Plot: In the wake of a minor breach that interrupts his coronation as Asgard’s new ruler, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is adamant that action needs to be taken to show the frost giants that such an incursion will not be tolerated. But Odin (Anthony Hopkins) insists that it was an oversight in security that will be sealed and as such, no further action is needed at this time. Of course, Thor refuses to heed his father’s words and travels to Jotunheim, where he and his friends soon end up in a wild brawl against the local giants, until Odin arrives to disrupt the chaos. Irate that Thor risked open war against his wishes, Odin strips him of his powers and his hammer, then banishes him to earth as a mortal, in hopes he will find a new path. The arrival of the hammer no one can move draws a lot of attention, but can Thor somehow track it down and in the process, earn his rightful place back in Agsard?
Entertainment Value: Although I love old school comic books, I have never been that into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the inconsistent mess that is the Thor series is a good example of why that is. This first movie centers on Thor evolving from a short tempered, selfish character into an altruistic one, which seems like a promising premise, but it is so poorly handled here. A few scenes manage to convey some authentic depth, but those all involve Anthony Hopkins and when he isn’t around, Thor is more of a flash in the pan. I do appreciate that Thor runs under two hours and isn’t as bloated as most of Marvel’s output, but this entire premise could have been executed in a ten minute flashback and been just as effective. The Asgard scenes toward the start are solid, but the movie falls apart from that point. The Marvel machine was finely tuned by this point, so we have low stakes, poorly executed humor, and a focus on visual effects over any kind of narrative development. I mean, this same concept has been covered in cartoon shorts, so even with Kenneth Branagh at the helm, things spiral into a mess of low end CGI and vapid action scenes. I found this to be a bland, forgettable movie on all accounts, but at least it isn’t the worst Thor movie, right?
The casting of Anthony Hopkins as Odin was a coup and to me, the bright spot in an otherwise lackluster picture. He brings such presence to the role and conveys the kind of strength the part demands, to the point that even when the script hands him cliched lines or speeches, he makes them shine. In truth, when Hopkins isn’t in a scene, the movie suffers, but alas, he isn’t the lead. Chris Hemsworth has a good look for Thor, but he lacks the raw power of the comic book hero, he comes off as a fitness model, rather than a warrior of legend. The material here doesn’t task him to do much, so when he just needs to stand and look cool, he does well, but beyond that, he stumbles in even minor dramatic moments. I would love to see a more primal take on Thor, as this isn’t the bad ass, god of thunder I expected. The cast here also includes Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, Kate Dennings, and Idris Elba, among others in a rather deep ensemble of talent. I didn’t like much about this one, as I think Thor was miscast, the narrative is wafer thin and predictable, and this just feels like Marvel’s assembly line cinema, which is a shame.