Thor

Before I start this review I would like to point out that Marvel Studio’s latest outing contains one of the greatest scenes ever committed to celluloid. It is a moment so staggering that future generations will undoubtedly call it the most important moment in talking pictures since The Jazz Singer warned us that we “ain’t seen nothing yet”. Well let me tell you, this movie has Natalie Portman running, in 3D no less, & OH MY GOD is it something!

Alright, truth be told, Ms Portman’s sprinting moment in this movie is actually nothing more than a single shot, but when you consider that the scene takes place in a picture where she is surrounded by Gods (& Monsters), watching her run like a sure footed gazelle – her eyes burning with fierce purpose – it takes a stronger man than I not to immediately give in & fall to the floor face first singing her praises. For those of you that are stronger men than I however, Thor showcases Marvel Studios taking their biggest risk so far & in the process delivering their best film yet.

Given that both Iron Man & Hulk were heroes created by science, suddenly changing its tack & asking it’s audiences to accept a character born out of magic & myth was always going to be a bit of a gamble for the Marvel movie department. Drone on for too long about the halls of Asgard, Frost Giants & whatnot & there was every chance that Marvel stood to leave its newfound fans out in the cold. Not mention it enough & the die-hard fans would stop going to see the movies for any purpose other than to flame them on the internet. The more cynical amongst you might simply assume that Marvel had taken the easy route out & simply inserted the aforementioned scene of Miss Portman striding across the screen like a rival company’s Amazonian Goddess simply to distract audiences from the fact that it hadn’t worked out quite how to fit Thor in amongst its slate of blockbuster characters. I’m glad to report that this is not the case, instead what we have here is a balancing act of godlike proportions as Kenneth Branagh skips ably between the realms of Asgard & Earth, taking his characters & source material just seriously enough to show that he genuinely cares about them whilst still showing that he’s not so precious about the material that he isn’t above poking fun at it when things start getting a little too serious.

In fact it is the inclusion of Branagh behind the camera that gives the film’s audience a reason to care about what’s in front of it. Whilst the Shakespearian thee & thou’s of traditional Thor dialogue may have been drop’t in favour of a more modern approach, the spirit of the Bard still looms over the movie like the spectre of Hamlet’s father. The movie’s opening half hour whisks its audience through a gloriously 3 dimensional rendered Asgard as brother plots against brother & a family drama unfolds against the sort of back drop that Brian Cox gleefully tells you is going to be crushed into nothingness a few million years from now. It’s heady stuff but the sibling rivalry lends the deities a sense of humanity that could easily have been mishandled as well as assuring us that the events taking place are of nothing less than epic proportions. Then Thor gets banished to Earth & the story takes a bit of a breather from its frantic beginnings & eschews the general “origin story” conventions of superhero “1″ movies. The step down to Terra Firma gives the picture time to start up on the comic relief & build foundations for genuine honest to God character development as the demoted & demotivated God of Thunder attempts to find his way back home. It all works well & showcases the film’s lighter side, allowing the story to get on with explaining how the Son of the Allfather fits in with SHIELD & the Marvel Universe as a whole. Oddly enough the movie doesn’t even really start on the super hero angle of the story until what is effectively the film’s final act. It’s an unusual way of approaching the material but the film plays its hand well using the time to build up a rapport with the characters, making you care about them before it starts putting them in harms way.

There’s a remarkable amount of characters in Thor & as a result it has probably the best cast in a comic book movie since the original Iron Man. It is here perhaps that the movie slightly misjudges things. Characters such as Sif & The Warriors 3 (Warriors 4 then?!?) or Idris Elba’s Heimdall get their ample share of screen time while other characters such as Thor’s mother Frigga, played by Rene Russo, barely warrant more than a cameo. Also while Chris Hemsworth turns in a well judged (& well built) performance as Thor that deserves some credit the movie is pretty much stolen out from under his nose out by Tom Hiddlestons’ Loki. Clever, nuanced & (excuse the pun) low key, Hiddleston goes way beyond the realms of your average comic book bad guy. While not being as in your face as say Ledger’s Joker or Molina’s Doc Ock, Hiddleston still uses every trick in the book to make sure that his Loki is believeable, flawed & above all else, sympathetic. Of course this being a Marvel movie characters from elsewhere in the universe make brief appearances too & as is par for the course it’s well worth staying till the very end as the studio delivers its best post end credits sting yet.

In conclusion Thor delivers & then delivers some more. It has the special effects & setpieces of a tent pole blockbuster with the story & acting that lend a genuine sense of gravitas to the proceedings. Then on top of this it has Natalie Portman running. If that doesn’t make it worth your ten bucks then I don’t know what does.