I finally went to see "Thor" this weekend, kicking off another big summer of comic book movies (next up is X-Men: First Class, with Green Lantern and Captain America to follow).
The quick review; Thor was fun. Be warned, for from here on in, spoilers will follow.
The movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh, the actor who does have some directorial experience, but mostly for Shakespearean adaptations (As you Like It, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing) and not for huge summer blockbusters.
(Two things here; the Branagh version of "Much Ado About Nothing" is one of my all time favorite movies, and if you are at all amused by sarcasm and whip-crack verbal exchanges, I highly recommend it. Secondly, on the topic of blockbusters, the Blockbuster video store in my neighborhood is going out of business. I worked there for 4 years when I was in college, and both of my sisters worked there after me, two years a pop. Internet/Netflix, this is on your shoulders, and while I do not mourn the late fees and the dusty shelves, there is something valuable in having a wisened clerk tell you that your choice is in fact an awful movie.)
Back to Branagh, he did a good job mixing the glories of Asgard with the humble American New Mexico, while at the same time, borrowing from "Iron Man" actor-turned-director Jon Favreau, and making the movie a light hearted action romp. Thematically, it is very close to the 2008 "Iron Man", in that a bad boy learns a valuable lesson about responsibility and mans up in time to save the day. (Also, SHIELD shows up to meddle a little bit.)
I'm amazed that the writing made as much sense as it did, considering this is the writing crew:
Ashley Miller (screenplay) (as Ashley Edward Miller) &
Zack Stentz (screenplay) and
Don Payne (screenplay)
J. Michael Straczynski (story) and
Mark Protosevich (story)
Stan Lee (comic book) &
Larry Lieber (comic book) &
Jack Kirby (comic book)
That is a lot of cooks for one broth, but they did okay. The movie also borrowed a bit from the great Walt Simonson run in the 80's, (like the Casket of Ancient Winters, amongst other things), so he should get a nod, too.
On to the casting. Chris Hemsworth as Thor was a far better pick than a)I expected, and b)the actor that played Thor in his first appearance in film. He does a good job of being both fierce and war-happy, and then softening up both to turn into a well rounded hero. He does a good job. Nathalie Portman plays Jane Foster, no longer a nurse, but now an astro-physicist. She's very good at playing a cute love interest, but it's not her finest role, and she plays it a little bit softer than she could have.
The star of the movie, for me at least, was Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who does an excellent job of playing the god of thunder's less-loved brother. He's very expressive on screen, often wearing an expression of pained resignation mixed in with just enough insincerity that makes you almost feel for him while at the same time knowing that you shouldn't and he's just faking you out. It's very subtle and it works wonderfully. Loki is the choice role of this film, and my favorite part of the script is that while Loki possesses the powers of an Asgardian and the skill of a wizard, he is at his most destructive when he is simply lying to people. The script is written so even the viewer is not certain when he's telling the truth or not, and that makes his inevitable betrayals even more devious, as the view now has to hate him for fooling him as well. It is really quite fun to watch.
The rest of Asgard is filled with great characters, and seeing Heimdall, Sif, the Warriors Three and Odin is really a treat for the fans of the comic, and shows you how a comic movie can be full of character without having them get in the way (I'm looking at you, Spider-Man 3).
All in all, "Thor" was good times, lived up to the trailer, and was worth seeing in the theaters.