Review: “Thor” (2011)

Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman in "Thor"

While I may be many flavors of nerd (horror movie, Buffy, cult flick, bitchtrack, showtune, Pyrex, cat video), one variety of fanboy that I most certainly am not is a comic nerd. I’ve actually never bought a comic book in my life and barely know Green Lantern from the Green Arrow (or Goblin, Hornet, etc.).

So I wasn’t terribly excited about Thor. My knowledge of the superhero/god is limited to the increasingly annoying demands of the little girl from Adventures in Babysitting and a few levels of the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance Wii game. And to me the involvement of director Kenneth Branagh suggested that this comic book movie could either be curiously ponderous and teeth-gnashing (Henry IV, Hamlet) or well-intentioned but goofy (Dead Again, Peter’s Friends).

Thankfully – and almost miraculously, really – Thor is neither ponderous nor disastrous. It may be a little goofy, but that’s wholly intentional – after all, the idea of a Norse god from another planet crash-landing in the middle of the New Mexico desert is, after all, pretty ridiculous.

The awesome Kat Dennings

But thanks to a grounded approach to the fantastical material and a refreshingly easygoing sense of humor, Thor‘s core dramatic story and unique aesthetic are given the chance to shine in one of the more entertaining superhero movies of recent memory.

Thor begins with a scene that reminded me of the abysmal Twister – storm trackers stake out a storm in the middle of nowhere! – but thankfully there’s no Helen Hunt in sight. Instead, it’s Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard (father of True Blood‘s Alexander and an amazing actor on his own) and Kat Dennings (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist).

Seriously – how bizarre a group is that? Color me comfortably off-balance, and we haven’t even seen credits yet.

Anyway – storm, man, hammer, etc. Because as we all by now know, Thor (played by hulking, bottle-blond, beady-eyed Aussie Chris Hemsworth) is about the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) – a deity-like king of a planet called Asgard – who is banished to Earth after being dickish to a bunch of Frost Giants and falling prey to the machinations of his jealous brother, Loki. On Earth, separated from his mighty hammer, Thor is mortal (albeit still massively – even comically – muscular) and must get some humans to help him regain his hammer and his life in gold-plated heaven, or whatever.

The specifics of the story aren’t terribly important (Frost Bridges? Super-charged Playmate Coolers of Doom? Odinsleep? Ehhh…), and I’m glad the film doesn’t bother trying to explain them, because there are more important things to focus on – namely, watching Thor get his ass kicked in mortal form as the most clueless hulking blonde since Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Chris Hemsworth Thor is put together!

In the process he manages to outcharm Portman (not exactly an easy feat, considering that her eyes are about 14 times the size of his), get shirtless in one downright heart-stopping scene (for several minutes in a movie theater in Chelsea, there was literally no oxygen), and down boilermakers with an uncharacteristically jolly Skarsgard, who should seriously do more comedy – he’s a gem!

Back on Asgard, Loki (played by Brit actor Tom Hiddleston and NOT by U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir, as I thought for several seriously disoriented minutes) learns a few secrets, plants a few lies and messes with Heimdall (Idris Elba), the guardian of the Rainbow Bridge, which connects Asgard to Earth, hell, and Staten Island.

Tom Hiddleston is not Johnny Weir, but he is Loki

All you really need to know is that there is much gold-plated armor and fiber-optic marble, there are jokes made about Renaissance Faires, and there’s a running gag about Portman’s driving. It’s all kind of a hoot – shadowy federal agencies (SHIELD), bug-up-his-ass Clark Gregg (returning as Agent Coulson, whom he also played in Iron Man), ridiculously incongruous worlds and all.

Hemsworth and company really have fun with all the hubbub about warring worlds, astrophysics and sons fulfilling the hopes of their fathers – meaning that they pretty much disregard all of it in favor of smashing shit to bits with hammers and riding on tornadoes. The performances are solid, and there are moments that are touching and relatively real, but nothing drags down the sense of fun and wonder that keeps the film afloat.

Idris Elba is Heimdell

I also really enjoyed the visual design – it’s really quite unique, blending a classical aesthetic (armor! wacky helmets!) with sci-fi technology (fiber-optic bridges! robots!) within a very modern framework. And I applaud the fact that white, black, and Asian actors all play Asgardians – colorblind casting has long been a practice in the staging of contemporary Shakespeare, but for whatever reason rarely extends to film and television (I think Game of Thrones could benefit from a little diversity, for example).

This is usually the part of the review where I point out a few of the film’s flaws, but you know what? I don’t really have much to complain about here – and whatever minor shortcomings Thor has are easily swept away by the film’s infectious good cheer and noble charm.

I walked away from the movie more impressed than ever with Marvel’s recent film campaign leading up to The Avengers (including The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man, also very solid films), and very excited to see what magic Joss Whedon will weave to tie all these strands together.

RATING (OUT OF 5):

Thor is Rated PG-13 for comic violence, comic relief (mostly thanks to Kat Dennings), violent storms and Rene Russo. Also – don’t bother seeing it in 3-D, as I don’t think it really enhances the experience much.


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Buzz created CampBlood.org in 2003 to meet a need for a safe place for weirdos of all stripes to discuss horror movies from a queer perspective. Now that the campers have overtaken the Camp staff and locked them in the Arts & Crafts cabin he is questioning that decision.