Thor (2011).

D: Kenneth Branagh. DP: Haris Zambarloukas. W: Ashley Edward Miller, Zack Stentz & Don Payne. (Story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich.) Starring: Chris Hemsworth/Natalie Portman/Kat Dennings/Anthony Hopkins/Stellan Skarsgard/Tom Hiddleston/Idris Elba/Clark Gregg/Colm Feore/Ray Stevenson/Jamie Alexander/Rene Russo/Josh Dallas/Tadanobu Asano. (Based on the Marvel comic book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby.)

The summer’s first big comic book release features the newest piece of man hunk to grace the silver screen, an Oscar winning actress, and a notorious Shakespearean director. Recipe for success?

Kenneth Branagh’s Thor hit theaters with a rumble and a clap, raking in money and filling seats. His mythical comic book reinvention is but, what you would expect. Chris Hemsworth is chiseled and posh with a pseudo British accent, and his Thor is as physical and magnanimous as it could be. His lack of depth cannot be faulted from his acting, as he is given far little character to work with other than I am powerful, and I wield a hammer. His earth bound love interest is scientist Jane (like me Tarzan?…) played by Natalie Portman. There are no challenges for her here, I am sure she merely got the script and said, hmmm a comic book movie directed by Kenneth Branagh? Why not. Thankfully the romance is actually not major part of the film.

Each lead is flanked by their own friends, but they all melt away against the majestic visuals of Thor’s homeland. Looking like a better version of Queen Amidala’s home in Star Wars, Thor’s younger brother Loki (Hiddleson) and father Odin (Hopkins) have the most drama in the film and thankfully are contained to this word. However, what Branaugh truly lacks is rules. Thor’s world seems to have hardly any basic rules, with little discussion of sources of power and how sometimes everything seems all too easy. An explanation of why he was called the god of thunder would be nice, and an emphasis on the story at hand would have been better than a feeling, especially towards the third act, that things were merely being set up for the sequel.

My disclaimer here would be that if you do not enjoy comic book stories or mythological adventures then Thor is not the film for you. It (thankfully) lacks the cheap one-liners, steamy romances, and silly gadgets that other franchises rely on. Rather Branagh makes it clear he is telling a mythical tale, where things need not be explained or made fun of. The concentration of the script on Thor’s own planet and his dealings there heightens the sense that the story is not about Hemsworth’s time on earth. Rather it is about the context of his banishment and hopeful return to glory. It is all in good fun, which is all this is.

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