Now that ?Avengers Assemble? has graced our screens, I thought it would be a good time to take a look again at one of the build-up movies, ?Thor?, starring Chris Hemsworth, as the golden-haired Norse god. There was a whole heap of hype leading up to the release of this Marvel movie, a lot of it around the fact that arch-thesp Kenneth Branagh was directing. Would it be a Shakespearean take on the classic comic character? How would Branagh cope with CGI and action? Could even Ken make such a ludicrous character work for a modern audience seeking realism and grittiness?
The answers came with a film that is almost, but not quite, a fantastic comic book film. Branagh brings us a truly other-worldly Asgard, complete with stuffed-shirt demi-Gods and full of pomp and splendour. Chock full of CGI and green-screen, surprisingly it is here that Ken does his best work. Everything from architecture to Odin is suffused with regal magnificence and a sense of its own self-importance. This is Shakespeare for the comic-book generation. Anthony Hopkins brings Odin to life with grandeur and pomposity. Yes, it is all very Over The Top, but this is a fictional world of Gods, it needs to be OTT.
Thor and his merry band of chums and sicophants defy daddy Odin?s orders and go have a fight with the Ice Giants. Odin takes offence at this and cancels Thor?s coronation as King, and banishes the naughty demi-god to Midgard aka Earth aka some dust-bowl town in America (cheap for filming purposes, one supposes). Here, our muscly man-mountain meets some lovely people, falls in love with Natalie Portman (well, who wouldn?t) and learns some important lessons (all in a matter of half an hour!). Meanwhile, Thor?s mischievous brother Loki (the excellent Tom Hiddleston) is being a very naughty chappie indeed back in Asgard. As Odin has fallen into the Odinsleep (aka useful plot device) Loki has claimed the throne and learned a secret about his past that has led him to go even more bonkers jealous crazy fruity-loops. He needs to get rid of his brother, so sends The Destroyer, an example of cutting-edge Asgardian CGI, to earth to kill Thor and, for no reason, destroy everything in the immediate vicinity (not that there is much?remember, we are in a small town in the desert?useful for cost-cutting!) And so Thor has to learn another lesson, step up and save the world?well, the town?well, the girl. Hmmm?
You can tell I am a little indifferent to Thor, can?t you? All the Asgard moments I love. I love the spectacle, the ridiculousness, the OTT-ness of it all. The colours are vibrant, the costumes are silly, the whole thing is a comic book brought to life. I love Loki and the rainbow bridge and the Ice Giants and the fighting. It is all stunning and FUN! But the earth-bound plot is so badly played, so mishandled, so utterly lacking in charm or wit or any feeling of relevance. Yes Natalie is lovely to look at, but she sleepwalks her way through the role. The bits with SHIELD are great, but only because they are precursors to the film we all wanted to see so much (Avengers, just in case you weren?t sure!) A pointless cameo by Hawkeye, and a hardly-there Agent Coulson don?t help make the Earth scenes, they are still in desperate need of heft and purpose. The final threat is all too easily resolved and really doesn?t feel all that threatening, considering it is supposed to be the ultimate Asgardian weapon. Where the film succeeds is in setting up the Loki/Thor relationship, and taking us one step closer to the Avengers. It also gives us a beautifully rendered and ?realistic? Asgard from which future films can and should be based. Thor is always at his best when he is in full-on Asgardian mode. We want epic battles, fantastical landscapes, larger-than-life foes and God-on-God action (but please, no Beta-Ray Bill!)
Back to the 3DBD release. The 3D works incredibly well in all of the Asgard scenes, adding wonderfully to the other-world nature of the environment. In the final stand-off between Thor and Loki the 3D really does make the difference, layering depth where the 2D version feels flat. During the Earth scenes the 3D appears flattened and wasted. This may be a result of the incredibly dull environment?there really isn?t much for the 3D lens to do! All in all, I would recommend the 3D version, just because of what it adds to the Asgard scenes, but the 2D version will suffice?this is not a must-have 3D film. The ?Limited 3D Edition? release comes with a 3D and 2D version plus a digital copy. Additional features include a commentary from Kenneth Branagh, a series of 7 featurettes plus a ?Road to the Avengers? item. Pretty good value for a pretty good film.
As part of the Avengers Cannon this is a must-see movie. Like Captain America, The Hulk and Iron Man 1 & 2, it sets the scene for the Avengers, the best action film of, well, a very long time. As a standalone film, it feels held-back and suffering from a lop-sidedness. Definitely worth watching, definitely entertaining, but also definitely dull in places. Like the first X-Men movie, we can hope this leads to a far superior second film in the franchise.