(M) Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins

Aside from Superman (who hails from the planet Krypton) most heroes in the Marvel canon are mere mortals imbued with super powers, or in the case of Batman, an impressive cache of vehicles and gadgets.

So Thor, the Norse god of thunder, is an odd hero to add to this mighty collection. He is however one of the Avengers and there are plans for an Avengers film next year. For now, we have his stand alone origin story.

There has been a lot of internet scuttlebutt about the fact that Thor had the potential to be an over-the-top episode of Flash Gordon — all big blonde hair and polished armour. Thankfully director Kenneth Branagh has instead crafted the best Marvel film since Iron Man.

Australian actor Chris Hemsworth (seemingly taking over the reigns from Hugh Jackman as Australia’s most over-developed torso) is excellently cast as the arrogant heir to the Asgardian throne. But Thor’s pride and over-zealous ways have him stripped of his power, his mighty hammer Mjolnir, and cast down to Earth to eat humble pie by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).

Thor lands and is almost run down in the New Mexico desert by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her colleagues.

Mjolnir was thrown to earth with Thor but he can not remove it from its crater and regain his godly power until he understands humility.

Those watching the teasers at the end of recent Marvel films will recognise the resting place of Mjolnir as the site alluded to at the close of Iron Man 2. The area now monitored by SHEILD, Thor discovers that removing Mjolnir won’t be as easy as he first thought.

Branagh uses humour to good affect when handling the possibly dodgy tonal shifts from Asgard to Earth. Quality casting gives this film the gravitas it needs.

The use of special effects is excellent and the familial scenes set on Asgard between Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston (Thor’s brother Loki) are among the most electrifying from a dramatic standpoint.

If there is one failing of the film it is with its production design. The fake New Mexico town that the earth-bound action plays out in feels exactly like a western set and because the denouement entirely unfolds here it lacks the epic climactic battle that the film needs.

Its themes are well worn but not cliché, and  rooted in universal mythic conflicts: royal bloodlines, pride that goes before a fall, a son impatient to prove his worth to his father; a lethally resentful brother; and a woman who helps a man see the world anew.

Be sure and stay to the end of the film for yet another scene that links the film to the Avengers franchise.

Adrian Drayton


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