Hammer to Fall: Thor

Thor poster

He’s arrogant. He’s reckless. He’s dangerous.’

You know that really awful moment where you have to swallow your pride and admit not only that you were wrong but that the other person (or people in this case) were completely, devastatingly correct? Well, my dear Wanderers, that is essentially the point of this review. When Thor was initially released in the UK, one of my friends begged me to go and watch it with her. She made all sorts of promises including handsome men and rich storytelling but I took one look at the posters and went ‘Meh.’ I’m not particularly a fan of action films, especially those with the obligatory muscle-bound hero, which was exactly what I assumed Thor was all about. Despite this preconception, after another couple of recommendations including one from our dearest Editor, I sat down to watch this film with a highly cynical attitude and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s finest. Guess what? I absolutely loved it. I was wrong. Yes, for the benefit of all those doubters out there, I was oh so wrong about this film. [And I was right. -Ed.]

Although the title only refers to Thor, this film unravels the story of two very different brothers and how their lives, characters and decisions are profoundly altered over the course of a few days. Very loosely following Norse mythology, Loki and Thor are both gods and princes in line for the throne of Asgard, one of the nine realms making up the universe. Out of the two brothers, Thor, the God of Thunder, has been selected by their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to be the next king of Asgard. However, after seeking out a violent confrontation with another race of people known as the Frost Giants, Thor reveals himself to be irresponsible and all too ready to resolve problems with blunt force. Deciding that his son is unworthy to inherit the throne, Odin strips him of his godly powers and strength before banishing him to the realm of Midgard… otherwise known as Earth.

In this new realm, Thor has to contend with the loss of his powers, including his beloved hammer Mjolnir, learn new and strange customs and make friends with a group of scientists who might be able to help him find a new direction in life. Of course, he gains a love interest in the intelligent and feisty astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and becomes a better person along the way. Gliding seamlessly from one realm to another, the film also details the dramatic events taking place in Asgard as Loki finds out the painful truth of his parentage with far-reaching implications that go beyond the boundaries of his adopted kingdom.

At its heart, there is something very Shakespearean about Thor and I think that’s partly why I ended up enjoying it so much. Perhaps, it is the influence of its director Kenneth Branagh, or the fact that many of the actors involved – Colm Feore, Hopkins and Hiddleston just to name a few – have previous experience of Shakespeare and classical theatre. Or perhaps it’s just the plot which focuses on the parallel but opposite paths of two siblings. As one brother ultimately finds redemption and atones for his past weaknesses, the other, seemingly the cool and rational one at the beginning of the film, begins to mentally and emotionally unravel as he descends into darkness and violence.

Both Hemsworth and Hiddleston are fantastic choices for the lead characters. Hemsworth captures the physicality, energy and arrogance of Thor from the moment he appears on the screen. However, he is equally capable of showing Thor’s despair and sorrow at his lowest point in the film and the subsequent development of Thor’s character into a more humble, thoughtful and caring person is entirely believable. As Loki, Hiddleston is simply superb. His version of Loki encompasses the full range of vulnerability, rage, moments of questionable sanity and of course mischief. It’s almost impossible for your heart not to break when Loki learns of his true origins and in a strange way you end up rooting for him just as much as, if not more than, for the film’s central protagonist.

All this pathos, tragedy and character development is perfectly balanced with humour and action sequences. It’s refreshing to watch a film which doesn’t hesitate to make fun of its hero, especially when the aforesaid hero at the outset takes himself more than seriously enough. Aside from the physical comedy of reducing the God of Thunder to nothing more than a pile of Asgardian limbs on the floor, the dialogue is generally witty and fastpaced with plenty of jibes and jokes between the characters. The action sequences are dispersed carefully throughout the film and they really are used for plot or character development without any of the violence feeling gratuitous or unnecessary. There is plenty to admire about the fight scenes, including the combat skills of the characters and the special effects, which bring an automated destroying machine to life. And all this is coming from someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy action films!

In terms of flaws, it was difficult to pick something that I didn’t like about this film. In the end, the only criticism I could really make is that it was too short. Now, I have the attention span of a three year old child high on sugar, so this isn’t a criticism that I would usually make in respect of a film. However, after viewing some of the deleted scenes, I felt that the film would have been a richer experience with them included. The cut scenes offered a deeper exploration of Loki’s character and his relationship with Thor before the two brothers set off on their respective transformations. Also, the extra scenes would have given the audience more exposure to Thor’s friends, the Warriors Three and Lady Sif. The audience doesn’t really get much of an insight into their different personalities and roles within Asgardian society which I thought was a real shame.

So, I stand before you all, well and truly repentant and more than willing to give this film four out of five.

Red Hamilton (reckons it might be time to check out this Iron Man franchise that her friend has been nattering on about…) 

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