Nearly ten years ago, I stepped out of a showing of Fellowship of the Ring in awe. Someone finally got a fantasy movie right. Today when I stepped out of Thor, I had a similar feeling. After more than a decade of reducing comic book movies to reality and tossing out anything remotely fantastical; someone finally embraced a comic book and put everything on screen as it should be. Thor isn’t walking around on Earth in black spandex with no mention of Asgard. Instead Asgard is shown in its glory and the movie doesn’t shy away from talking about the Nine Realms and the magical part of the Marvel Universe. In a lot of ways, Kenneth Branagh’s Thor is this generation’s version of Richard Donner’s Superman.
Where Richard Donner created a fantastical representation of Krypton and cast a famous and well recognized actor as Jor-El; Kenneth Branagh does the same thing here with Asgard and Anthony Hopkins as Odin Allfather. And yes, those Asgardian names from the comic are right there on screen. Odin is referred to as both Allfather and Odin Allfather numerous times, and the first time he calls Thor “Odinson” it’s hard not to giggle with joy. And Asgard isn’t a throw away mention here, a very large portion of the movie takes place there.
Another parallel to Donner’s Superman comes with the casting of Chris Hemsworth as Thor. Much like Christopher Reeve becoming the definitive Superman that all others will be compared to until the end of time; Helmsworth completely embodies Thor on screen. From the young and arrogant Thor we meet in the beginning to the absolutely perfect heroic Thor that ends the film, it’s impossible to ever imagine anyone playing the Odinson as well as he did. His Thor is so good you almost become depressed knowing we may have to wait up to three years for a sequel, until you realize that we get more Thor next summer in The Avengers!
Even the fish out of water stuff on Earth is handled well, with just the right amount of humor to not turn that part of the movie into a joke. And while on Earth Branagh knows how to tug on the heartstrings of fanboys by nailing iconic moments. Thor, still arrogant with no humility, trying to lift Mjolnir while Hawkeye has him in his sites is just perfect. Then later in the movie when Thor becomes worthy of once again wielding his hammer and Odin’s famous inscription is again heard, it’s not hard to completely geek out. Thor spins his hammer as he should, and when he flies it’s definitely used as a payoff and is done so complete with the iconic image fans will recognize as Thor’s flight.
I haven’t even talked about the Warriors Three and Sif, the four of which play a huge part both on Asgard and Earth. Loki is even perfect, and they even fit in his origin just as it was in the comics. Every character here is spot on to how you’d expect them to be, and I suppose that’s most likely due to J Michael Stracynski being involved with the story. I’m glad that Loki will also play a big part in next year’s Avengers as they really nailed one of the great Marvel villains here.
As for cameos, the Hawkeye one is well known. Both Stan Lee and J Michael Stracynski have pretty good ones, and Bruce Banner is mentioned (although not by name). Marvel cut out the Dr. Pym mention in the final cut, but the lines referencing him still exist. Walter Simonson was rumored to have a cameo, but as hard as I looked I didn’t see him.
Thor kicks off the summer movie season in spectacular fashion.