One day, lad, all this will be yours ...
I had concerns.

As soon as I saw the first trailer and realised that this film contained Anthony Hopkins as Odin, chewing up the Asgardian furniture, I knew they had chosen not to follow the path laid down by J. Michael Straczynski’s reboot of Thor.

That had Thor beginning with nothing and building up Asgard, and its pantheon of gods, from the ground up.  It would have lent itself perfectly to filmic adaptation.  But the trailer had Odin, and Odin didn’t appear in JMS’s version of Thor, so I knew that’s not what they were doing.

And that was a concern!

It turns out they have taken some of Straczynski's ideas, but they're mostly the earthbound ones.

We begin, instead, with the en-vogue start half-way through with something exciting then rewind to see the events that led to the exiting thing structure which is, I think, lazy script-writing but I understand that producers are frightened their audiences won’t have the attention-span for introductions and character development without having had an exciting carrot first.

After this whizz-bang intro, we then get a good twenty minutes of Asgardian doings, involving Frost Giants on other planets, and a football team of new characters, all in Jack Kirby’s trademark architectural hats, with which we must quickly become familiar.
That's one bad hat, Loki ...
Asgard itself looks lovely, but there’s no obvious structure to it, it looks more like a mad castle than a city.  It’s gorgeous, to be sure, but the camera swoops over it so quickly that we do not get time to give it a good look.  There is little sense of coherence about the city.  Unfortunately, that stands as emblematic of the film as a whole.

None of which is helped by the dim, fuzzy and entirely pointless 3D process.  As usual, this adds nothing, but takes away the vibrancy of the colours and the clarity of the hi-def effects work.  But I’ve not been shy with my thoughts on 3D, so we’ll move on …

Chris Hemsworth finally gets his teeth into the role when he has crash-landed on Earth and conveniently meets some non-specific scientists out in the desert studying Non-Specific Sciencey Stuff.  He very quickly comes across as a personable chap who is, I am reliably informed by my beloved, ‘well fit’.  Well, he did work out for several months before filming began but I don’t think that’s what she meant.
Hemsworth gets his tits out for the lasses.  As my partner helpfully suggested: “This should have been called Phwoar, not Thor!”

I feel that these scenes would have been more successful if they had been the introduction to the film – if we had become invested in the character before all that show-boating in Asgard and points north.  As in JMS’s take on the character, this gradual process would have helped the audience along by gently introducing them to the idea of ‘gods’ and built-up to the reveal of The City of the Gods in all its glory.

There is a fair bit of slapstick in these ‘getting-to-know-you’ scenes, involving Hemsworth doing little more than prat-falls, but this is genuinely amusing and certainly breaks the emotional ice, but it jars when played so soon against all the thee-ing and thou-ing upstairs.

Of course, Hemsworth is required to play these scenes differently because he has to learn not to be the spoiled, arrogant brat he was at the film’s beginning, in order to worthy of his god-like hammer Mjolnir (It’s pronounced “Muh-yoll-near”, by the way … I’ve only been reading these comics for about thirty years and I didn’t know that!)
It's hammer time!  ... What? What?
Now, what is interesting, is the way the film rationalises the ‘gods’ by borrowing Arthur C. Clark’s ever-reliable Third Law, to wit: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.  It suggests that they aren’t Gods at all, just ‘advanced beings’ which the primitive Norse worshipped as Gods.  Good little ‘No Prize’ for that one.  Maybe that explains the presence of Tadanobu Asano as Hogun – a Japanese Norse God? 

Also, The Frost Giants are from the ‘realm’ of Jotunheim, which is clearly a planet – which leads me to think that the fact that there are nine realms suggests there’s one per planet in our Solar System … Or am I thinking about that too much?

Portman is fine as the ditzy genius and expert on Non-Specific Sciencey Stuff, but she is pretty much acting on auto-pilot here.  Still, now she has a gold doorstop, it’s not like she has anything to prove.

As for the other actors, Tom Hiddleston does a fine job with Loki, but then, he has the best material.  Rene Russo makes a good fist of the All-Mother, Frigga, especially since she is given sod all to work with.  But Idris Elba (who is deemed of such consequence he is sharing poster-space with Hemsworth, Hopkins and Portman); is all-but unrecognisable under bad hat and contacts and is given very little to do.

He is the guardian of The Bifrost, which is, essentially, a teleportation device for dumping gods in New Mexico (where else?)  Thing is, this gadget is of key significance to the movie and yet its powers and function are never clearly explained.

The film is just uneven.  What’s with Jeremy Renner and his bow?  His cameo as Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) goes without introduction or explanation and he doesn’t even get to fire his arrow, before disappearing again.  Literally pointless!

The Destroyer as depicted in the film -

- and as originally depicted back in April 1968.  Pretty close, guys!
The fight-scenes seem shoe-horned in, such as the one Hawkeye watches, but doesn’t participate in.  The arrival of The Warriors Three (well, Four since they bring Lady Sif along) doesn’t propel the story along much, save to give an excuse for The Destroyer to be sent earthward to … destroy.  It is worth it, mind, since this is the best single conflict in the movie, even if it is lifted from Superman II (1980) and a million comic books.

Interestingly, seen from the perspective of Thor (sorry, ‘Donald Blake’) and his new mortal Scooby Gang, SHIELD are very much set up as the villains of the piece, but that, of course, distracts the unwary viewer’s attention away from the real bad-guy.

The dénouement relies on characters acting on knowledge which we, the mere mortals in the audience, have not been prepared for, and there is the laziest and most literal deus ex machina I’ve seen in a film in a long ole time.

It is easy to see why Marvel thought to hire Branagh to direct this, as Stan Lee’s original Thor dialogue tended to wax Shakespearean and, if you’re thinking Shakespeare, you are inevitably thinking Dear, Dear, Sir Kenny. Thing is, surprisingly, the dialogue is delivered with more conviction and makes the film all-the-more watchable during the conversational earthbound scenes.

The Asgardian sequences, on the other hand, might not have the acting, but they have a grandeur and visual splendour that manages to be both super-futuristic and impossibly ancient, with set and prop design to die for.  They either built some gigantic sets or the actors spent a lot of time standing on green boxes looking at wonderful things that would be put in later.
See, the sets are jaw droppingly detailed - even more so in 2D because then, at least, they are in focus. 

Click to enlarge and have a proper look!
Nice to see that Kirby and the other creators who have immortalised the character over the decades, get a mention at the end – even if it is merely a catch-all “Oh, and by the way …” type of credit.  The way Marvel dealt, particularly with Kirby, back in the 1980s is now a matter of common knowledge. The legal wrangling still, sadly, rolls on, but a particular take on the origins of this struggle for recognition and reward can be found in this fascinating article.

Yes, you do have to sit through the rubbish rock song over the credits, in order to get to the inevitable cameo at the end … But it is worth the wait!

I make it a rule of thumb that any film with more than three writers is lucky to make sense … Thor has five credited writers – including Straczynski – and the result is a mushy, convoluted, unconvincing mess which has gorgeous visuals but which are entirely buried beneath a gloomy fuzz of half-baked 3D processing.

So go see it, by all means, but save yourself some cash and a headache and seek out a 2D performance!

But, before you do; you know I can be merciless with the marketing of some movies, well Marvel have actually excelled themselves here – demonstrating a humour which I thought they’d lately lost … This ad is official, it's modelled after the Darth Vader ad VW recently did.  Enjoy:

Dir: Dear, Dear, Sir Kenny Branagh
Stars:  Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
Dur: 114 mins
Cert: 12A

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