Countdown to The Avengers (Part 4) - Review from the Vault: Thor (2011)

Welcome to day 4 of my countdown to The Avengers! Today I am re-sharing my review of last summer's Thor.  I think I'd probably rank Thor number two if I had to list these five Marvel films in order of my favorite (maybe even a close number 3).  Either way, I enjoyed it a lot and it is very entertaining.  I'll share my personal rankings tomorrow when I post the last installment of the countdown!

Thor (2011), PG-13, 115 minutes - May is upon us and with it the release of the first wave of big summer blockbuster releases, and with that renewed enthusiasm for someone such as myself to share my opinions with the masses (otherwise known as the five people who regularly check in). This marks a nice 'return to form' so to speak as I've been tied up watching more NBA and NHL playoff games than movies over the past few weeks.

Thor has been one of the films that I've been most anticipating for quite a while now and I am pleased to report that it did not disappoint. Kenneth Branagh succeeded in bringing the magical/mythical side of the Marvel Universe to the big screen with the help of a well selected cast that ranges from Oscar winners (Anthony Hopkins as Odin and Natalie Portman as Jane Foster), to relative new comers (Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki).

Thor is the God of Thunder and resides in the realm of Asgard (one of nine realms connected by the world tree Yggdrasil). He is one of two heirs (along with Loki) to Odin's throne. Thor's coronation is actually interrupted by a small group of Frost Giants breaking into the vault of artifacts in Asgard. Thor believes this intrusion is an act of war and leads a small party including the Warriors Three - Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral (Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, and Josh Dallas respectively), the Lady Sif (Jaime Alexander), and Loki to confront the Frost Giants in their realm. As all hell breaks loose, Odin intervenes and returns the group to Asgard where he strips Thor of his powers and banishes him to Midgard (Earth) as punishment for his actions. Odin also sends Thor's hammer Mjolnir to Earth with an enchantment. Now Mjolnir can only be picked up by those who are 'worthy' and with it, they shall have the power of Thor.

Thor's interactions on Earth are primarily with astrophysicist Jane Foster and her small research team (Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings). As Thor tries to adapt to Earth and American society, he has some contact with Marvel movie staple Agent Coulsen of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Clark Gregg). As one could imagine, a God learning to fit in in the American west provides quite a few humorous situations. This is possibly one of the film's stronger aspects - there's a very good balance of drama and humor throughout. The experience helps Thor to grow as an individual and realize the consequences of his actions. When he needs it most, Mjolnir returns to Thor and he regains the powers of the God of Thunder. Don't worry, that's not a spoiler. There's still plenty for Thor to do after this point. And honestly, what's a superhero movie with a hero without any powers anyway?

From a comic book nerd's point of view, I felt that this was a great adaptation. Branagh neatly wedged origin stories for Thor and Loki as well as many nods to Thor's comic history into 114 minutes. The casting for all of the Asgardians was excellent. Especially for the roles of Odin, Loki, and Thor himself. This is a breakout role for Hemsworth who's most well known role prior to this was as Captain Kirk's father at the beginning of the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot a couple of years ago.

If you have enjoyed earlier Marvel films, or enjoy the fantasy/adventure genre, Thor is a must see. I happened to see it in 3D, which was well done (most noticeably in Asgard and the realm of the Frost Giants), but it's not a deal breaker. Seeing Thor in standard 2D won't diminish it any. As with all other Marvel flicks, be sure to wait through the end credits for a teaser scene. The end credits state that Thor will return in The Avengers next summer. I for one truly hope that this film does well enough to warrant future solo Thor adventures.











*****SPOILERS*****

As a fan of the most recent volume of Thor that began with J Michael Straczynski's re-launch in 2007, I really enjoyed the inclusion of multiple nods to that run in the movie.

The way they used the name of Dr Donald Blake was amusing. I felt that the decision to make Jane Foster an astrophysicist instead of a medical doctor worked well for the film. Especially as they added some science behind the workings of the rainbow bridge by explaining it as functioning as a worm hole.

There was one glaring omission from the roster of Asgardians - Balder. His inclusion would have been difficult to fit in as he brings even more continuity into the mix (see previously mentioned Straczynski run). Kelda is another Asgardian who has gotten a good deal of use in recent comic continuity. It would be great to see both she and Balder included in future films.

As is becoming the standard in Marvel films, there was a nice teaser for next summer's The Avengers with the inclusion of Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye as part of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s security around the crash site of Mjolnir.

Rene Russo's inclusion as Thor's mother Frigga was a nice touch even for such a small role.

Add Ray Stevenson to the list of actors/actresses who have portrayed multiple characters from the Marvel Universe in the movies. He was also Frank Castle in Punisher: War Zone. The other two? Rebecca Romijn (X-Men films, Punisher - 2004) and Chris Evans (Fantastic Four films, Captain America: The First Avenger). Idris Elba, who played the Asgardian Heimdall, will join this list next summer as he is set to appear in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance.

If Hogun looked familiar, it may be because he has starred in many foreign films including Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan and Ichi the Killer.

My theory as to who the friend that Skarsgard's character e-mailed is: Hank Pym. He's a Marvel Universe genius who has been an Avenger and has dealt with S.H.I.E.L.D.

Being the Foo Fighters fan that I am, I enjoyed the inclusion of their song 'Walk' from their new album 'Wasting Light' in both the bar scene and during the end credits.

All I will say about the post credits scene is this: Cosmic Cube!!!



Be sure to check back tomorrow when I pull my review for Captain America: The First Avenger from the archive, and my countdown to The Avengers concludes!


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