In anticipation for the release of ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ we will be reviewing all of the Phase One films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Thor follows the warrior son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and heir to the throne of Asgard. When his arrogant behaviour almost starts a war, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is stripped of his powers and banished to Earth by his father. While on Earth, he meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who helps him adapt to his new surroundings. Meanwhile, Thor’s sinister brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is looking to keep Thor’s exile permanent, so that he can take the throne of Asgard for himself.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh, Thor was a huge step for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It had to introduce a fantasy element and expand the universe into other realms. Essentially the film does this by splitting the story into two settings on Earth and the realm of Asgard. The sequences that take place on Earth act as a fish-out-of-water comedy with Thor trying to adapt to his new surroundings. These sequences bring a more light-hearted tone and deliver some comedic moments. The sequences on Asgard are where the film hits its stride. The visuals and set design of Asgard are breathtaking. The sequences here play out more dramatically and feel rather Shakespearean at times, which makes Branagh a good choice to helm the film. The family drama between brothers Thor and Loki, and their father Odin is captured perfectly.
The film does consist of some connective threads to the MCU with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Coulson playing a significant role in the story. However, their inclusion does not feel forced. Branagh effectively keeps the focus on Thor’s story making it a Thor film and does not let it become an Avengers prequel. The action sequences are well done. A battle near the beginning of the film between Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three taking on the Frost Giants is a stand-out.
Chris Hemsworth absolutely owns the role of Thor and makes it his own from the very beginning. He is simply great at portraying the arrogant nature of the character in the beginning, and depicting the change in his personality as he learns humility from his time on Earth. Tom Hiddleston delivers an incredible performance as Loki. The character makes for one of the best villains in the MCU. This is a villain with a lot of depth, being a broken soul fueled by a jealous rage. The resulting dynamic between Thor and Loki is captured well by the performances of Hemsworth and Hiddleston.
Natalie Portman is charming and entertaining as Jane Foster. Stellan Skarsgard is great in the role of Dr. Erik Selvig, and has some entertaining moments as well. Jamie Alexander does a fantastic job with the role of Sif and looks like a believable warrior. Ray Stevenson, Joshua Dallas, and Tadanobu Asano provide entertaining performances as the Warriors Three. Idris Elba uses his commanding screen presence to make Heimdall one of the more memorable supporting characters. Rene Russo does not get a lot to do here as Frigga, mother of Thor and Loki, but she makes a worthy addition to the cast. Finally, Anthony Hopkins is fantastic as Odin, conveying a majestic screen presence necessary for the character and an excellent dramatic performance. The film also includes some entertaining cameos.
Kat Dennings plays Darcy Lewis, a character who is forced into the story as comedic relief. The film, however, already had plenty of comedic moments so the jokes by this character feels like overkill. Also, the character arc of Thor is rushed. His change from being arrogant to becoming more humble happens rather suddenly, therefore does not feel genuine. With a trimmed running time of just under two hours, it seems there was not enough time for this element of the plot to be fleshed out more.
Another element of the plot that feels rushed is the romance between Thor and Jane Foster. Instead of their relationship slowly being developed into a romance, it just quickly shifts into a romance. This may make it difficult for audiences to become invested in their relationship.
Overall, Thor effectively introduces a new character and a fantasy element into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Branagh directs an entertaining superhero film that is pure popcorn fun. The film also introduces one of the best villains we have seen in this franchise to date in Loki. However, some rushed plotlines and some forced comedic moments hold the film back from being a truly memorable entry in the MCU. Also, the film includes an exciting post-credits scene that leads directly into The Avengers. Flaws aside Thor uses humour, drama, and spectacle to become another entertaining Marvel film that fans will definitely enjoy.