Though I’ve been into superhero movies since I was a boy, I was never a comic-book guy. Knowing nothing of Thor’s story except that he was literally the god of thunder from Viking mythology, all I had to go on was glimpses I’d seen of his costume. I repeatedly thought: He looks ridiculous, even for a superhero.That helmet. Seriously, his weapon is a hammer? Everybody knows that there’s only one hammer-related superhero! Hearing that Thor would be joining Iron Man, The Hulk, and Captain America in the upcoming Avengers movie, I couldn’t help but worry that a cool idea would be overrun by camp.
I am happy to report that in the capable hands of director Kenneth Branagh (an unorthodox choice that pays off), Thor strikes a nice tonal balance between Shakespearian drama (a Branagh specialty) and epic popcorn entertainment. The cast is excellent and the screenplay solid; in the hands of lesser artists Thor would be an unmitigated disaster, but everyone here is having fun, including the audience. Anthony Hopkins shows more gravitas than he has in years.
Chris Hemsworth, who impressed in his memorable turn as Kirk’s father in the emotional opening minutes of Star Trek, has charm and charisma to spare as Thor. He’s the only man alive I could believe Natalie Portman would act like a giddy schoolgirl over (a nice touch on her part). I still think the wardrobe looks silly, especially when the gods descend to Earth, but the film wisely has a sense of humor about this.
Though Thor’s character arc would’ve had more weight (and his romance been more meaningful) had he spent more than a few days on Earth, the film has a good pace and never bores. The action is thrilling, the characters are memorable, and the one-liners hit their marks. I must admit, also, that the hammer ends up being pretty cool. With Captain America looking promising I am now ready to say it: Bring on The Avengers!
CONTENT ADVISORY: Thor is rated PG-13. There is some action violence, though not gory or especially gratuitous. There are a few mild profanities. Two characters drink beer. There is no sexuality or nudity; a Norse god is briefly seen shirtless and two women gaze longingly. Characters known as “ice gods” may be frightening for children.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Faith and science are compatible. We are here to learn humility, peacemaking, and selflessness. The greatest love is to be willing to die for others. Parents who let children face consequences will have children who mature and grow up.
Love superhero romance? Red capes? Godlike father figures? Check out the underrated Superman Returns! Rent or buy it here.