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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Review: Thor

Given the strange mixture of fantasy with s-f that exists in the popular Thor comics series, the large-scale film adaptation by Kenneth Branagh could easily be a future cult reference, in par with Flash Gordon. Perhaps surprisingly, the film manages to escape the pitfalls of an uber-kitsch adaptation, and settles as a fun hybrid of post-modern superhero movie (a-la Iron Man) with some splashes of intentional camp. (Warning: slight spoilers ahead)

In an unconventional movie structure, the film opens with a short intro into Earth, and then veers for a 40' flashback into the complete fantasy territories of Asgard and Jotunheim. This extended introduction of the main characters in a complete alien setting might prove hard for a large portion of the audience, but its sheer audacity helps distinguish Thor from other superhero movies of the past years. In essence: the film does not fear to provide some cheese when necessary, and in some ways it aspires to become the doppelgänger of reality-grounded movies such as Nolan's Batman franchise.

Kenneth Branagh, yet another unconventional choice for a director, fortunately leaves his mannerisms behind him (mostly his tendency towards melodrama and overacting) and obeys the normal directorial rules of a modern action movie. Thankfully, his classical training allows him to use proper scene setups, so action scenes are always easy to follow. Compared to other Marvel movies of the period (e.g. Iron Man 2), the film fortunately stands on its own, although there are some references to the upcoming Avengers film. Chris Hemsworth is solid the titular role, although he is constantly overshadowed by the other actors around him (especially Anthony Hopkins, who knows how to cheese things up). Natalie Portman does little more than look worried, while the best impression is made by Idris Elba in a supporting but very memorable part. Overall, it's not the disaster that everyone was secretly hoping it to be, although it will leave no deep marks in the overcrowded market of superhero movies.

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