The superhero movie is a genre that I find to be one of the hardest to pull off. You have to respect the fans but you also have to deal with newcomers. The movie has to be fun but it can’t be too silly. A lot of the “magic” of the superhero movie depends on the special effects—but they can’t be allowed to be the main focus .
Despite these contradictory requirements, some superhero movies have been very successful: the original Superman, the Tim Burton Batman movies, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, The Dark Knight and Iron Man (and its sequel in parts). I think Thor can officially be added to this list.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh, who has previously been behind and in front of the camera for numerous critically-acclaimed Shakespearean adaptations, Thor stars Chris Hemsworth (Star Trek) and Natalie Portman (Oscar winner for Black Swan). The supporting cast includes Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins, Kat Dennings (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist), Stellan Skarsgard (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End) and relative newcomer Tom Hiddleton.
The movies tells the story of Thor (Hemsworth), son of King Odin (Hopkins) of Asgard, and his rivalry with brother Luki (Hiddleton). After disobeying his father, Thor is exiled to Earth, stripped of his powers. He is found by Jane Foster (Portman) and her team of scientists Darcy Lewis (Dennings) and Erik Selvig (Skarsgard). Thor must find a way to find his hammer Mjolnir, regain his power and save his kingdom.
This movie does a nice job in balancing the Shakespearean elements of the story with some gentle comedy. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and yet the dramatic tones are fully fleshed out. This is due to the game cast, who all perform exquisitely, and the well thought-out screenplay.
Branagh himself is an interesting choice for director but he directs the film with a steady hand. His experience with Shakespeare is really what makes this film so different than other superhero movies. The movie is elegant, which is refreshing in a time when superhero movies try to be either gritty or silly.
I've got to hand it to Hemsworth; he handles his first leading role with aplomb. His performance is assured and confident. His co-star Portman gets to show off her brainy but comedic side and it is a major treat to see her. These two are the true standouts from the film an even those who don’t enjoy superhero movies can enjoy their acting. Thor is a very pleasing action movie, with plenty of meat on its bones to satisfy all audiences.