Directed by Kenneth Branagh, well known for directing Shakespearean-style films, takes the helm for one of the summer’s big blockbuster super hero flicks, “Thor”. Not since Indie auteur Ang Lee took a failed stab at The Incredible Hulk has there been such a mis-match on paper.
The results of this marriage of oddfellows can be described as both interesting and refreshing. Sure, stuff blows up, and the dialogue ventures into fromage country from time to time. But Branagh knows his tropes, and he manages to inject the film with a sense of weight, steeped in Norse myth. The sub-plot involving Thor’s fall from grace and rift with his father, Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins), plays like Greek-tragedy-light at times, but the actors manage to elevate it to something greater than the sum of its parts. In comparison to some of the fluff we see in Marvel adaptations, this was heavy stuff.
I thought Australian actor Chris Hemsworth made a great Thor, and brings both a sense of comedic levity and unbridled intensity to the role. Natalie Portman, however, seemed penned in by a poorly written role as Jane Foster. Portman has played some challenging and deep characters before, but she seems more like window-dressing here. Same for Rene Russo, who plays Thor’s mother. With barely a handful of lines, she does reinforce the fact that Thor, and the myths on which it is based, are both very male-centric.
Although touted as another popcorn action flick, Thor is actually a hybrid of genre film and art-house sensibility. I’m not sure if it will find a home with either demographic. Action fans may get impatient with brooding ruminations on father-son relationships, and the art-house crowd will probably avoid it simply because the cover has a guy wearing a cape. Personally, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. I love a good action flick as much as anyone, but I can’t abide by those actiony super hero flicks that are all style and no substance. Thor has both, but I suspect only film fans with varied and open-minded tastes will be willing to see all it has to offer.
DVD and Blu Ray Release Date: September 13th, 2011