"Thor" Review — 5 Out of 5 Stars

ArtistDirect.com, 1 May 2011
By Rick Florino

'Thor''s going to smash the competition summer with one swift swing of his godly hammer. Cutting through any pomp and circumstance, 'Thor' is the best Marvel movie yet. It's pulse- pounding, powerful, and pummeling.

There are a few reasons why 'Thor' is so smashingly awe-inspiring. The first and foremost is visionary director Kenneth Branagh. The second is the wondrous and warm world that the film pulls audiences into immediately from its first frame. The last is star Chris Hemsworth. The actor embodies every nuance of the titular character from his strength to his flaws to his heart.

The film kicks off with Thor standing on the cusp of becoming king of Asgard. His father Odin—the ever phenomenal Anthony Hopkins—has chosen him as successor much to the chagrin of his brother Loki [Tom Hiddleston]. However, Thor's big day is ruined by some very intimidating frost giants. Rather than sit back on the truce his father built with Asgard's enemies, Thor gathers his comrades and storms Jotunheim in a mesmerizing battle sequence complete with psychedelic snowy visuals and some vibrant explosions of ice and limbs. Odin casts Thor out for being so headstrong, and he's sent to Earth. While Thor's on Earth, the royal infrastructure of Asgard begins to wither, and Branagh constructs two simultaneous plots—one following Thor and the other centered upon Loki. When they converge, all kinds of side-splitting action occurs.

Rather than simply hide any emotions behind armor or a costume, Branagh allows Thor to develop in an intriguing fashion. Watching him throw coffee cups demanding a refill in a diner is both hilarious and subtlely telling. Thor is growing up, and Branagh gives the story the space to develop between the set pieces without ever falling into plot doldrums like some larger-than-life films or getting corny. Natalie Portman serves as Thor's love interest, and she adds a degree of levity and sensitivity without dropping into cliché. She's smart, but she doesn't just fall for Thor; he eventually earns it. For Branagh, the comedy and drama figure just as prominently as the bombast. His Shakespearian work has served him well as most of the character's actions come off just as engagingly as the tripped-out battles in an otherworldly realm.

Asgard proves simply breathtaking in this vision. Avatar stood dull at only blues and greens. This world exudes raw vibrancy via a cavalcade of purples, reds, blues, and every other piece of the palette emanating off the Emerald City-style castles and structures in Asgard. The ice bridge is just as magnificent as anything that Pixar has created, and Branagh's built a world that matches its lore in terms of unbridled majesty.

Hemsworth remains the perfect focal point. Donning sleek armor and that massive hammer, the actor convincingly destroys his enemies bearing the presence of a classic action hero and true depth. Hemsworth makes Thor evolve without ever forcing it. As he begins to realize his own hubris and accept a larger calling, he shows everything.

'Thor' is the best way to start the summer, and it's bound to be remembered as the best superhero movie of the decade. A hard-hitting, hypnotic epic, 'Thor' raises the bar and hammer for superhero movies.

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