Marvel’s Thor is the first of many comic book movies to be released this summer, and not only does it have to compete with them, there’s added pressure due to Marvel’s plans for The Avengers next summer.
With Iron Man already a hit with audiences, would Thor be good enough to earn its place in the Marvel universe, or would it be the bad egg of the bunch? Paramount recently screened the movie for press and critics and the good news for fans is, there’s not much bad news.
Here’s a spoiler-free collection of thoughts on the movie:
The Marvel universe moves into the cosmic realm with Thor, a burly slab of bombastic superhero entertainment that skitters just this side of kitschy to provide an introduction befitting the mighty god of thunder. It’s a noisy, universe-rattling spectacle full of sound and fury with a suitably epic design, solid digital effects and a healthy respect for the comic-book lore that turned a mythological Norse god into a founding member of the superhero team known as The Avengers.
“Thor” delivers the goods so long as butt is being kicked and family conflict is playing out in celestial dimensions, but is less thrilling during the Norse warrior god’s rather brief banishment on Earth. With Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth impressive in the lead and helmer Kenneth Branagh investing the dramatic passages with a weighty yet never overbearing Shakespearean dimension, pic looks sure to reap big B.O. on the strength of its ready-made audience, but faces a tougher time attracting viewers for whom this type of fare is the exception rather than the rule.
Outside of these occasional moments of comic relief, director Kenneth Branagh keeps the focus squarely on Thor’s dramatic arc. The movie’s strongest moments aren’t necessarily the comic booky ones (although they are pretty cool), but rather the familial ones in Asgard. Thor’s scenes with Loki and Odin crackle with an intensity and emotion sometimes lacking in the earthly scenes. These moments feel like the ones that Branagh and his leads were the most emotionally invested in, and that sincerity helps you buy into this otherwise fantastical world, one which we see far more of than the marketing has heretofore revealed.
Thor may not be a game-changer for comic book movies, but it’s a solidly entertaining one most noteworthy for taking what could have been utterly campy material and making it dramatic and relatable. There’s action and otherworldly elements to appease the core fans and possibly even win over some skeptics, and enough humor and humanity to engage general audiences.
A few observations about things I really liked in this film: when superpowered beings fight in this film, there is a sense of power and force that we still haven’t seen in many of these movies. In this film, there are many fights where every single being onscreen is superpowered, and all of the punches and kicks and throws are full-strength, nothing held back. And while Kenneth Branagh has still never met a dutch angle he didn’t love, the action in the film is staged well, and there are some beats and some images that push comic book language on film to places we haven’t seen before. In particular, I think everything involving Heimdall (Idris Elba) is spectacular, and I love his Observatory and the way the Bifrost works. It is crazy, but it’s also kind of beautiful.
While many more reviews are set to pour in, the general consensus is that Thor is a good movie, which is the least we could have hoped for. Apparently the Earth scenes are the weakest point about the film, but that could have been expected considering Asgard is where most of the action, special effects, and family dynamic takes place.
Filmonic’s review of Thor will hit closer to the movies release on May 6th. The UK will get to see the movie a week earlier on April 27th.