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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review: Thor (12A) ★★★★
The powerful but arrogant warrior Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.

There are some films I just shouldn't like. They go against my whole perception of what a good, enjoyable film should be.
Thor, on the outset, appeared to be one of these films. A comic book adaptation that looked too ridiculous to be taken seriously as a 'real' film. And a comic book film at that. How very wrong I was.

I had know idea just how good Thor was going to be. I'd settled down to watch it based on my mood. I wanted something mindless to almost ignore, something that I'd pretty much written off as being too poor to occupy my complete attention. It sounds ridiculous talking about putting something on that I didn't really intend watching properly, but that's what I wanted to do. I was bored and thought Thor would do.

If you analyse the story you could be misgiven for thinking the same really. Norse God gets cocky and goes against his fathers wishes only to be stripped of his powers and banished to Earth. Once there he has to make good on the bad he's done whilst along the way gathering a love interest and showing people how to become a good human being. It sounds as cheesy as you'd think it could be, but its so much more than this and that's what surprised me the most.

What unfolded in the films 115 minutes running time was an engaging, interesting adaptation that kept me hooked from beginning to end. It had no right to do this, remember I'd written it off, so the fact that it gripped me is benefit to both the screenwriter, director and the actors.

Let's first look at the director, Kenneth Branagh. He's a thesp, he has no right being in this type of universe. He should have concentrated on the characters and script ignoring the crazy, outlandish set pieces. Nope. He's embraced them all. From the extravagant setting of Asgard to the cold landscapes of the Frost Giants realm, Branagh puts 100% effort into everything. It's a triumph that shouldn't be ignored since the whole thing could have been laughed out of the cinemas for being to ludicrous (see The Green Lantern for how not to do this).

Then we have the cast. Well one in particular, Chris Hemsworth as Thor himself. He takes the role and exudes such likeability, such charisma, that its impossible not to like him, even when he's being a dick. Seriously, the way he embodies the role and the dialogue is testament again for bringing a grounded reality to things that could have spiralled completely out of control and become laughable. I enjoyed his performance immensely and think he could have a long, successful career ahead of him.

There are downsides to the cast however. This is through no fault of the performers, its just that they're token parts which could have been filled by much lesser actors. I mean Natalie Portman plays the love interest in such a play by numbers fashion that the term 'phoned in performance' could lend itself directly to her part. She plays the part perfectly well, there's no problem here, it's just that she's better than this and is wasted. Same goes for Stellan Skarsgard. Its impressive that Branagh got this cast together but they could have brought so much more to the table that it feels a little like a missed opportunity to give these two main characters more depth and interest.

I should really also mention Anthony Hopkins as Odin. If you've not seen Thor then I'm sure what your imagining his performance to be will be right on the money. He's plying his trade at these older, wiser roles that they seem to be becoming second nature to the guy. Basically, Hopkins is a good as you think, or know, he's going to be and that's more than enough for this film.

So based on these solid performances, confident and assured direction and a script and story that zings along barely pausing for breath, you have the perfect concoction for a thoroughly enjoyable addition to the comic book genre.


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