Thor (2011) Movie Review

Verily! “Thor” doth cometh to smite thee! Okay, so the Thor in Kenneth Branagh’s big-screen version of the Marvel Comics character doesn’t actually talk like a reject from a Renaissance Fair, which is a shame, as that might have been hilarious. Instead, Thor and his buddies, including the Warriors Three (or, er, Four) talk pretty much like you and I, except with a little more English. Literally. The film boasts a number of British actors, including Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s brother Loki, and of course, the venerable Anthony Hopkins as the granddaddy of all Asgardians, Odin. Star Chris Hemsworth isn’t British, but let’s face it, he has less ground to cover in “sounding” British than, say, Jaimie Alexander, who plays the Warrior Lady Sif and hails from South Carolina, USA.

The first of Marvel Studios’ big-screen onslaught of big-budget comic book movies, “Thor” is probably the least well-known of the superheros that will be battling for your hard-earned bucks this Summer. Moviegoers certainly aren’t as familiar with him as they are with, say, Captain America (soon to be seen in his own movie, “Captain America: The First Avenger”) or Iron Man (eventually to be seen in “Iron Man 3″, but first in next year’s “The Avengers”). And if I’m being honest, it’s the one comic book character that I didn’t think could ever NOT look (or sound) silly onscreen. So you can imagine my surprise on how the film turned out: while not “knock your socks off” great, it’s still pretty darn “go figure, it’s a lot better than I thought it would be” good.

Australian hunk of a man Chris Hemsworth stars as Thor, the Asgardian God of Thunder, though he’s never really mentioned as being a God, just a dude with a really cool hammer that can do really cool things like whip up lightning, tornadoes, and help him fly. It can also be wielded by only the most “worthy” of wielders, which makes you wonder how Odin, his pop, ever gave it to Thor, since when we first meet him, Thor is every bit the thoughtless rogue his much more sublime brother Loki believes him to be. On the day of Thor’s coronation to the throne, some unsavory Frost Giants (tall, blue ice beings) break into Asgard and cause mischief. Thor, never one to take an invasion lying down, decides to retaliate by attacking the Frost Giants’ home world, starting up a war that has been in a state of limbo for centuries or thereabouts. (“The Chronicles of Riddick’s” Colm Feore voices King Laufey, leader of the ice-lovin’ Frost Giants.)

As punishment for his misguided heroics, Thor is cast out to Earth, but not before he’s stripped off his powers and precious hammer. Now a mere mortal, Thor meets spunky scientist Jane Foster (a spunky cute Natalie Portman), who keeps broadsiding him with her jeep, and her professor/mentor (Stellan Skarsgard) and unpaid intern Darcy (Kat Dennings), the trio having been scouring the New Mexico nights for signs of wormholes. When Thor drops into Jane’s lap, it proves her theories mostly correct. Or correct-ish. Honestly, it’s all technobabble to me, folks. Suffice it to say, soon the super spy agency SHIELD, led by Marvel U.’s ominipresent Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) has shown up to boss people around. Meanwhile, back at Asgard, Loki spins his sinister plans, taking down Odin, and assuming the crown. He does this incredibly easily, which is both silly and amusing, but does the job of giving Thor a big ol threat to combat.

Featuring surprisingly sure-handed direction by Kenneth Branagh (whose hiring for the gig was probably as out-of-left-field as you’ll find in recent years), he of the Shakespearean plays and movies, “Thor” has all the brawn, humor, and superhero action you’d want from a superhero movie. It also brings a lot of tragedy to the table, with much of Loki’s machinations spurned on by that most ancient of squabbles, sibling rivalry. Which makes the casting of Hopkins as Odin a no-brainer. Odin is full of gravitas and is one emotionally heavy dude, helping to make the movie’s twisted family dynamics believable. Tom Hiddleston is equally fantastic as Loki, bringing a sly menace to what could have been stock villainy. Thor may have all the brawn and bravado, but you do believe that Loki, though less physically imposing, is every bit his equal when the chips are done, thus setting up a pretty intriguing clash for years to come.

