Thor (2011) – Review/Best Bits/Not Best Bits

What did we think?

What a wonderful film this is. Who would have ever thought Thor would work, but Branagh and everyone else has made a great film. There is so much to like, but what is most impressive is the tone of the film – they managed to make Thor, this strange god, work in this world. In many ways, Thor has never been better used than here.

They pull off the Christopher Reeve/Superman trick. They found a wonderful charismatic unknown, and they built a powerhouse team around him. Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skargard all bring the acting chops. And Hiddleston…more about Hiddleston later. But Hemsworth pulls off being the centre of the entire film. It’s notable that when it came time to cut, The Warriors Three get the short straw. He didn’t need a cast of quirky characters around him to carry the film.

There’s so much Reeve in Hemsworth. His comic timing – his pratfall of being backed into by a car, smashing cups on the floor – are all fantastic moments. His inherent likability is matched only by Tom Hiddleston‘s raw nerve of a performance. By the end, when the real Loki is revealed, it looks like Hiddleston is really losing it. He is the stand out star of this film, and it’s no wonder that he shot straight into stardom. And an actual Marvel villain with half a a plan. Not really enough has been made of Marvel’s wonderful casting team.

One last standout performance we want to note is Natalie Portman. She is effortless, in coming cross strong, smart and so human. Its no wonder she can carry multi million dollar blockbusters in her own right. And through her, they’ve made the mythology feel grounded, and the science feel inclusive. No small feat.

Branagh brings a wonderful touch. He gets pigeonholed into serious Shakespearean work, but he’s always had a lovely sense of humour. That he’s able to mix it with the cosmic and make it work is a treat. That he pulls off so many stunning shots of desert vistas – not just the CGI work. The camera work is fluid and energetic. This isn’t a stage play, it’s a blockbuster.

Is there faults? The story seems to take place in one day, so there’s a lot going on, and not all the emotional arcs make sense if you think about it. Asgard, and the Frost Giants tip their toe into silliness, although not long enough for it to do real harm to the film. and yes, it’s a small story in the end, but on reflection, and in the context of the other Marvel and superhero films, it actually feels refreshing.

Maybe the biggest crime is we didn’t get to see enough of the characters we love. Branagh didn’t return, but one wonders what would have happened if he continued this fish out of water story. The Warriors Three and Sif and Heimdall. Jane’s search, this epic love story spanning across the realms. Oh well, we got Avengers instead.

Best Bits

  • Hiddleston and Hemsworth. What amazing finds.
  • Portman. A super-duper star.
  • Branagh. He rises to the occasion and then some.
  • The jokes land. He needs a horse.
  • The sets, the costumes. For a cheaper Marvel film, it looks like the best one yet.

Not best bits

  • Odin’s parenting
  • It probably would have unbalanced the film, but the Warriors Three and Sif were cool. If only they weren’t so interchangeable.
  • Some of the Frost Giant fighting, just CGI bashing CGI, has dated poorly.
  • Speaking of which, that impending war never really seemed that impending, the larger threat of the Frost Giants meant very little.
  • Odin just falls over, and then just gets better?

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