Reviews since 1993: A-E F-N O-Z Posters Who We Are and Why We Do What We Do Search the Site
Now in Release
DISNEY PIXAR DVDs
Close to fifty years ago, Stan Lee scribbled a couple of paragraphs about an idea for a comic based upon Norse mythology. The idea was Thor. Lee handed the scribbles over to his brother, Larry Lieber, to write the book. Artist Jack Kirby, as with almost everything else that became Marvel, set his pencil to drawing board and out came Thor and Odin and Asgard and just about everything else you'll see referenced on the big screen in Kenneth Branagh's movie version. It's a down right shame that Kirby didn't live long enough to see his characters make it to the big screen because Branagh's production does his vision justice.
For everybody else, this is a tale of a prince of the Nine Realms, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), son of the goddess Frigga (Rene Russo) and her lord and king, All-Father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Thor is elder brother to Loki (Tom Hiddleston). He is the beloved of the fair warrior Sif (Jaime Alexander) and counts as his Warriors Three the dashing Fandral (Josh Dallas), grim Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) and the voluminous Volstagg (Ray Stevenson). The Universe, according to Marvel's version of Norse mythology, springs from the World Tree Yggdrasil. The gods live in Asgard. Humans in Midgard (aka Earth). Frost Giants -- who are exactly what they sound like -- inhabit Jotunheim -- and have been at war, or close to war, with the forces of Asgard close to a thousand of our kind of years.
IN SHORT: Everything important in 40 years of stories is on the screen. Except one good reason to cheer. [Rated PG-13. 114 minutes]
We didn't cheer because, as spectacular as this film is in parts, and as in keeping with Marvel continuity as it is, while welcoming those who don't have decades of comics bagged and boarded and stored carefully away, Thor simply lays the groundwork for something even bigger to come your way next year. But let's not get ahead of ourself.
The King of Asgard, Odin the All-Father (Anthony Hopkins) has two sons. They are Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and while seeming to be adults to us they are boys by the standards of gods and, from time to time, their behavior marks them individually and collectively as such. That's a lot to swallow but, to be fair, the film does begin in 965 A.D. In the current day -- all the history is covered quickly with spectacular visuals and the background is easy to follow -- an aging Odin is about to appoint Thor as his heir apparent when Asgard is infiltrated by a band of Frost Giants seeking to steal a weapon of great power . . . it's the Casket of Ancient Winters. Find another fanboy to explain it to you.
While there had been a truce between Asgard and the Frost Giants, this rogue attack is the equivalent of a punch in the gut. Thor, who didn't get to be named king because of that attack and a bit of a hothead, decides to end the threat of the Frost Giants forever. He, with Sif and the Warriors Three, and the aid of the truly pissed off guardian of Asgard's borders, Heimdall (Idris Elba), make their own trip into Jotunheim. The resulting battle is a political nightmare for the Odin; Thor's attempt at godly version of genocide must be punished. As a result, Thor is stripped of his royal station and powers. He is banished to earth as is his weapon, the hammer Mjolnir, upon which is placed a curse of sorts: that "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor." That means anyone.
Odin then collapses leaving Loki, for all intents and purposes, as King of Asgard. We then learn the full extent of Loki's involvement in all that has just occurred. Let's just say that Loki was never happy being the number two son, and leave it at that. Or let some other fanboy spoil it more than our subtle hints. We're going back to the story on Earth.
As part of the Marvel movie universe, the hammer Mjolnir first appeared at the end of Iron Man 2 so historically, Thor connects somewhere around that point. Legions of locals, including one very special truck driving old man --Stan Lee's cameo in this film is his best one yet. -- make their best effort to lift this thing out in the desert of New Mexico. That is where a cosmic archeologist of sorts, one Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her small team -- Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and college intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) -- come into the story. Foster is searching for some kind of clue to the connection between universes. To the earthers, this is just a theory, of course. That Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Clark Gregg, seen in earlier movies) will sweep in to confiscate all her notes and findings just pisses the good doctor off.
Then Foster hits some long haired straggler with her truck. That would be the fallen Thor, and the film is off to the races from this point out.. Worse, up in Asgard, Loki has discovered a long suppressed truth about his true origins that would subvert his claim to the throne. His only recourse is to ensure that Odin has only one son and successor, dispatching a killing machine called Destroyer to do what it does to Thor and all around him. Loki also bans all contact between Asgardians and Earth, meaning Sif and the Warriors Three must, essentially, commit treason to aid their best buddy down on Midgard.
The rest of Thor is stuff and fury and a delight to the eyes, as a relationship develops quickly between Foster and Thor as she aids him in trying to retrieve Mjolnir . . . and in this we give props to the film for delivering surprises that (we) never saw coming. The minor one involves an archer named Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner). The major one we will not reveal. That, unfortunately, means we can't tell most of what develops over the rest of the film, whether in Asgard between Loki and the Frost Giant King Laufey (Colm Feore) or on Earth between Thor and, well, just about everybody.
We will say that the eventual triumph (as there must be) didn't have our crowd cheering. Heck, Cranky's a fanboy and we weren't cheering, either, until way after the final credits finished rolling and something cosmic takes the final seconds of screen time. That's the now to be expected "easter egg" which wraps all Marvel movies. It had yours Cranky and the other fanboys who waited for it giggling like little girls. If you are ignorant of the Marvel Universe, see Thor with a fan to explain it to you.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Thor, he would have paid . . .
As for the loudmouths on the 'net who swear they've got inside information to spill... all of whom said that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is definitely not in Thor . . . all of them are wrong. 'nuff said.
The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995 - 2017 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, ™ their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award™(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.