A hugely imposing fellow, Australian chap Chris Hemsworth fills out his red cape and shiny Asgardian armor nicely. He’s asked to be charming and keep those pecs glistening throughout, both of which he does with aplomb. Natalie Portman, coming off her Oscar winning turn in “Black Swan”, seems to understand that she’s in a Summer comic book movie and acts accordingly. We’re told her Jane Foster is super duper smart, but honestly, she’s just goofy and endearing. Likewise with Kat Dennings, who unfortunately gets mostly lost after the first act. The film’s huge action set pieces come early and fast, with Thor and company invading the Frost Giants’ home, then the Destroyer arriving on Earth to finish off the banished Asgardian. Curiously, the Warriors Three really don’t get a whole lot to do after the battle at the Frost Giants’ homeworld, in particular Japanese cinema icon Tadanobu Asano, who looks mostly lost among the English-speaking cast. I have to believe Asano spent most of his screentime being either bewildered by the Hollywood production or concentrating very hard on his few English lines.

Early International reviews for “Thor” have been surprisingly strong, which should bode well for the film’s Stateside premiere this Friday. Of course it helps that the film has a strong foundation, with Shakespearean guy Branagh behind the camera and Hopkins and Hiddleston in front of it, both giving standout performances. Chris Hemsworth is no slouch, but let’s face it, he’s big and brawny and throws a mean punch and looks good doing it. It’s not exactly a tour de force performance. On the fanboy angle, comic book geeks should keep an eye out for a shadowy guest appearance by an Avenger during Thor’s raid on the SHIELD compound halfway into the film. And there’s another worthwhile cameo during a scene where locals try to pick up Thor’s hammer that’s good for a chuckle or two.

P.S. Stay after the end credits.

Kenneth Branagh (director) / Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne (screenplay), J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Protosevich (story)
CAST: Chris Hemsworth … Thor
Natalie Portman … Jane Foster
Tom Hiddleston … Loki
Anthony Hopkins … Odin
Stellan Skarsgård … Erik Selvig
Kat Dennings … Darcy Lewis
Clark Gregg … Agent Coulson
Idris Elba … Heimdall
Ray Stevenson … Volstagg
Tadanobu Asano … Hogun
Josh Dallas … Fandral
Jaimie Alexander … Sif
Rene Russo … Frigga


Buy Thor on DVD



About Nix

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Editor/Writer at BeyondHollywood.com. Likes: long walks on the beach and Kevin Costner post-apocalyptic movies. Dislikes: 3D, shaky cam, and shaky cam in 3D. Got a site issue? Wanna submit Movie/TV news? Or to email me in regards to anything on the site, you can do so at nix (at) beyondhollywood.com.

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  • clarkspark

    If theres one thing I learned about Marvel movies is ‘stay after credits’ :D

  • http://twitter.com/blk_flash Blk Flash

    Saw it, loved it.

    • clarkspark

      How was the 3D?

      • http://twitter.com/blk_flash Blk Flash

        I Didn’t see it in 3D, I could tell from the trailer that wouldn’t be the best choice and from what people tell me Asgard looked really bad in it, but in 2D it looked great.

      • Ironfist fan# rogernator5000

        #D sucks, in AUs it was only in 3D for a while gosh!!

      • Brian

        The 3D wasn’t necessary. To put it blunt…the best 3D I saw all night was in the Pirates 4 trailer beforehand. Sure some shots are cool with it but as a whole it’s not necessary.

        • clarkspark

          Ok thanks, good to know. I’m aiming for the non-3D showing. I could tell from the trailers and during production that it didn’t seem filmed 3D from the ground up. It really is the only way to see 3D movies. If I know a movie was made specifically for 3D then I see it in 3D.

        • treb

          couldnt agree more… am reserving my 3d money for avengers and maybe transformers 3

      • Anonymous

        Yeah, it was superflous but it wasn’t a dealbreaker for me. Luckily none of the nighttime/dark scenes seemed to suffer from the low light problem.

    • clarkspark

      How was the 3D?

  • treb

    It was quite good. but it may have been better if they made the scenes in Asgard with a darker, more otherworldly atmosphere, “300″ or SinCity-like appearance. even go to the extent of letting them speak Viking (like in Pathfinder) and use subtitles for movie viewers. It would have enhanced the contrast between Earth and Asgard.

    And they should have had someone else do Odin, I mean Anthony Hopkins is an excellent actor but he has been somewhat “overused” for this kind of characters. I didnt really see him as Odin but as Hopkins playing Odin.

    • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

      But they aren’t Vikings.

