Shakespearean Flavor for ‘Thor’

Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 April 2011
By Noelani Torre
Thanks, Yvonne

The Norse god, Thor, isn’t one of Marvel’s most well-known superheroes, and he’s certainly not one of the more conventional-looking ones. Sure, he has a cape like many other superheroes, but he also has a suit of armor, a winged helmet and a hammer.

Plus, he’s bigger and even more muscle-bound than most of them — and, yes, he’s a god. In other words, he looks neither sleek nor modern, and bringing him and his story to the big screen is something that could have easily turned hammy or too serious.

So, what do the big guns at Marvel do to help ensure that the god of thunder’s tale doesn’t turn into a cheese-fest? They put Kenneth Branagh in the director’s chair.

Branagh, who’s famous for starring in and directing adaptations of Shakespeare plays, may not sound like a logical choice for a superhero action movie, but you know what? It turns out that the folks at Marvel—and Branagh himself—know what they’re doing!

More textured
In short, "Thor" works. It’s good fun, it’s perfectly cast, and it’s even more textured than one would expect a becostumed summer movie to be.

With a bulked up and blonder-than-usual Chris Hemsworth in the title role, the film treats its material with respect, but knows when to laugh at itself and balances its action set-pieces and visual pyrotechnics with good, old-fashioned family drama and a sprinkling of humor and romance.

As in the original comic book, first published in the early ’60s, Thor is cast out of Asgard by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), because of his arrogance and recklessness, and is sent to earth, stripped of his godly powers and his hammer, Mjolnir.

On earth, he meets Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), an astrophysicist, and her friends, Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Denning). While he blunders about on terra firma and starts falling in love with Jane, there’s a plot afoot at home, with Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), at its heart.

Hemsworth owns his character completely and gives an impressive performance as the warlike god, who has to learn humility and needs to curb his impetuousness. He imbues Thor with a rough and ready charm—and, man, is he seriously cut or what? He’s the most physically impressive Marvel superhero yet, which is just right, considering that he’s also the only one who’s based on an actual mythological god.

Unfortunately, Thor’s development from arrogant godling to a still-proud-but-now-more- tempered superhero is fast-forwarded, so it’s not as believable as it could have been. They should have let him spend more time on earth.

Be that as it may, the story manages to pick itself up from this misstep, largely on the strength of its central conflict—the relationship between Odin and his sons, as well as between Thor and Loki.

While there are certainly plenty of things that go boom in the movie, and the landscape of Asgard is as epic and imposing as it should be, it is these relationships that ground the film and lend it a Shakespearean flavor.

Back to the Thor page | Back to Articles Listing | Back to the Compendium