movie review: THOR

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
May 5, 2011 4:29 AM
7 Comments
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Thor is a comic-book superhero movie with a split personality. There is weighty drama in the Kingdom of Asgard, while the tone of the film becomes flippant and funny when it lands on Earth. The end result is fairly enjoyable but easily forgettable, because neither aspect of the story completely takes hold.

Newcomer Chris Hemsworth is well-showcased as the muscular but impetuous Norse god, who vies with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for the approval of their father, King Odin (played with ultimate gravitas by Anthony Hopkins). When Thor is cast out, along with his mighty hammer, and comes to our planet in the present day, he runs smack into a scientific researcher (Natalie Portman) who’s been exploring strange phenomena in the night sky over New Mexico.

Portman takes her work seriously, but in the context of the movie her character—

—provides romantic interest—in a surprisingly old-fashioned way—as well as comedy relief, although it’s her colleague, played by Kat Dennings, who gets most of the funny lines. (They both work with fatherly scientist Stellan Skarsgård.)

Much has been made of Kenneth Branagh directing Thor, and indeed the scenes in Asgard have a Shakespearean feeling, dealing as they do with power, love and betrayal. I appreciated the fact that Hiddleston underplays his role as the villainous brother, but I never felt an emotional connection to this crucial facet of the story. Thor didn’t feel real to me—that is to say, real enough for me to care. When he’s earthbound in New Mexico he’s something of a joke, and that does nothing to enhance his stature.

I was also put off by the utter artificiality of Asgard. It’s hard to imbue a set of characters with credibility when they’re play-acting on such clearly computer-enhanced sets. 3-D added nothing to the experience, I’m sorry to say.

On the plus side, Portman is lively and fun to watch, and the other supporting players do yeoman service, even Clark Gregg as the government goon.

So on one hand, the comedic moments in Thor (apparently layered onto the script by longtime Simpsons writer Don Payne) liven it up and add to its entertainment value; on the other hand, they undermine the serious story of a disgraced prince who seeks justice, redemption and forgiveness. Thor isn’t bad, but it’s not as good as it ought to be, given all the talent (and money) involved.

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7 Comments

  • billxwilson | May 17, 2012 1:16 AMReply

    Well, it's like this.... see, growing up on Thor comics had my expectations set very, very high. And, having seen real disasters on screen like Fantastic 4, I was worried.
    But, lo and behold, this was cinematic magic at its finest by virtue of how true it held to the pages of the original comic. By true I mean palette, dialogue, costumes, casting, action sequences so precise to the timing, look and scale of the original artwork. What were the odds? Asgaard same thing, beyond my wildest expectations. Branagh so nailed this with sophisticated understanding of the essence of Thor comics. In fact, I still have two reprinted issues that were clearly combined to make this one story for the film.
    Not a detail of the reading experience was lost in watching this movie. Yet here the cinemagic brought it to life for me in glorious color, with humor, dazzle and fun. I give it 5 stars.

  • kirwan | July 30, 2011 5:56 AMReply

    i've always respected Mr. Maltin, ever since i've seen him the first time in Entertainment Tonight and buying his annual movie review books. and i do disagree with his comments and star rating system on quite a number of movies.

    but, i respect him, when he admits he has made some bad calls on some of the movies, like the first Alien. i do wish he would change his mind on the original Gremlins and De Palma's Scarface, cuz he's just waaayyy off of those two flicks...just like he is now on Thor.

    Thor does have two sides. It does seem incomplete as a standalone movie. but, no way does the drama not working. Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth really are this year's two BEST acting DISCOVERIES. Tom creates what probably be one of the strongest movie villain characters of all time.

    In Hemsworth, we see a charismatic and layered Thor. the guy's obviously got talent and sheer movie star magnetism. he'll go far in this biz for sure...

    the only weakness to this movie is its duration, which is too short. and after learning all the many deleted scenes, i'm even more sure that the movie could've reached that greatness if those scenes had stayed on. i hope Branagh would do an extended version, where he'd put those cut scenes back to make the movie more whole and complete, story wise, a la Peter Jackson with his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

  • Jason | May 8, 2011 5:01 AMReply

    I'll admit I'm getting kind of sick of these Avenger's tie-ins. I thought Thor was decent and Cap looks decent too but if the excuse for a film is only as a lead-in to an even bigger film these movies start to seem like filler. The story of Thor seemed like an after-thought. The cast is great (I'm glad Hemsworth and Dennings are getting some recognition) but not enough time was spent developing anything in this film.

  • E Hobbs | May 8, 2011 1:09 AMReply

    I was upset calling Coulson a goon. He has been a fun part of the movies from Marvel.

  • Sean | May 7, 2011 2:39 AMReply

    Leonard, Agent Coulson is NOT a gevernment goon. As he sayts in the movie and acknowledges near the end, he's one of the "good guys".

  • Kathy | May 7, 2011 2:23 AMReply

    In the end it felt like they knew Loki was a much more interesting character than Thor....and if they explored it too deeply they'd also undercut their insistence that Odin was this wonderfully wise father.
    Odin's got two twenty-something sons one of whom is a war-mongering jerk (but he's about to make him king)...and the other who would give their life-long enemy the secret to enter their realm just to ruin his brother's big day....but all of this comes as a surprise to him.
    I agree...all of the tools were there....but it didn't "connect" with me as a viewer. And I love good comic book movies.

  • Zack | May 5, 2011 6:53 AMReply

    Hey Leonard! Glad you liked Thor!!

    One problem though: Clark Gregg isn't in Transformers 2. You may be thinking of Iron Man 2, where he plays the same character: S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson.

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