Having never read a Thor comic in my life, I wasn’t really all that excited by the news that they were making a big screen adaptation of the Marvel Comic’s character. And while initially intrigued by Kenneth Branagh directing the movie, early pictures from the set were far from inspiring. In fact, the whole project looked kinda tacky. Then the trailer came out, and Thor looked far from tacky, fun even. So, I went in with an open mind, assuring myself that, if nothing else, Thor couldn’t possibly be as bad as X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I was not mistaken.
Taking a break from his work with the Bard, Branagh injects some Shakespearean gravitas into this action-packed tale of “gods” and monsters. While Branagh’s cast includes some familiar favorites–Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Colm Feore–it’s the noteworthy new faces at the forefront of the action, Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who make Thor so engrossing.
And it’s no coincidence that a famed Shakespearean should helm Thor, the story of the Asgardian royal family’s struggle is familiar territory, laced with subtle hints of Othello, Hamlet, King Lear, and even a dash of Macbeth (to name just a few). After an age of peace under his father Odin’s (Anthony Hopkins) rule, Thor (Hemsworth) is set to ascend the throne of Asgard. But when the ceremony is interrupted by Frost Giants, Thor ignores Odin’s decree and arrogantly rushes to retaliate.
For his arrogance–disobeying his father’s orders, endangering the lives of his companions, ending the truce between the Asgardians and the Frost Giants–Thor is stripped of his powers and banished to Earth. As a test, Odin also sends Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, to Earth after him, casting a spell on it, “Whoever wields this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor.” Stranded on Earth, a mere mortal, a stranger in a strange land . . . Thor must learn what it means to be a protector, rather than just a warrior. Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Loki makes some startling discoveries of his own. The future of Asgard, Earth, and the rest of the nine realms rests on the actions of these estranged brothers.
Now, that being said, aside from Shakespeare, there’s another story Thor reminds me of, 1987’s Masters of the Universe . . . and I mean this in the best possible way. The Asgardians and the Eternians just seem to have a similar reaction to life on Earth. When Thor’s companions come marching through a small New Mexico town in search of him, I can’t help but think of Evil-lyn leading Skeletor’s troops down Main St. Whittier, CA. And I guess that’s kinda fitting, since MOTU director Gary Goddard has said that his film was greatly inspired by Thor (among other classic comics).
As for Thor, you don’t have to like Masters of the Universe to enjoy it. (It’s just icing on the cake if you do.) Thor stands on its own merits. Branagh and company deliver a comic book movie that covers all the bases, drama, comedy, action, with soul and wit. I kinda loved it. It makes me even more anxious to hear, “Avengers assemble!”