Branagh Tries Bringing the Thunder with ‘Thor’










Please! No more Dutch angles!

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tim Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, and Rene Russo. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Based on the Marvel Comics character which was based on characters from Norse mythology

First off: yeah, I liked it. Didn’t love it. There was something missing.

‘Thor’ (as noted above) is based on the Marvel Comics character that, in turn, was based on Norse mythology. Ergo what the Vikings believed in. Asgard. Valhalla. Odin. Thor and his hammer… it’s all here and beautifully rendered in CG (note: the movie credits needed their own movie). Here’s the sit:

Thor (Hemsworth) is the bullheaded, arrogant eldest son of the King of Asgard, Odin (Hopkins) and Frigga (Russo). All of his life his eyes have been set on commanding the throne of Asgard but the problem is that he’s too hotheaded – he speaks and begs for war when Odin tells him that in doing so it would destroy the great peace that has endured over all the realms. The last great noted war was in 965 when Odin and his legion of Asgardians took on the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. When the spoils were counted Odin won but lost an eye taking with him the Casket of Ancient Winters, a major source of power for Jotunheim. Ever since there has been a “frosty” truce between the two realms.

It’s here that I’ll note the concept of the “tree of life.” Called Yggdrasil (feel free to Wiki it) the “tree of life” spreads across the universe and connects the nine realms to Asgard (one of them being Earth).

An attack on Asgard by a group of Frost Giants has Thor and his brother Loki (Hiddleston) agreeing that something must be done. Gathering together their friends Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandral (Josh Dallas) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) Loki and Thor take the Bifrost (“rainbow bridge” guarded by Heimdallur [Elba]) and travel to Jotunheim to stir up some trouble.

Thor meets with Frost Giant leader King Laufey (Feore) who tells him that waging war against the Frost Giants is a bad idea and that he should go home like the “boy” he is. This pisses Thor off. Battle ensues and the group retreats to the edge of a cliff whereby Odin shows just when he’s needed to save the group, continue diplomacy, and take them home to Asgard.

Now Odin is pissed. He strips Thor of all of his power and banishes him to Earth along. Odin puts a spell of sorts on the hammer, Mjolnir, stating that only one who can be a “true” king will be able to wield the hammer and throws it to Earth as well.

Enter Jane Foster (Portman), a scientist studying weather phenomenon in New Mexico. Her lab is setup in an abandoned car lot/garage with an old neon sign that says Smith. Her assistants are Erik Selvig (Skarsgard), a mentor to her as well as an old friend of her father and political science major Darcy Lewis (Dennings) who is helping out for college credit. While out researching weather phenomenon the group run into -literally- Thor. They immediately take him to the hospital.

Enter S.H.I.E.L.D., and their number one agent, Phil Coulson. For those of you who stayed for the “credit cookie” in “Iron Man 2,” he was last seen discovering Mjolnir in the desert. S.H.I.E.L.D. promptly takes off with Foster’s research as well as all of her equipment and imprisons Thor and setups up camp around Mjolnir.

Meanwhile, back at the Asgard ranch, Odin reveals a major plot point: Loki was originally born as a Frost Giant. After the war ended he was taken by Odin and raised as his own son. After revealing this Odin suffers a stoke of sorts and goes into “Odinsleep” whereby he can repair/recuperate himself. This puts Loki into power. Bad move. Loki begins hatching a plan to keep Thor on Earth and the kingdom of Asgard to himself while trying to keep the allegiance of Sif and the Warriors Three and the Frost Giants. He even attempts to gain the trust of Heimdallur who doesn’t trust him in any form or fashion.

Will Loki take over Asgard? What lies in store for Jotunheim? Will Thor get his power and Mjolnir back? And what’s the deal with the large, metallic guy who can destroy everything?

While I’ll leave it up to you to figure the above issues out (honestly, do you think they’ll let the ‘bad guy’ win?) let me air a few grievances. First and foremost: shooting ‘Dutch’-angle is nauseating and unnecessary. Back in ye olden cinema days the method was used to employ suspense by confusing the view that the audience was used to seeing. Nowadays the use of it just grates on everyone’s nerves. There is NO reason whatsoever not to film the characters directly – this ISN’T the “Third Man”; it’s a frickin’ superhero movie.

My only other problem is that this movie almost feels unneeded. It’s a good movie, mind you, and gets better as it gets toward the end (the battle scenes are cool) but really it feels… done. It’s okay as far as origin films go and maybe it’s me – I’m more of the character backstory being somewhat plausible (“Batman,” “Iron Man”) as opposed to fantasy backstory (“Superman,” “Thor”) While I give Branagh some credit for not harping on the whole fish-outta-water idea (the cafe and pet store scenes are humorous) there’s a certain disconnect with the characters.

Or maybe that’s what Branagh was going for. Hemsworth, Hopkins, Gregg, and Hiddleston seem to be the only ones “in” on whatever is going on. Portman and Skarsgard do try but they feel disconnected from everything as if their performances were just there for the sake of being there. Dennings does an acceptable job at being our conduit into the world onscreen – she’s literally the “every(wo)man” and reacts how some, or most, of us would act.

My suggestion? This is a matinee or rental movie. It starts out good and does get better by the end seemingly rewarding the audience for hanging in there as long as they have. It’s not the worst superhero film but it lacks a certain “umph” or anima that could’ve made it better.

WATCH FOR: Stan Lee and writer/ “Babylon 5” creator J. Michael Straczynski in the scene where New Mexican locals try dislodging Mjolnir from the earth.

My grade: B-