The Summer of the Superhero cometh with the wide opening of kid-friendly Thor. Perhaps surprisingly, the high-concept 3D Avengers spin-off is a very well-executed movie, offering corny one-liners and plenty of muscle-bound heroism to whet fan appetites.
Featuring characters taken from the Marvel comic universe, Thor stars Oscar winners Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman and is directed by Kenneth Branagh (a guy more normally associated with the Great Bard than with Stan Lee). The story has warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth) exiled by his father Odin (Hopkins) to Earth from his fantastical home of Asgard. Once here, of course, Thor falls for super-smart and ultra-goodlooking mortal scientist Jane Foster (Portman). But when Thor’s brother Loki takes over Asgard and sends a destroyer to attack Earth, Thor must become the hero he’s destined to be.
While the cast is composed of some great faces, they often take a back seat to the animated special effects that have been converted from theier 2D origins. But don’t waste money on seeing Thor in 3D, which is a major disappointment, displaying problems similar to those that plagued last year’s Clash of the Titans. The 3D effects actually hurt the visual experience, dimming the images and making focus (especially in wide shots of Asgard) appear soft. The 3D gimmick needs more fine-tuning. After all, Thor is a $150 million production, and if they couldn’t get the effects right with that kind of outlay, maybe it’s time to scale back on their use. And a warning here: the movie, about the god of thunder, is very loud, louder even than last month’s Fast Five that was itself pretty historically deafening. Still, Thor is a good way to kick off a summer that includes Green Lantern, X-Men: First Class, and Captain America: The First Avenger.
Thor should be lauded for maintaining a tongue-in-cheek tone. It’s surprisingly literate and even sharp in places, while not ever getting too dark or disturbing. It’s that balance between edgier complexity and lighthearted appeal that makes Thor suitable for just about everyone, regardless whether it’s rated PG-13.
Jonathan W. Hickman is an entertainment attorney, novelist (The Taster), longtime film critic, and co-director of the 2009 political documentary feature, Crashing the Party. Episodes of his cable television show, The Film Fix, can be watched online at http://dailyfilmfix.com/