The Avengers is arguably having one of the greatest build ups in movie history. The movie arrives in 2012 and will be directed by the TV sci-fi genius, Joss Whedon (Firefly, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel). But before that, we have a variety of superhero movies as a build up to what will be one of two most anticipated movies of Summer 2012 (the other being Nolan's final entry of the Batman series). First, there was Iron Man which was followed by The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2. Now, we have Thor which will be followed by Captain America: The First Avenger. Each film has a standalone story and at the same time, forms one large origins story together forming a bridge that leads to The Avengers. So, the one question that remains is: does Thor satisfy? The answer is yes. Hell yes.
The film introduces us to the land of the gods, Asgard ruled by the just, valiant and fair Odin (Anthony Hopkins). After defeating the Frost Giants of Jotunheim in a great war, the kingdom has maintained an uneasy alliance with them keeping their source of power while letting them live. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Odin’s first born, and the wielder of Mjolnir, the hammer with infinite power, is a spoilt, warmongering man filled with pride and vanity. The second born Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is a magician beyond compare and resents his brother for all that he is. Thor, with his friends, impulsively attacks the Frost Giants, thereby breaking the truce that has existed between the two planets. For this, Odin banishes Thor to Earth, stripping him of his power to teach him a lesson. There he meets Jane (Natalie Portman), a scientist (or astrophysicist...or something like that), her mentor Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and her assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings). S.H.I.E.L.D. gets control of the hammer. Now Thor must learn his lesson to earn his power and position back. Meanwhile, something sinister is brewing in Asgard.
As a character, like Tony Stark, Thor is arrogant and vain. However, unlike Tony Stark, there is a childishness to his arrogance; a boyishness to his pride that makes him idiotic and not cool. At the same time, he is honourable, loyal and inherently good. Therefore, you can’t help but root for him. He is a more straightforward and conventional superhero.
Kennneth Branagh, whose previous credits as a director include Peter’s Friends, Dead Again and multiple Shakespeare adaptations, directs Thor. An odd choice of director, one may say. However, Branagh handles the film well, embracing the inherent silliness of it all and having delightful amounts of fun with it. And I tell you, it is silly. There are electric super-storms, tornadoes and what not in a small town in New Mexico and the laws of science are bent and broken at convenience. However, the proceedings are engrossing throughout as the director pays due respect to the mythical elements of the comics avoids the sappy and syrupy like the plague. There is a lot of cleverness shining out of every pore of the film, whether it is in the lines or the humour or the self-referencing. So, even though the love story is half baked, the effects are shoddy in places and the two halves of the film are badly balanced (with too little happening in the first half and too much in the second), you don’t really care because you are too busy being entertained.
Hemsworth is perfectly cast as Thor. He looks the part and has the winning personality required for it also. He is most certainly destined for stardom. Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings are largely wasted and more screentime is given Jaimie Alexander who looks gorgeous and kicks some serious ass. Stellan Skarsgard provides able support and provides relief at all the right places. Tom Hiddleston is thoroughly menacing as Loki and could really do well as Snape in a remake of Harry Potter 20 years from now. Idris Elba is supremely cool as Heimdall, the all seeing Asgardian Gate Keeper.
At the end of the day, suspension of disbelief is a much abused term in cinema. However, there is a reason why the term was created and Thor is an excellent example of it. Go ahead. Enjoy.
P.S.: The only thing better than watching a great movie in the cinema is watching two great movies in the cinema.