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May 8, 2011

I think that with all its references to S.H.I.E.L.D. and Stark and a secret cameo by Nick Fury, it’s safe to call Thoran Avengers movie rather than simply a comic-book movie. And like Iron Man and Iron Man 2 before it, Thor doesn’t fail to deliver the goods. We get an epic, action-packed thrill ride that doesn’t remotely feel like its over-two-hours running time.

Fidelity to the source material is a bit of a sticking point here, since there seem to be numerous versions of the comic book character, with sometimes little to connect them other than their own common source in Norse legend. Straczynski and Protosevich have done well in picking and choosing what common threads they can in such a way as to lead as smoothly as possible through a stand-alone origin story and into the future Avengers film.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is, of course, the Norse god of thunder, son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and brother of Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Odin is the king of the realm of Asgard, and led the defeat of the frost giants of Jotunheim long ago. Thor is a warrior at heart, and would like nothing more than to charge into Jotunheim and finish the job.

When a few giants manage to find their way into Asgard, he defies Odin’s orders to do exactly that, along with Loki and his friends Sif (Jaimie Alexander), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Fandral (Joshua Dallas) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano). This, of course, causes an incident, into which Odin has to ride to save his son. Irate, he withdraws Thor’s power and sends him to Earth for a time-out of sorts, telling the guard Heimdall (Idris Elba) not to let him back in.

On Earth, Thor lands — quite literally — in the midst of a meteorological disturbance that physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is investigating in the New Mexico desert, along with her advisor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings). His hammer Mjolnir lands nearby, which leads to a parade of local townsfolk attempting to reenact The Sword in the Stone to no avail until a detachment from S.H.I.E.L.D. led by Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) — familiar from the Iron Man movies — take possession of the site.

Back in Asgard, Odin falls into a recuperative trance, leaving Loki to take the throne. He cooks up an alliance with the frost giants to wreak havoc and kill Odin in his sleep, which Sif, Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun are having none of. They want to bring Thor back, and Thor naturally enough wants to recover Mjolnir and return to Asgard himself.

Now I’ll be honest: none of the characters have the charisma of Tony Stark, but then none of them are played by Robert Downey Jr. either. The story isn’t perfectly straightforward, but it’s not exactly Shakespeare — director Kenneth Branagh could tell us that much. Really, if it weren’t for the action and the visuals it would fall very flat. Even Portman is nothing to write home about; thoroughly interchangeable with any other pretty-enough face. Hopkins is enjoyable enough to watch, but it’s hardly his best work. The same is true of Skarsgård, though in his case the casting decision was pretty much perfect; I couldn’t imagine an apter choice for Selvig.

As for the action and the visuals, though, they’re just great, especially Asgard and Jotunheim. The action is fast-paced and thrilling, and there’s enough of it that the movie doesn’t get bogged down in what it lacks of plot and character. Go and enjoy the pretty pictures.

Oh, and as for the 3-D, I barely noticed it. It certainly didn’t add anything. Save the surcharge and watch a 2-D showing if you can.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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