Science fiction and fantasy                                            


directed by Kenneth Branagh

Thor poster  

Sometimes I wonder if there's a dash of magpie in my ancestry, I'm so easily distracted by shiny things. Thor is so very, very shiny. Perhaps that's why I wanted to watch it in spite of the fact I was warned not to bother by people whose taste and opinions I respect. "One dimensional," they said. "Brain dead." But all the while the magpie on my shoulder whispered "Shiny! Pretty!" and "Chris Hemsworth's gleaming torso!"

This is a story about two brothers competing for their father's esteem. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is heir to the throne of Asgard, a bit of a golden boy, but his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is quietly jealous. Thor is too reckless and arrogant for his own good, and on the day he's supposed to take up the throne he proves everyone's worst fears, bringing Asgard to the brink of war with the Ice Giants. For his disobedience and thoughtlessness he's stripped of his powers and sent to Earth to eat humble pie and learn how to be a good king.

Up in Asgard Thor has a crew of Lord of the Rings-style warriors to back him up and quaff ale in his halls when it's over. Their dialogue is hilarious, but more because it's ham Viking than for any particular wit. There's also an amusing contrast between Thor's exalted position in Asgard and the way he is treated on Earth. He falls in with astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her friends, who are trying to puzzle out the mysterious meteorological effects that take place whenever Thor and his kind appear. But the agents of SHIELD turn up and throw a spanner in the works. Led by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), they insist on treating anything to do with Thor as top secret, and they don't want to allow anyone else anywhere near it. Naturally Jane disagrees, but what can she do in the face of a well-funded organisation with its hordes of black-suited agents with guns?

Thor blunders around in New Mexico, making a fool of himself, finding friends and getting into trouble. But although he's exiled he hasn't been forgotten by Asgard. Someone has decided that exile isn't enough and Thor must be destroyed.

It's a short and simple film which is quite predictable and shallow. I don't think there are many surprises, even for people who don't know Norse legend intimately, once the main characters have been introduced. The main reason for this shallowness is apparent when you watch the deleted scenes, which add a certain depth to the relationships in the story, particularly between Thor and Loki. These scenes were mainly cut for reasons of pacing, but it was a bad call. That's not to say their inclusion would turn this into a masterpiece, but the film would have been better if most of them had been left in. Instead the director has assumed that audiences are too stupid and impatient to sit through anything that doesn't involve fighting, snogging, or special effects. It's insulting.

One saving grace is that the battle scenes don't go on immoderately long either, getting to the point as quickly as everything else. But Thor is like a movie told in outline, a series of flashy set pieces with no nuance. We hardly learn anything about Jane, and whilst it's easy to see why she's impressed by the god of thunder, who after all looks pretty impressive, it's less clear why he would be more than superficially interested in her. He doesn't come across as the kind of character who values brains over brawn or beauty, after all. Loki has the potential to be a more interesting character, but it's an opportunity squandered in sly looks and kneel-before-me's. Next time I'll be ignoring my inner magpie and giving glossy movies like this one a wide berth.

24th October 2011

Film Details

Year: 2011

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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2 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson