Over the past bunch of years, Marvel has enjoyed a good deal of success on the movie front. They successfully brought the likes of Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron Man, Punisher, and Ghost Rider, among others, to the big screen. No, not all of them have been runaway blockbusters, but they have all entertained a certain level of success.
Now that the comic publisher has fully entered the big-picture arena, moving beyond being a development partner, Marvel has been working on a delivering a complete universe on film. Although its projects each have their own unique flavor, they all share similar aesthetic, and it would be believable to see a crossover amongst a few characters. Thor is one of the most recent to hit the big screen, and while it may not have been as big as Iron Man, it does prove to be better than I was expecting.
The character of Thor has never been a particular favorite of mine. I never really looked into his history; he simply bored me. He was fine as a member of the Avengers, but on his own I generally couldn’t be bothered.
So, as the movie release approached I was not as excited about it as I was for, say, X-Men: First Class. Still, the movie was next in the build up to the Avengers movie, and I was curious to see how it would play out. In particular, I wondered about the blending of Earth-based scenes with those set in Asgaard. The end result was a satisfying blend of superhero and mythic fantasy.
As the movie opens, we are introduced to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). She is working on a weather study and believes she is seeing some sort of pattern in a series of storms. As she and her partners drive in to investigate they hit a man who appears out of nowhere. Any idea who this may be? That’s right, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has appeared out of nowhere. As Jane and the others race to see if he is still alive, the story flashes back to Asgaard where we learn how Thor came to be on Earth.
We meet his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins, his step-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and other brothers-in-arms. We are also introduced to their sworn enemies, the Frost Giants. As we learn about the family dynamics and the truce with the Frost Giants, we also learn that Thor has been chosen to succeed Odin as the ruler of Asgaard. Of course, plans are put on hold when the Frost Giants unexpectedly attack, are chased away, and then confronted by Thor.
At this early time, Thor is presented as angry and vindictive, thinking with his anger rather than logic. This makes it all too easy for him to be manipulated into attacking the Frost Giants, raising their ire, and getting himself expelled to Earth as a punishment from Odin.
Yes, I know I fast forwarded through some of that stuff, but do you really want me to tell you everything? I am sure if you have seen any number of superhero movies, you can tell where this is going. As enjoyable as it is, it is not the sort of movie ripe with narrative surprise. It is more about the creative team’s ability to keep the audience involved combined with the actors’ ability to make it all seem somewhat plausible. Sure, there have been genre movies that take it to the next level, but Thor is not one of them.
Once all of the players are in place and the bad guy reveals himself (not that we did not know already) the movie settles down a bit. We get to spend a little time learning motivations while watching Jane figure out who Thor. The movies leads us toward a final showdown with implications for both Earth and Asgaard.
The movie does its job; it introduces us to Thor and prepares the slate for the Avengers film. Beyond that, it is a fun romp that succeeds where Green Lantern fails. Thor combines two very different worlds in one film, each with its own inhabitants, problems, and action, into a single film that makes sense.
Director Kenneth Branagh took the helm, bringing his unique experience to bear. Best known for his Shakespeare adaptations, he was an interesting choice to direct. But I generally liked what he brought. The action in the movie is not at the expense of the characters; it has enough, but Branagh knows how to space everything to allow for some actual character moments to shine through.
Audio/Video. The 2.35:1 ratio image is delivered in fine fashion from Paramount. Throughout the film there is generally very nice detail, although a few of the darker scenes seem to have suffered in the transfer. The biggest challenge is in the shifting locale. There are three primary locations, one is the warm, golden look of Asgaard, the second is the frigid landscape of Jotunheim (land of the Frost Giants), and then there is the bright, crisp, and real realm of New Mexico. Each one has a distinct look and feel, each one with its nice detail, and the video presents a nice transition between the three. There is no mistaking the nice, high definition look of any location shot.
Audio is presented in the form of a DTS-HD 7.1 track. The sound is really rather strong, demonstrating a wide sonic range with clear, enveloping music that can either play very softly or become amped up for some big action sequence. Dialogue is nicely rendered, always intelligible. It is likely the action sequences where you will most recognize the strong audio where it seems like everything is going on all around you. In particular, I would check the battle Thor has with the Frost Giants, and then later his fight with the Destroyer robot in New Mexico. They are pretty exciting!
- Commentary – This track features director Kenneth Branagh. I found him to be a little to the dry side, but he does offer a lot of good information about the production, cast, and all sorts of other bits around the film.
- Marvel One-Shot – The Consultant. This is a fun short with Agent Colsen and a colleague discussing how to keep the Abomination behind bars. Enter…. aaahhh, not telling.
- Featurettes – A series of behind the scenes clips, interviews, and footage about a variety of aspects of the film and its development. There is a good deal of information to be had.
- Road to the Avengers - Some clips with the cast and director, and what looks like footage from Comic Con.
- Deleted Scenes – More than 24-minutes of cut and extended scenes with optional commentary from Kenneth Branagh.