance to shine in the battle, but by far it was Thor and his hammer, Mjolnir, that performed the most impressive visual feats.

With Earth being the most realistic destination of the journey, the humor of the film picks up the visual slack of the New Mexico desert and it effortlessly flows with the action. The scenes with Thor conversing with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her repeated hitting of Thor with her van, and the Warriors Three with Sif arriving to see Thor walking through the small town in their Asgardian armor.

There might not have been a more perfect casting choice than Chris Hemsworth as the mighty Thor. Last seen by many geek audiences in 2009's "Star Trek" as Captain Kirk's sacrificing father, here Chris continues that feeling of geniune compassion from that role while adding on levels of boisterousness and a sense of strength to be his character Thor.

Accomplished actor Anthony Hopkins plays Thor's father, Odin, the King of Asgard. Worry not about his age or his lack of an imposing physique, because Hopkins presence brings the right gravitas to the role, his inflection and pacing of speech displaying a wiseness and power worthy of Odin.

Natalie Portman fills the love interest position in the film as scientist Jane Foster, an astrophysicist investigating the strange astrological occurrences that coincide with the transportation from the Rainbow Bridge. Portman brings everything she is to the role as always and does not disappoint if you are looking for a strong, independent woman who knows what she wants and strives to get it.

Since some have brought up a dislike for the 3D conversion of the film, I ended up seeing "Thor" on a normal 2D screen and it is safe to say that even in two dimensions the film is a stunning visual masterpiece that will be fun to see in home theaters in a couple of months.

In the end, "Thor" is a fun, adventure-filled ride that any movie fan should find easily accesible and a treat to watch. This movie has set a high mark for the other Marvel features coming out this summer to match, and looking back this might be my favorite Marvel produced movie to date. It is a must see, and a must own once it comes to Blu-Ray.

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