Thor boldly takes its place among Avenger movies

2011, Paramount Pictures & Marvel Studios

Running Time: 115 mins

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Kenneth Branagh (Henry V, Hamlet, Frankenstein)

Starring: Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek 2009), Natalie Portman (Your Highness, Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, V for Vendetta), Anthony Hopkins (Beowulf, Dracula, The Silence of the Lambs)

Reviewed by Art Schmidt

I am so psyched for The Avengers movie.  It was one of my favorite mags from my youth and the movies leading up to it so far have been stellar (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, and okay, so Iron Man 2 was hurried and a bit retread and less than stellar, but it was still ok).  Marvel’s big risk on its movie division has thus far been a huge success, and its every comic book fan’s dream come true; comic stories on the big screen, in the hands of intelligent, smart, savvy comic people.

Enter Thor, The God of Thunder.  I was never a big fan of the Son of Odin as an Avenger.  He always seemed like he was just hanging around for the hell of it, stronger and more powerful than the other members of the team, but in the background just waiting to step in.  Then, when it was his turn he would come to the forefront with a large-font, bold narration like ‘They forget a God walks among them!’ and then he’d kick the bad guy’s butt or otherwise set everything all right.

Something always bothered me about that.  So, when I heard the initial line-up of movies leading up to The Avengers, I cringed just a bit at the Thor title.  But Chris Hemsworth’s youthful arrogance and the excellent writing of Ashley Miller (X-Men: First Class, Fringe, and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) has put those fears to rest.   Thor is a solid addition to the Marvel Entertainment library.

The Asgard we’re presented is beautiful, if displayed in the movie as a somewhat finite realm, and the story is fast-paced, lacking in holes and fits in very well with the larger world that Marvel is skillfully creating for fans.  The small New Mexico town Thor is banished to by his father is a bit quaint and convenient for the story, but it works well enough.  Natalie Portman plays the scientist / love-interest, but the script keeps the sparks low and just enough to support Thor’s believable, if brief, journey to redemption.  Tom Hiddleston is sublime as Thor’s jealous brother Loki, keeping everyone (including the audience) guessing as to his true intentions throughout.  Anthony Hopkins is…  Well, he’s Anthony Hopkins, and he’s Odin, and he’s great.

S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Agent Coulson takes on a larger role in this movie than in the Iron Man pictures, leading a team to try to secure and examine Mjolnir, Thor’s mighty hammer.  Among the S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives is Clint Barton, the soon-to-be Hawkeye played by Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town) at his smarmy best.  His few lines in the movie are classic Hawk: annoyed at waiting for the signal to take down a rampaging human Thor, Clint smirks and mutters into his com-link “You better call it Coulson, ‘cause I’m starting to root for this guy.”

I was a bit surprised to find that the large metal monster in the previews was not Ultron or an Ultron forerunner; from the previews I fully expected it to be a lead-in for The Avengers’ arch-enemy to show up in the Avengers movie.  However, it wasn’t a big disappointment, and all in all, Thor is a great comic movie, with plenty of tie-ins to both the previous and up-coming Marvel movies.  It boldly stakes out its place in the Marvel Movie Universe and left me wanting Captain America: The First Avenger to come out tomorrow.  Oh, well, I guess a few weeks’ waiting won’t turn me green.

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