      • treb

        but Asgard lore was built on Viking culture and they (Vikings) would have imagined Asgardians as speaking in Viking, unless they also conjured up one whole Asgardian language (like Klingon).

        • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

          The Asgardians would probably be able to speak the language of whoever they came in contact, or learned languages of Midgard while studying in Asgard. Or…you could just say its a comic movie and leave it at that. Lol
          Sent on the go.

          • treb

            if you reread my first comment properly, i wrote it may have been better (dramatic effect) if they spoke viking (or asgard speak if there was one) for scenes IN ASGARD. Midgard yeah they would have learned earth languages so no need for subtitles. It may even have added comic effect if thor had to speak in rusty english w the earthlings at first. yeah its a comic movie but as you seriously pointer out ‘but they arent vikings’. LOL

    • Anonymous

      Asgard did feel a bit “normal” and not as ethereal as it could’ve been, but it did ground the movie since most of the sets looked built and not simply digital backdrops. The costumes also seemed a bit conventional in places, too, and I could’ve sworn that young Thor and Loki were wearing Gap polo shirts when we first saw them, but Loki in full gear was pretty badass and thank God Thor’s outfit wasn’t as laughable as it could’ve been.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_BFLVZZMHXTFF2ZMMU2ZM4UK2KE Waldo

    watched it, didn’t think it was incredible or something. the part where thor’s buddies came to his town looked really amateuristic imo… somehow these costumes looked really xena/hercules-like, making me think they had not enough budget or something for the costumes.

    • Iorek

      “amateuristic”?

  • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

    I loved it! I thinkt the cast was perfect, though Portman’s character wasn’t all that intriguing, but her work will live on in Avengers, lol. Hemssworth and Hiddleston really nailed their parts. I mean I could really see their comic counterparts in their performances. Hopkins as Odin was of course great, but some props need to be given to the supporting cast even though they weren’t used enough. Idris Elba as heimdall was great, I really loved the subtleties of the way they expressed his characters powers and personality. The Warriors Three were very much as I hoped. Watching them fight was so much fun and hearing Fandrall laughing joyously through battle was just liek the comics, and Volstagg and Hogun were pretty good too. Jamie Alexander’s Sif was decent, but I must say I’d rather Thor be with his her than Jane Foster. Loved the use of Mjolnir, and the after credts scene play out, but was actually better than I thought. Can’t wait for Cap!

    • Juggernaut

      My sentiments exactly!

    • Anonymous

      I vaguely remember reading this in some Kirby-era reprints as a kid, but wasn’t Sif originally Thor’s bethrothed or something at one point?

      • http://www.originalgeekspodcast.com/ Dedpool

        Actually no, just old friends but when Odin told Thor he couldn’t be with a mortal he reunited he and Sif and the sparks flew.

        Sent on the go.

  • Anonymous

    I was surprised and it was much better than I expected despite some problems. Hemsworth was great as both d-bag then humbled son, especially in his scene with Loki after the SHIELD assault. Anthony Hopkins was more fun to watch than he’s been in years but I think Tom Hiddleston probably fared best overall and I can’t wait for his Loki in “Avengers”. Despite the fact that his arc was as predictable as Thor’s, I thought Loki got some nice twists and characters moments in. Portman was okay I guess; I’d forgotten what it’s like to see her in a watchable movie. But I wasn’t feeling the Thor/Jane chemistry and it seemed limited to Jane smiling at Thor while looking like she was extrapolating the size of his cock based on his height and hand size. I don’t think it helped that Cat Dennings was also doing the short, cute, funny, brunette thing. Heimdall, Sif and the Warriors Three were fun asskickers to watch and luckily there wasn’t a Jar-Jar, Mudflap, Skids, or a sacrificial lamb amongst them. I do agree Tadanobu Asano seemed underused, but it was a hoot to see Kakihara in an American movie to begin with. The crack about Xena, Jackie Chan and Robin Hood was great. And since SHIELD were the Men In Black on the case, I thought it was a great way to integrate background info for “The Avengers” organically unlike “Iron Man 2″. But a bit disappointing that Clint Barton had such a brief cameo and no GOD DAMN costume. I was so hoping to see him in costume at least in the post-credit stinger.

