THOR - Blistering Summer Blockbuster
THOR (fantasy adventure)
Cast: Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Chris Hemsworth, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston, Ray Stevenson, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgård, Rene Russo and Jaimie Alexander
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, based on the Marvel comic book, The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee.
Time: 113 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)
THE INTRO: The thud of Thor's hammer signals the start of 2011's season of summer blockbusters. It is a fitting opener as director Kenneth Branagh presents a pleasant surprise, moving from Shakespearean dramas to whimsical action fantasy that may be the envy of even Michael Bay. Indeed, the level of pyrotechnics and CGI stunts here should delight action fans of all ages.
THE PLOT: Repackaged from the 1960s Marvel comic book episodes of Nordic mythology, this one opens with the god of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) crashing down to Earth and almost literally into the arms of weather scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman, pictured right with Kat Dennings). However, before we get to the fish-out-of-water episodes of alien Thor in a small town in New Mexico, we are whisked off to the floating universe of Asgard - the mythical realm of Norse gods headed by King Odin (Anthony Hopkins).
At that moment, Thor is supposed to be crowned king of Asgard - but for an intrusion by a gang of Frost Giants of Jotunheim. When Thor leads an incursion to teach the Frost Giants a lesson, he incurs the wrath of his father, and is banished to Earth, sans his powers. The rest of the movie alternates between Earth and Asgard, detailing his quest to recover his legendary hammer, Mjolnir; his friendship with Jane, her mentor Dr Erik Sevig (Stellan Skarsgard) and assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings, providing comic relief) - and how Thor's brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) schemes to take over the throne.
THE REVIEW: Since young, I have been fascinated by the comic book exploits of Thor, the famous male 'Goldilocks' created by Stan Lee. Branagh has created an Asgard that is spectacular and breath-taking - a huge contrast to the scenes of New Mexico where Federal agents mistake Thor for a mercenary from the Afghanistan or Iraq wars. Branagh laces the action with humour (like, when Thor goes to a pet shop asking to buy a horse) and a pervasive sense of wonder and anticipation.
Hemsworth portrays the Nordic god remarkably, both physically and emotionally. Of course, he is well supported by Portman whose fascination with her newfound 'alien' is shared by females in the audience. The budding romance gets the short shrift even in this almost two-hour film because there seems to be so much going on with the plot which is basically about Odin teaching his eldest son patience and humility, and the tussle for power between Thor and Loki. Others in the cast come with good credentials, like Rene Russo as Thor's mother; Idris Elba as gatekeeper Heimdall; Colm Feore as King Laufey and Ray Stevenson as the boisterous Volstagg.
Of course, there is a narrative hook for a sequel but we will be seeing more of Hemsworth as he is also contracted to reappear as Thor in The Avengers, set to be released next year.
THE LOWDOWN: By the powers of Asgard, here's to a blistering summer at the cinema!