When Thor, successor to the throne of Asgard, makes a brash and immature decision that potentially destructs a tentative peace agreement between Asgard and Jotunheim (world of the Frost Giants) King Odin strips him of his Godlike powers and banishes him to Earth. Kenneth Branagh makes for a fitting director, his Shakespearean experience gets put to good use, as Thor contains its fair share of palace politics. Simultaneously a fish-out-of-water and coming-of-age(throne?) tale, Thor is surprisingly light on action (heavy on character) despite being a film about the God of Thunder.
This isn’t to say action junkies won’t get their fix. The set piece that leads to Thor’s banishment is exciting, acting both as a “muscle flex” that shows off what he is capable of and a visual representation of his brash and foolish nature. As the first character of the Marvel Cinematic Universe firmly grounded in pure fantasy, Thor was always going to be the most difficult Avenger to adapt. Branagh adequately world builds, and the production design brings Asgard to life suitably. Nevertheless, the choice to set much of the run time on Earth was a good one – the film’s middle hour spent in Arizona is its best. Surrounded by two great actors (Stellan Skarsgard and Natlie Portman) Thor’s development is fun, entertaining, silly, and genuine. Chris Hemsworth proves to be a perfect casting choice, capable of both the physicality, posture, and presence demanded by the role. He’s also the funniest of the bunch here, reveling in the “fish out of water” aspects of his Norse God being confronted with Americana.
It’s a shame the charm and emotional heft of the middle hour transitions into a lackluster finale that feels generally bereft of stakes. Tom Hiddleston’s sly performance as Loki helps, but Thor’s climax is a bit of a dud. Not even Branagh, who dishes out enough Dutch angles to feed an army, can heat things up. Nevertheless, Thor‘s final minutes have a bittersweet finality to them, and it was lovely to see the film get its feet back under itself before the credits rolled, because it’s really a fun slice of smart blockbuster entertainment (Kat Dennings aside).