Before getting into my review of Thor I have a confession to make: I never got into comics as a kid. I had nothing against them, I just spent my time inside playing video games (like a cool kid). I've always liked the idea of superheroes, but I never took the time to learn about them outside of watching movies and tv shows about them. As far as heroes go, for me it doesn't get any better than Batman. I think I've always been partial to Batman because he's just a regular guy. He doesn't possess any powers other than his keen intellect and deep pockets (which afford him the opportunity for superior training, as well as cool weapons). So I'll be the first to admit that when I saw the teaser trailer for Thor I was not excited about it. Underwhelmed would be more accurate. Subsequent trailers piqued my interest enough to coax me into a seat at the local theater last Tuesday (just a few days after thefilm's May 6th release).
My big concern going into the movie was how much I'd care about the title character since he was in fact a Norse God...not a human. I always willingly suspend disbelief, but I feared the filmmakers might make Thor an unstoppable force, which would not make for much drama or suspense in the movie. So did the team behind Thor successfully avoid this problem and quell my fears?
I feel the best place to start is with a brief intro to the movie's plot. Odin, The All Father and King of Asgard (the realm of the gods) wages a war against The Frost Giants of Jotunheim to prevent them from taking over The Nine Realms, starting with Earth. In 965 AD, The Frost Giants try to conquer Earth, but Odin intervenes, defeating The Frost Giants and taking from them their source of power, The Casket of Ancient Winters. Many peaceful years later, Thor, firstborn son of Odin, triumphantly walks into a ceremony in his honor where he will become the next King of Asgard. Unfortunately for Thor, the ceremony is interrupted after a small group of Frost Giants, acting on their own, enter Asgard and try to reclaim The Casket (they are not successful). Odin believes this is the work of a small group acting outside the authority of Jotunheim's ruler, while Thor believes it is an act of war. The foolhardy Thor disobeys his father's orders and takes a band of warriors into Jotunheim to demand answers about the attack. As a result of his disobedience, Thor is cast out of Asgard by Odin and forced to live on Earth as a mere mortal. That's where I'll stop, as what happens after this point are things I feel viewers will want to discover on their own.
So, did the filmmakers successfully avoid the trap of making Thor too powerful? In my opinion, yes. I believe the filmmakers have done a wonderful job making a movie about a Norse God that is human and relatable. At it's heart, Thor appears to be a reverse version of the typical hero's journey. Although he is a deity, Thor's banishment to Earth forces him to take on human form and deal with problems as a human. This process teaches the foolhardy Thor several valuable lessons. It would have been easy for the film to be two hours of a Norse God dominating less powerful foes, but instead the filmmakers have crafted a movie with a good story that should resonate with and be enjoyed by many audiences. So far it appears to be doing just that.
Thor was #1 at the box office for a second week in a row this past weekend and I wouldn't be surprised to see it have a long theatrical run. I think it's a lot like the first Iron Man in that it does a great job mixing action and humor throughout an enjoyable story. It is the kind of movie the entire family could go see and leave with a smile on their face, unless they see it in 3D.
Full disclosure: In general, I'm unimpressed with 3D. The only movie I can firmly say I really enjoyed in 3D is Avatar. For me Avatar was more of an "event" than a movie. I saw it a couple times in theaters because of its use of 3D, not because I was particularly blown away by its story. Why was Avatar's 3D some of the best, if not the best, to date? My guess is because the movie was filmed in 3D and planned for 3D throughout its production. Hollywood has a nasty habit of "converting" films shot in 2D to 3D via computer. I believe they do so to increase their bottom line (audiences be damned). I've had the pleasure of viewing Thor in both 2D and 3D. Thankfully I saw the movie in 2D first.
I found the 3D to be distracting. The 3D is not good...at all. If you can see the film in 2D, please do so. The 3D effects are lackluster and almost non-existent. Please save your hard earned money if you have a choice between the two formats. If you only have the option of seeing the movie in 3D, I suggest attending a matinee because the movie is good, but the 3D is not. It's tempting to encourage you to avoid seeing it at all if 3D is your only option, but this is a great, fun, summer movie that should be experienced on the big screen. Whether you view it alone or take the family, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Rating: Very Good
Verdict: Go see it! If possible, view it in 2D...it's going to provide you the most enjoyable experience.
Acting: Solid performances all around. The actors all play their parts well. Chris Hemsworth is exceptional as Thor...he looks like a Norse God. I remember seeing still photos of Anthony Hopkins as Odin before I saw a trailer and thought, "this could be really terrible". Fortunately for everyone, I was wrong. Hopkins brings gravitas to the role of The All Father. An actor of his stature commands respect on the screen and he keeps the action in Asgard from feeling "hokey".
Pacing: Great pace to this film. The movie clocks in at just under two hours (1 hour and 54 minutes) and you never get to a point where you wish things would end. The movie does a great job of balancing the time spent between Earth and Asgard, giving you enough background on Thor and his native world without spending too much time inside his fantastic realm. The filmmakers never get too clever and delve too deeply into the Norse Mythology that influences Thor. I believe this choice greatly helps the film move at a brisk pace.
Action: As mentioned in the main review, the movie does a great job of balancing drama, comedy and action. It is very much like Iron Man in that respect. If I have one complaint, it's that the action sequence in Jotunheim is a bit hard to follow. The environment is dark and the director has decided to follow what seems to be the current trend of making many quick cuts throughout the action. This can be useful as it can heighten your anxiety level, but if you ask me, the effect is starting to feel tired and "played out". If I can't see who is fighting and exactly what's going on, why should I care? Thankfully, this is only a very minor complaint and shouldn't take away from the viewer's enjoyment of the movie.