Movie Review: Thor

Title: Thor
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring:  Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman

The second Summer blockbuster in as many weeks hit theaters today.  It’s filled with star-power (Stellan Skarsgård plays in a minor role) and obviously had a huge budget behind it.  It stars Chris Hemsworth, last seen playing Kirk’s father in the first 10 minutes of the new Star Trek film.  I liked him there, and I like him here – good actor with a bright future.  Natalie Portman plays a fairly strong character in the film, and Odin is played by the great Anthony Hopkins.

The Bad:

In my opinion, films like this need some mystery to them, or they lose something important.  Case in point: the first Transformers film.  It tried to have this energetic mystery to it, but shot itself in the foot when it began with a long voiceover by an alien robot, who explained everything away.  It was there to appeal to a larger audience, so that they weren’t lost in this world the film throws them into, but it completely destroyed a certain sense of exciting discovery the movie struggles to regain.

Thor makes this same mistake.  It would have been much better starting off with Thor on Earth, running around as a mere mortal, and having the plot unfurl its secrets like a lotus blossom.  Instead, it starts with a huge amount of CGI on Asgard, with a battle between worlds.  These sequences were supposed to be spectacular, but ended up just being spectacle – unnecessary and overlong.  They should have condensed all the Asgard CGI stuff into about 10 minutes worth of screen time, and focused on the movie’s much stronger part – life on Earth.

The Good:

When the movie is good, it’s really good.  The parts of the film on Earth are way more entertaining.  Thor is running around being a typical viking god and S.H.I.E.L.D. is trying to figure out what Mjolnir is.  It presents several really well done comedic scenes.  The acting between the characters in the Earth setting is excellent.  Overall, this part of the movie was very, very good.  I felt like it was two very different movies mashed into one, and it was disconcerting and threw me out of the immersion.

The Rest:

Portman, Hemsworth are excellent.  The rest of the supporting cast are great, with the possible exception of Thor’s hokey friends – I could have done without the more tongue in cheek characters.  I feel Hopkins’ talents were largely squandered in CGI crap.  The movie was fun, but I felt my attention wandering the most when they were supposed to be showing us amazing things.  I caught myself wondering not once, but twice, when the Asgard crap would end and we could get back to the good movie I was trying to watch.

My Score: B-  (A for the Earth sequences, C- for CGI Asgard battles)

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