After defying his father’s wishes Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Norse god of Thunder, is cast out of Asgard, leaving his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to take the throne. On earth, Thor meets astrophysicist Jane (Natalie Portman) and must find a way back home before Loki destroys Asgard forever.
Thor seems like rather an odd choice for a superhero movie, but he has been part of the Marvel universe since 1962, and his inclusion into the Avengers actually gives the group an air of divine purpose and strength.
Chris Hemsworth plays the title character, and does a marvellous job with him. Not only does Hemsworth look like a god who wields a massive hammer, but he captures the bemused and bewildered air of someone who is suffering from massive culture shock but actually quite enjoying it. Tom Hiddleston as Loki truly is the revelation of the film. Loki is the Norse god of Mischief, but when he learns some uncomfortable truths about himself, Loki’s mischief turns to malice. Hiddleston begins the film as wide eyed, innocent and slightly sulky, but by the time he visits Thor on earth his sulkiness has turned to cruelty. Tom Hiddleston creates a villain that still has some compassion, but it is clear to see that this compassion will not be long lived. Hiddleston is nuanced, clever and he obviously had fun playing such a selfish and sulky character.
Natalie Portman is sweet as Jane, and her warm character gives Thor a reason to fight. Stellan Skarsgard is the obligatory father figure who then warms to this stranger who literally landed in their path. The S.H.I.E.L.D influence is stronger than we have seen in any of the Marvel films to date, and Clark Gregg finally gets some decent screen time and great lines as Agent Coulson. It is in this facility that we are also introduced to Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, which cleverly sets up his inclusion in the Avengers.
So far, Marvel have managed to choose the exact right director for their projects – with the exception of Louis Leterrier, but we’ll ignore The Incredible Hulk for now – and Kenneth Brannagh does a fantastic job as director of Thor. Brannagh straddles the line between Shakespearean drama and comic book humour, and manages to allow both to have their time on the screen. Brannagh is obviously aware of the future for Thor in the Avengers, but allows the film to stand alone as part of the Marvel universe. Cleverly done.
The film also looks fantastic, it would be easy for Asgard to be over the top and look silly as many incarnations of Mount Olympus have on screen, but there is enough darkness within the gold leaf and enough glimpses of our own world to allow the home of the gods to feel real to the audience. The Bifrost Bridge is gorgeously realised, as are the various special effects throughout the movie, and the costumes of the Asgardians could be seen as a little too much, but they manage to pull back before they descent into comedy territory, although someone should probably have guessed that Loki was no good from the huge devil horns on his helmet.
Thor is a clash of science and magic, old worlds and new, good and evil as well as a good old fashioned romance. Tom Hiddleston steals the show as Loki, although Chris Hemsworth is obviously a star in the making. The worlds created on screen are beautiful and believable, and the performances and direction are strong enough to carry what could be seen as a rather silly movie. There is no doubt where this movie is leading, but until we get to the Avengers, this is the kind of adventure that will keep us going.