    • Juggernaut

      I was a bit disappointed that Hawkeye wasn’t suited up too. I thought that his cameo was adequate though. As far as the rest of the cast I agree. I was also pleasantly surprised that the Frost Giant scenes weren’t as hokey as I thought that they were going to be. The Frost giants were really well done in my opinion. I was expecting them to be only a few feet taller thatn the Asgardians but it seemed as though they either had varying sizes or were able to alter their size. The one thing that stuck out to me was the line where Erik (Stellan Skaarsgard) made a statement to Jane (Natalie Portman) about making a call to an old friend with some sort of connections before they went in to the SHIELD compound to spring Thor from detainment. By the way the Blake references were outstanding! Lol. I was expecting them to elaborate on that a bit maybe have a small cameo or drop the name of another scientist (Betty Ross, Henry Pym, etc,) I also thought that they were going to make a tie from Eric Selvig to EriK Masterson. All in all it was a terrific comic flick!

      • Anonymous

        I think another plus about the Frost Giants is that there were giant men
        and not trolls or minotaurs or tailed or whatever. So we get real
        actors when it counts and CGI when CGI would’ve been used anyway. And
        the Blake stuff was fun along with the line about the gamma researcher
        and Coulson’s line at the Destroyer’s landing site. Overall, a much
        better job this time of making a self-contained movie that’s meant to
        lead up to “The Avengers”.

  • Anonymous

    I think another plus about the Frost Giants is that there were giant men and not trolls or minotaurs or tailed or whatever. So we get real actors when it counts and CGI when CGI would’ve been used anyway. And the Blake stuff was fun along with the line about the gamma researcher and Coulson’s line at the Destroyer’s landing site. Overall, a much better job this time of making a self-contained movie that’s meant to lead up to “The Avengers”.

  • TotesMagotes

    I thought it was a really good movie, but I wish Thor used his helmet more and used his thunder power a few more times. But I thought Thor would have stayed on Earth at the end of the movie….

  • clarkspark

    Awesome movie! Surprisingly funny too! Probably one of my favorites was Idris as Heimdall. I liked his voice, wish he had more scenes. Loki was cool too. Also glad to have seen it without 3D. The frost giant scenes were pretty dark without glasses I can’t imagine wearing them during those fight scenes. In any case, loved it.

    Can’t wait to get this on blu-ray.

    • Juggernaut

      I watched it in 3-D Imax and I must say that I would have preffered to have seen it without the 3-D for those exact reasons. I also loved Elba’s portrayal of Heimadall. He killed the role. I was wondering why he was so prominent in all of the advertising and his performance was definaetly the reason for that. He may have only been a supporting character but his presence was great! Besides the cast of this one returning there are a few musts for the sequel.
      1) Bring on Balder! He would be a great addition and much like Heimdall could be the supporting player that delivers a stand out performance.
      2) Donald Blake in person! I’d love to see either Travis Van Winkle (Friday The 13th 2009, Transformers) or Ryan McPartlin (Chuck, Mad Men). Both have played self absorbed douches, Van Winkle more than McPartlin, exceptionally well.
      3) Enchantress. With Loki being Thor’s primary antagonist in both the first film and the upcoming Avengers film a new manipulative force will need to be present.
      and finally
      4) The Wrecking Crew! With the master manipulator role covered a physical opposition is now needed as well. Loki had the Destroyer armor. Enchantress could have the magically powered trio to wreak havoc and destruction on Thor and company. I’d love to see a smackdown between Sif and Enchantress, two of Thor’s most well known love interests would be classic!. I’d also love The Warriors Three versus The Wrecking Crew!
      With those elements in place the sequel may prove to surpass even the original!

      • clarkspark

        I vote yes to all your points for a sequel. :D

  • Juggernaut

    AH HA! My suspicions were confirmed! While looking up any found easter eggs in the film I stumbled upon a site where the conversation between Erik Selvig and Jane Foster in which Selvig says that a friend of his may be able to help with tha SHIELD situation. Apparently Marvel executive producer Kevin Feige said that the dialogue was an indirect reference to Henry Pym/Ant-Man. The dialogue in question comes after Selvig’s obvious reference to the specialist in Gamma Radiation, Banner. There were other obvious ones already mentioned by posts like the Donald Blake gag and the Fury and Hawkeye cameos. Another few that I’m not sure everyone picked up on was the inclusion of SHIELD agent Jasper Stilwell and the cosmic cube missing from Odin’s trophy room, later seen in the after credits scene. I’m sure that upon repeated viewings I’ll spot a few more.