While he’s too realtively bizarre a character to ever be fully embraced by the moviegoing masses, the Son of Odin will probably nonetheless gain himself legions of new fans thanks to this affectionate and lusty cinematic treatment from director Kenneth Branagh.
Thor’s always been a wild card in the Marvel Comics deck. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were probably tanked when they dreamed up this guy who’s… sort of the Thor of Norse mythology, the God of Thunder himself. He’s a god, and a superhero, in the body of a human named Donald Blake. Or maybe he’s just a crazy person, as The Ultimates reboot suggested… but a crazy person with god-like powers nonetheless.
Or something. Yeah, Thor’s a bit harder to pin down than, say, Tony Stark (“Charismatic Alcoholic Industrialist”) or Steve Rogers (“Super Soldier/Patriotic Figurehead”). There’s a sheer insanity to the whole idea of Thor (which Stellan Skarsgard’s scientist character admits more than once in the film), as well as a feeling of legend, of myth, of bloody battles and succulent meals where men smashed their cups after drinking deep of the bitter ale.
Not surprisingly, Kenneth Branagh ended up being the perfect man to pull all this off. Branagh’s Thor is loud, melodramatic and hearty — and, most importantly, completely unapologetic in its bombasticness. This is the man who had the balls — and, indeed, the talent — to give us the definitive interpretation of Shakespeare’s Henry V at the age of 29, and now he commands a multi-million-dollar budget bringing Marvel’s prodigal son to the masses. Thor is both a circus and a hat trick, and Branagh delivers with confidence and gusto.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the arrogant son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), banished from the distant realm of Asgard for re-starting a war with the deadly Frost Giants; lost on Earth without the ability to wield his mighty hammer, Thor learns humility and sacrifice — and falls for the cutie-pie astrophysicist Natalie Portman who hits him with her car not once but twice. Meanwhile, Thor’s trickster brother, Loki, seizes the Asgard throne after ol’ dad collapses, prompting much intergalactic mayhem. There’s a lot of yelling and explosions and indignant glares and even a cameo by Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
Sound silly? Oh, it is, but it’s performed (and directed) with such genuine passion and pathos, you’ll believe everything it throws at you — especially that mighty hammer. Thor‘s not as good as the first Iron Man, but it’s doubtful any of these Marvel movies will top that one, so why complain or even compare? Whether he’ll get his own sequel some day or will only make his obligatory appearance in The Avengers before returning to semi-obscurity, the Son of Odin was finally given some time to shine in the Marvel spotlight — and do things like burst into a pet store exclaiming, “I need a horse!”