What follows are my thoughts on Marvel’s Thor, which is out now on DVD. There are many spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it, long story short: Buy it. It’s good.
OK, here we go…
I was between gigs when Thor hit theaters this past May, with only a Summer Movie Guide at my old job recording my hope that Thor would be good. Now that the film is available on BluRay and DVD, it’s a good a time as any to log my full review of the film. Thankfully, it only disappoints a little bit.
It’s odd to notice what a difference a couple months can make, but before Marvel’s one-two punch of Thor and Captain America this summer, I didn’t have much hope that The Avengers would end up being any good. Marvel did well with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, but tripped over themselves hard with Iron Man 2. Shellhead’s second flick got bogged down with S.H.I.E.L.D. nonsense and a lot of running in place in order to set up the Marvel world, and I feared Thor and Cap would be equally tripped up.
Luckily, Marvel did a slightly better job integrating S.H.I.E.L.D. into Thor’s introduction, and what an introduction it is. Thor was always the wildcard: the very obscure, very out-there hero who is beloved by comic fans because his stories call for grand, larger than life images and bold, Shakespearean dialogue. Would the general public be able to catch on, or would it be just too niche?
Thankfully the movie-going public ate it all up, and Thor is as valuable an asset now to Marvel as Iron Man, and Chris Helmsworth is on his way to superstardom. And he deserves it. Marvel got the right guy for the job in director Kenneth Branagh, and Branagh made a great discovery with Helmsworth. He’s got charisma to spare and can handle action and dialogue brilliantly, and he knows how to act with silence just as well.
The best scene in the film is between Thor and Tom Hiddleston as his evil brother Loki, the Joker of the Marvel universe. Loki comes to Earth in order to trick Thor into believing his father, Odin, is dead. And on top of that, due to some bureaucratic silliness, Thor can never return home. It’s quiet and painful and kind of devastating, particularly for a comic book movie. And it works.
It helps that Hiddleston treats Loki like a real character rather than a simple, mustache-twirling villain. He brings the same amount of pathos and complexity that Heath Ledger brought to the Joker and Alfred Molina brought to Doc Ock, and I’m glad he did. Hiddleston’s Loki will become quite the foe for the Avengers, and it’s great to see that the on screen version will match the comics’.
The grand Jack Kirby visuals also match the comics, and in IMAX it is a sight to see. Asgard feels like a real place, but at the same time just out of mortal reach. The Rainbow Bridge and other iconic Asgardian monuments are stunning to behold, and the effects are top notch.
These great elements are what make the mediocre ones look so bad. This film could have been truly great, but the S.H.I.E.L.D. excursions and the fluff involving Kat Dennings and Stellan Skarsgard are just plain boring. I know we need these things so it can all lead to not just Avengers but also Thor’s romance with Jane Foster, but it falls flat more often than not.
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster is fine. She’s a step up from Pepper Potts but nowhere near Peggy Carter, and I’ll be a bit surprised if she shows up in the Marvel Universe again. She’s done her job by showing Thor how important Earth is. Let’s not stretch her out beyond her welcome.
There has been definite movement on a sequel, and that’s probably the best thing the first can offer us. Now that all the exposition is out of the way and audiences understand the Rainbow Bridge and Asgard’s role in the universe, Marvel is free to travel the galaxy and show Thor battling his way around the cosmos in epic struggles that become legendary. I’m usually opposed to sequels that are just cynical money grabs cashing in on previous success but Thor’s universe is worth exploring, and after The Avengers, I look forward to checking it out. Before Thor, I was unsure whether Marvel could pull all this massive world building off. Now, I’m certain they can.
Thor is available now on BluRay and DVD.