Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne (Screenplay)
Principal cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard and Anthony Hopkins
Release date: 27th April 2011.
In the other worldly plain of Asgard, the future king in waiting and warrior Thor (Hemsworth) shatters a fragile peace by provoking hostilities with an age old enemy. For his arrogance Thor is banished from the realm by his father Odin (Hopkins) and cast down to Earth to live amongst mortals.
As Thor’s arrival provokes interest from the agents of Shield, the fallen hero encounters friendship from a group of astrologers led by Jane Foster (Portman).
Meanwhile back in Asgard, Thor’s half brother Loki (Hiddleston) plans to seize the throne by spinning a web of political intrigue which may have implications for all involved.
In 1962 comic book guru Stan Lee aided by writer Larry Lieber and veteran penciller Jack Kirby pillaged the Nordic myths by bringing the god of thunder into the pages of Marvel comics.
Five decades latter Marvel have entrusted Kenneth Branagh with the daunting task of bringing to the screen a serial that combines mythology, super hero action and a splash of dynastic drama.
There was always the danger that in adapting such material the final result may veer too closely to the camp disaster that was Masters of the Universe (1987) but Branagh cleverly avoids this by focusing closely on the drama of the royal house of Asgard and the familiar theme of a fallen hero and his path to redemption.
The aged king, his sons and court at times resemble a comic book Hamlet with Hopkins portrayal of Odin not only adding gravitas to proceedings but also reminiscent of his performance as the aging mentor in The Mask of Zorro (1998).
Visually the look of Asgard owes much to Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon (1980) with the opening battle scenes reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and proceedings on Earth hinting at the forthcoming superhero team movie The Avengers.
If there is a sense that we have seen this before then Thor is saved by it’s combination of movie genres and by a director who also knows when to keep the film firmly tongue in cheek with moments of humour.
Portman and Skeilsgad provide solid backing and most importantly Chris Hemsworth provides enough brawn and a suitably brooding demeanour to bring Thor to life.
However it is Hiddleston who eclipses proceedings with his portrayal of Loki, the spurned half brother and god of mischief gradually descends into tormented evil via a subtle and emotionally charged performance that gives the film it’s standout element.
If at times some scenes seem surprisingly close to the Mighty Morphing Power Rangers then Branagh can be forgiven for adapting a comic strip that some would have found virtually unfilmable.
Thor’s hammer may not be the heavyweight knock out some expected but is still a pleasing and sometimes daft two hours of comic book escapism and another addition to Marvel’s ever expanding movie canon.