Film Review: Thor

The Herald Sun, 21 April 2011
By Leigh Paatsch
(Thanks, Ralphe)

The comic-book action epic 'Thor' deserves to meet a moderately resounding "wow!" from its target audience. And not simply for defying the curse that has blighted brawny blockbusters in the 12 months since the debacle of Clash of the Titans.

Displaying both a rare lightness of touch in its earthbound form, and a likeable lunkheadedness when dishing out its quota of mythological rough stuff, Thor brings the hammer down on viewers in fine style.

The film also paves the way for a breakout performance from Australia's Chris Hemsworth, a former TV soap star ('Home and Away') destined for bigger and better things after this.

Looking for all the world like a genetically engineered hybrid of Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe - with an unapologetic dash of male stripper thrown in for good measure - Hemsworth struts, stomps and shouts his way through Thor with great humour and goofy charm to spare.

It must be said that Hemsworth does enjoy the good fortune of walking on to a picture handled by the film production arm of Marvel Comics.

Cashed up thanks to the wild success of the 'Iron Man' franchise, Marvel has been able to draw a prestige stable of talent (director Kenneth Branagh and Oscar-winning stars Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins) willing to slum it in the name of pulp.

Well aware that 'Thor' is not the most well-known of Marvel characters (and that the finer points of Norse mythology will be lost on virtually everyone), Branagh and his screenwriting team devote the first act exclusively to origin-story business.

It is here we learn that high in the sky, in a fantastical alternate realm known as Asgard, the second in line to the throne of elderly King Odin (Hopkins) is his strapping young son Thor (Hemsworth). After defying his father's orders and picking a fight with Asgard's longtime enemies, the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, Thor is banished to Earth.

Now a mere mortal - though in reality, still stronger than 10 of them put together - Thor is forced to skulk about the desert plains of New Mexico while he figures out a way to re-enter the good graces of the Asgard court. However, while Thor somewhat comically comes to grips with modern American life with the aid of a sexy astrophysicist (Portman), his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes a successful power play for the Asgard throne.

While the plotting of 'Thor' is decidedly cheesy, the action sequences it spawns - particularly whenever tensions heat up with those terrifying Frost Giants - hold their own in awesome fashion.

When seen in 3D, a serious level of imaginative production design can be detected that easily justifies the added ticket price. Though not the whole of 'Thor' can be declared an unqualified success, the film never goes close to outstaying its welcome.

Needless to say, the door is left well ajar for a sequel, but few would reject the invitation of a second round with the mighty Thor if these initial standards can be maintained.

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