Thor's a Bore, and His Brother from Another Mother Really Steals the Hero's Thunder

After more than a decade of high-profile Hollywood reboots, the shelves at Marvel and DC are starting to look empty. First came the obvious candidates: comic book vigilantes like Batman and Daredevil transformed seamlessly into action/crime anti-heroes. Then came teen idol Spider-Man, social-pariah super-group the X-Men, righteous rageaholic Hulk, and the warmongering peacemaker Iron Man, all fitting analogues for the American aughts. Now, however, we're on to characters adapted neither for topicality nor timelessness, but for the simple fact that they're next in line. An astonishingly awkward marriage of ancient Norse mythology and 21st-century nonsense, Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh, works too hard at simply functioning to assert why it, or we, should bother.

A headstrong young prince known for smashing heads first and asking questions later, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is set to be anointed king of Asgard — a fanciful, otherworldly realm populated by Scandinavians who talk like Englishmen — by his revered father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). But after his grand coronation is interrupted by an invasion of the dreaded Ice Giants, Thor defies Odin's pragmatism by fighting back (with four costumed compadres, as extraneous and flat as a Hanna-Barbera B-team) and disrupting an uneasy peace. As punishment, he's stripped of his powers, separated from his weather-taming hammer, and banished to the American desert. Soon thereafter, Odin falls into a coma, elevating scheming stepson Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to the throne and setting into motion rusty wheels of intrigue, betrayal and redemption. On Earth, Thor teams up with a trio of star-chasing scientists, including skeptic Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), dreamer Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and superfluous hipster Darcy (Kat Dennings, whose every line is a Facebook or iPod reference), who all gradually grasp the big bloke's true identity and stand aside as he battles intergalactic giants and judo-trained feds.

Asgard seems realized from storyboards rejected as too tacky for even Star Wars 2.0 and Avatar, evoking instead the epic chintziness of Peter Yates's Flash Gordon — another B-movie bomb helmed by a seriously slumming Brit. But what's surprising isn't that Branagh took on Thor; his once-promising career hasn't really re-railed since his Frankenstein monstrosity of 1994. It's that there's scant evidence that a classically trained dramatist had anything to do with what's on screen. The closest he comes to a visual signature is a sophomoric preference for slanted frames, forsaking actual shot-making for Schumacherian funhouse shenanigans. The CGI landscapes are monumentally lifeless, a verdict that unfortunately also applies to his un-doctored two-shots, bloodless faces fixed in IMAX 3D space.

Pretty dull: Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman stiffen up in Kenneth Branagh's Thor.
Pretty dull: Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman stiffen up in Kenneth Branagh's Thor.

Details

Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Written by Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne. Based on the comic book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, and Jack Kirby. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings. Rated PG-13.

Related Stories

More About

From the cast, Branagh gets exactly what you'd expect: Hopkins shows up in a strapless eye patch like an even more wizened Rooster Cogburn, briefly aroused by his own loud-quiet-loud vocal modulation; Skarsgård always seems faintly embarrassed or soused, or both; Portman is stiffer than usual, delivering catchphrases on the downbeat like an early, phonetically dependent Schwarzenegger; and newcomer Hemsworth, a strapping Aussie with ocean-blue eyes, is a charmless hunk of meat. Which opens the door wide for Hiddleston to steal the movie, for whatever it's worth, as the dandy baddie.

Unlike the muscled-out, metalhead, beach-blond (from head to candy-corn eyebrows) hero, Loki's like a walking Spandau Ballet music video, with a trim, bottle-black New Wave shimmer, pale, angular features, mirror-trained smoldering affect and custom -tailored, dance-ready formalwear. He's a fresh-faced villain, unflappable in antlered headgear and trapped in his more famous beefcake brother's yarn about responsible might, the regality of humility and the galaxy-saving love of Natalie Portman. I wouldn't expect a Loki spinoff anytime soon — too moody, too cosmo, too intellectually elite — but that may be just the problem. Marvel continues to polish off its mid-century hyper-masculine heroes when what we really need is a new mythology for this more ambiguous age.

 
My Voice Nation Help
6 comments
Still not a beleiver
Still not a beleiver

This age is no more ambiguous then any other.With a bad review from Eric Hynes you can be guaranteed that this movie will be one of the best this year.

Unfortunately for Eric main stream movie makers and audiences do not find bi-possible gay probable characters and or story arcs to be entertaining nor worth spending $100+ Million on or even 1/100th that amount.

Stories that Eric would like to see would just simply FAIL at the box office, eventually causing every one involved with it's making or even viewing to commit suicide of their poor judgment on the project.

Gonzo di Dottore
Gonzo di Dottore

"I wouldn't expect a Loki spinoff anytime soon — too moody, too cosmo, too intellectually elite — but that may be just the problem. Marvel continues to polish off its mid-century hyper-masculine heroes when what we really need is a new mythology for this more ambiguous age."

You should stick to SATC2/Notebook movie reviews or maybe go manscape something.

Enuf
Enuf

Easy Save - Shoot some scenes of Portman nekkid and edit them in. Re-release the movie with an R Rating. Add some fairly explicit simulated sex scenes and release a "Directors Cut" at NC-17 or unrated. People will buy those up in mass quantities.

 

Now Showing

Find capsule reviews, showtimes & tickets for all films in town.

Powered By VOICE Places

Box Office

Scores provided by Rotten Tomatoes

Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!

Loading...