Nicholas Goodchild

Historic and Pared Down


2 May 2011 by Nicholas in Films

Thor is a Kenneth Brannagh film released through Paramount by Marvel Studios. It stars Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Chris Hemsworth as the eponymous character. It’s shot in upscaled 3D and currently on general release. To my mind it harkens back to Richard Donner’s Superman but those less kind may suggest it is more akin to Flash Gordon.

Honestly, I enjoyed it greatly. I think the fact I had very low expectations helped, but the whole film felt near pitch perfect to me. From the relatively b-movie opening of Portman and her colleagues chasing storms that nonetheless effectively set their status quo to the introduction of Thor himself and sense of mystery his appearance engenders, this was efficient and well thought out storytelling. The film then loops back to explain the events leading to Thor’s introduction as well as setting up the Asgardian milieu and central conflict that is at the heart of the film.

We see Thor as a child, explore sibling rivalry and family duties, come to understand the very real flaws of his character and the strengths of those around him. For all the grandeur and massive sense of scale the film evokes, this is a flawed hero that is inherently human. The antagonists, too, are humanised and shaded with their own complexity and understandable motivation. It is only in the supporting god characters that we see a lack of character. More than this, even as the lead characters have character traits and complex motivations, they also all have character arcs. That this is achieved with conflict, drama, excitement and romance is testament to the film’s writers and director. This is a surprisingly good film and one of the stronger comics to film conversions.

Branagh, as director, has obviously put thought into the fact that there will be 3D conversion. There is a lot of symmetry employed and he has distinct foregrounds and backgrounds, with a very clear idea which characters should be the focal point of each shot. very few shots have anything appearing to the edge that could confuse or flatten the image on screen and Asgard is seemingly designed from the ground up to be a 3D playground. It’s also very well realised, not looking cheap or ridiculous and comes across much better than the Olympus portrayed in Clash of the Titans.

The gods themselves are well costumed, with their outfits looking incongruous rather than ridiculous when they are transported to Earth. They look otherworldly and strange, but not laughable. This is partially down to the sheer physicality of the actors portraying them (particularly Hemsworth) but also in sensible costuming making them look more armour like and less theatrical.

Hemsworth surprises with the role, his accent never jarringly slipping and coming across as likable, brattish, impulsive, angry and heroic. He is actually believable in the role and a definite screen presence. Portman is fantastic as ever, and looks gorgeous.

Thor was a very pleasant surprise and something I would actually like to see a sequel to. A rarity in itself.