Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Anthony Hopkins

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgaard, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg.

Yet another Marvel comic book character is given the big screen treatment. Created in 1962, Thor is one of the lesser super heroes in the Marvel canon, and his story is loosely based on the old Norse myths. But given the recent success of the Iron Man films, Thor has been given a big budget and some top-notch talent to bring the character to life on the big screen. This is a special effects driven saga full of action and some generous touches of humour.

Thor (played by Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth, from soapie Home & Away, etc) is the oldest son of Norse God Odin (Anthony Hopkins). But he is also quick-tempered and anxious to show that he is a capable leader. When he leads a pre-emptive attack against their traditional enemies the Ice People, his actions displease Odin, who has managed to negotiate an uneasy peace with them. As a result, Thor is stripped of his powers and exiled to Earth to learn humility.

He crashes down into the New Mexico desert, and lands on a vehicle driven by three scientists, who are investigating unusual weather phenomena. Although Thor has been stripped of most his powers, he is still stronger than mere Earthlings. He also has to learn to adjust to the ways of man, which brings some unexpected humour to proceedings. A team of scientists and mysterious government agents led by SHIELD agent Coulson (Clark Gregg, reprising his role from the recent Iron Man) have also descended on the region to investigate a strange object that has crashed into the desert. They are trying to harness the unusual power of Thor’s hammer.

Meanwhile, back home on Asgard, his treacherous adopted younger brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is making a power play to assume the throne. The film moves deftly between Thor’s earth bound adventures and the intrigue back home.

Hemsworth makes the most of his biggest role to date, bringing a physicality to the character. He has bulked up for the role too, and there are enough scenes of him without his shirt to show off his buffed bod and rippling muscles. Recent Oscar winner Natalie Portman does what she can with her role as Jane, the scientist who finds her beliefs shaken by what she witnesses. Her two colleagues are played by Stellan Skarsgaard, and Kat Dennings, who make the most of fairly thankless roles. Hopkins lends his solid presence to yet another rather one-dimensional role. His bank balance is obviously healthy as a result of some recent film choices, but like de Niro, et al before him, he is squandering his reputation. And Stan Lee must have it written into his contract that he must do a brief cameo for every film produced through the Marvel Studios.

The key action scenes are well directed by Kenneth Branagh, not a name one automatically associates with big-budget, special effects driven movies (although he did helm a version of Frankenstein a decade ago!) Normally, more at home with Shakespearean drama and solid dramas, Branagh handles the CGI effects well. The excellent CGI effects are in keeping with the fantasy comic book origins. Thor has also been retrofitted for 3D, although the only time these effects are used well are during those scenes set on the fictional world of Asgard.

For a film intended to kick-start a potential new franchise, Thor is an enjoyable enough experience and it certainly delivers enough to leave fans hoping for more. Thor is part of the series of films set within the Marvel Universe, and there is a brief post-credits sequence featuring Samuel L Jackson, who sets the scene and heightens the anticipation for the forthcoming Avengers movie.




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