I have never been a fan of the comic book film. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, and they come in the shape of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. That is not to say that I am turned off by all the other Marvel and DC adaptations as sometimes a trailer pops out of nowhere that really piques my interest. Thor is one of those occasions. The reason that this film interested me was not because of its status as a comic book but instead it’s thanks to Norse mythology and as far as Myths goes, the Norse are up there with the Greek.
Thor may be the son of Odin, but he is a somewhat tempestuous and arrogant young man who only cares for the glory of Asgard. The one thing that is preventing Asgard from revelling in their glory is their long standing war and ill feelings with the frost giants. On the day of Thor’s ascension to the throne, a few frost giants sneak into Asgard to steal back the spoils of war which Odin claimed from his defeated foes. Being the war mongering monster that he is, Thor goes to find out what happened accompanied with a small group of friends and in doing so he nearly starts a war. Thanks to this hot-headed behaviour Odin banishes Thor to the human realm and strips away his powers in the hope that it provokes change for the good of Asgard and his son.
Thor has been gathering quite the ill feelings from the world of culture. That isn’t because of its lack of faith to the source text or any other cinematic reason; it is because of who the director is. The head creative honcho that has bore the brunt of these ill regards is Kenneth Branagh. This is a man who is better known for his work in the hoity-toity world of theatre than his excursions into cinema. For such a thoroughly genuinely chap like this to be attached with something as childish and stupid as a comic book film is just not on. This might not be an area of the visual arts that he is known for, but at the same time it seems that he understands how the comic book should be presented on the screen more than most. As much as I love the two Christopher Nolan Batman films they are heavily rooted into the world of realism. Kenneth Branagh understands that comic books are ludicrously over the top and in Thor he is celebrating this.
In ignoring any sort of relationship to reality, Thor becomes a glorious piece of no holds barred entertainment. It revels in its excess and it makes for one of these occasions where your inner child comes to the fore and has the time of his life. The fight scenes were huge, bold and full of life and in locking themselves away from any limitations Thor can truly fly both literally and metaphorically. Even when he was relieved of his powers, Thor does his best to destroy everything and everyone in sight.
There are also alot of funny exchanges that come from taking somebody out of a world with the sensibilities of Viking-kind and placing them into a contemporary society. It makes for some great fish out the water moments, like the recurring joke of Thor being ran over time and time again because he doesn’t look where he is going. There is also a nice moment which shows that the gods have an ungodly tolerance for alcohol too.
I feel that the film is unique in that it is bold enough to poke fun at itself. The costume designs would usually be adapted for the screen, but not here. How many films have there been where Anthony Hopkins plays a Norse god who wears a golden eye patch? As far as I know, it’s just this once. The same point extends to the set design. Asgard is a glorious land fit for the gods that it is host to, it may be completely computer generated but the scale and beauty of the visuals are impressive. If I ever was to see a film in an IMAX theatre, it would be this as whenever the film relocates to Asgard I could only be impressed by its grandiose. This is true even with the 3D specs on which dilute the colour of the film.
Not only has the director in Kenneth Branagh constructed a film that is fully aware of its roots and is celebratory of it at every level, he has also got alot from his actors. The man who steals the show is the actor who plays the titular role, Chris Hemsworth. He perfectly embodies the boisterousness and arrogance that his role demands without ever falling in with the demons of over-acting. He commands the screen and he owns the film.
The rest of the cast impress, but there are people who are less than stellar. It may be fantastic to see one of my favourite Japanese actors in Tadanobu Asano in a western film, but his grasp of English means his delivery is somewhat lacking. It may be bad, at times, but I have still seen far worse from English actors. Tom Hiddleston is another negative, where Hemsworth slayed the demon of over-acting, he wasn’t so lucky. Other than those two, the rest of the cast was brilliant and the played it with the same level of excess and restraint that made the film what it was.
Thor is the comic book film that the genre deserves. It is a big, colourful and bold film that will have children and adults alike smiling from cheek to cheek. Kenneth Branagh might have lost a few of his more arrogant and pretentious fans and he might have made a film that will fail to win any level of critical acclaim outside the world of geek, but in Thor he has won many hearts over.