Thor * * * 1/2

Genre: Action

Director: Kenneth Branagh

Writers: Screenplay by Ashely Edward Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne, story by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich, based on the comic book series by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard

Running Length: 114 minutes

Synopsis: Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a powerful but arrogant warrior from Asgard, is banished to Earth by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as punishment for reigniting a reckless war. But after a dangerous villain from his world sends the darkest forces of Asgard to invade Earth in order to finish him off, the hammer-wielding Thor will learn what it takes to be a true hero in order to save mankind.

Review: I had my reservations when Thor was announced – how well will his godlike powers be translated to the big screen? Will it be another Clash of the Titans debacle? Stuck in development hell for a number of years, the project finally took off with Kenneth Branagh at the helm. Branagh isn’t exactly the first director one would think of for a superhero movie, since he cut his directorial teeth on a number of Shakespearean adaptations. Amazingly, something that could have gone terribly wrong managed to do everything right, and the superhero summer season kicks off with a bang and with the bar set very high. 

Although this is an origins story, Branagh manages to balances exposition very nicely with action, and despite running at almost two hours, almost nothing feels drawn out or superfluous. The CGI is top notch, in both the landscapes as well as the action sequences, but there’s no real need to watch this in 3D as the film rarely makes use of the third dimension. There’s also a fair bit of humour deftly sprinkled amidst the more serious and action-packed moments, and no other superhero film in recent years have managed this many laugh-out-loud moments. It’s almost as though the fact that Thor isn’t as sacrosanct a superhero character (unlike Spiderman or Superman, for example), that the production feels more at ease with poking occasional fun at the franchise. 

What’s also interesting is that unlike most superhero movies, there’s actually some rather good acting to be found in Thor. Actors like Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston put in performances that are far more involving that what is par for this genre, and almost everyone feels like they are vested in their characters – even the more minor ones. Chris Hemsworth must also be given credit for turning what is potentially a flat character into a star-making turn. Apart from his sheer physicality (and mad props for Hemsworth for being able to carry off the Thor costume without looking ridiculous), Hemsworth succeeds in the dramatic, comedic and romantic departments as well, an almost unheard of occurrence in thie genre. The only one who seems to be performing below her usual standard is Natalie Portman, who is reduced to little more than a pretty face, and does nothing much except giggle at Thor’s enormous pectorals. 

It’s rare to find a film, much less a superhero movie, which manages to work on multiple levels. Thor has something for everyone, from fans of the comic series to general audiences who are just there for the spectacle. Easily one of the most enjoyable superhero movies since the original Iron Man. 

P.S. Remember to stay through the end credits for a longer than usual teaser sequence that reveals yet another major plot device in the Marvel universe.

Rating: * * * 1/2 (out of four stars)

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