Despite a bizarre plot, Thor combines the Norse mythology culled in the comic books with real family drama.
Director: Kenneth Branagh Rating: PG-13 Studio: Paramount
Of all the Marvel superheroes that comprise the Avengers—including Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America—Thor is the most challenging superhero to bring to the screen because, unlike the other earthbound guys, he is an immortal being from a fantastical world far away. Director Kenneth Branagh, however, deftly brings real Shakespearean drama and excitement to Thor, which stars Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman, as well as the real Thunder from Down Under—Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth, a natural choice to play the titular Norse god.
Thor is a cocky, arrogant warrior—well, look at him—who is about to ascend to the throne and replace his father, Odin (Hopkins), as king of Asgard. The God of Thunder’s swank coronation soiree is ruined by an ancient nemesis: the fearsome Frost Giants that crash the party in an attempt to steal back the source of power taken from them centuries before by Odin. Thor pisses off his father by traveling to the Frost Giant’s planet and stirring up war, so Odin strips Thor of his powers and casts him down to Earth as a mere mortal.
After Thor plummets to Earth through a rainbow-colored wormhole, fate strikes him in the form of the RV driven by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Portman). The brainy beauty is studying the phenomenon with her mentor, Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), and her assistant, Darcy (Kat Dennings). Thor sets out on a mission to recover his magical hammer, Mjolnir, which is bound by an enchantment so that only the worthy may wield it. Meanwhile, back on Asgard, Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has seized the throne and wants his brother to remain in exile forever, but Thor’s warrior pals escape to Earth to bring back Thor to his home world so he can clobber Loki and restore peace to the nine realms.
Even though the plot of Thor seems bizarre—if not absurd—when written down, Branagh expertly combines the Norse mythology culled in the comic books with the real family drama of two brothers vying for their father’s respect. Hemsworth—who claims he never lifted weights before preparing for this role—makes you want to renew that gym membership. The chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman seems palpable, unlike the leads in The Green Lantern, as Portman tries to get a handle on Thor’s hammer. The film is peppered with some welcome bits of light humor too as Thor tries to adjust to an unfamiliar Earth, like when he smashes his mug in a restaurant after enjoying some coffee or gets sedated at a hospital for ranting about his godlike prowess.
You might have caught Thor in 3D in theaters, so Paramount is releasing a limited edition Blu-ray 3D—the studio’s first real 3D disc—of the movie that comes with a regular Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy. No matter what dimension you choose to watch Thor in, though, it is one of the more enjoyable superhero films of late and will fire you up for the God of Thunder’s return to the big screen in The Avengers next year.
Best extras: The standalone DVD has the short “Road to The Avengers” featurette and deleted scenes, but the Blu-ray contains both of those plus more deleted scenes, seven behind-the-scenes featurettes and “Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant,” which takes you deeper inside the Marvel universe and unveils secret plans about The Avengers.