Now, everyone who knows me knows that I'm not a comic book geek. I can appreciate the work and the artistry that goes into writing graphic novels and comics but I don't get much out of reading them. Most of my knowledge of the "Thor" series comes from the movie Adventures in Babysitting (one of the kids is a Thor fan). However, I am a huge Kenneth Branagh fan and that alone (well, OK, the prospect of Anthony Hopkins as Odin helped, too) got me out to the theatre on opening weekend to see Thor.
I can't say much about Thor as a comic book adaptation because I don't know much about the source material. Only....this does look like a Thor comic, from what I've seen, and the storyline is decently plotted. There aren't crazy plot jumps or really bad plotholes (like the whole hey-we-have-this-gun-with-adamantium-bullets-and-a-sharpshooter-who-can't-miss-but-we're-not-going-to-give-him-the-gun-to-stop-Logan mess in X-men: Wolverine). Chris Hemsworth looks like Thor - big, blond, and not very bright, but hotter than hot because he has to be a Norse god. Anthony Hopkins is Odin - who else would you want as the Allfather? Natalie Portman is neither here nor there for me - it's kind of a role that any younger actress could pull off easily - but it is nice to see her in a fun popcorn movie in a role where she doesn't look tortured onscreen.
And then there is Kenneth Branagh. Say what you will about Shakespeare, yadda yadda yadda, because Branagh was a great choice as the director (and I love all Branagh's Shakespeare adaptations, even As You Like It, right up until the very end when the Happy Japanese Peasants do an English country dance...what's that about?). This version of Thor is essentially a Shakespearean history play come to life...yup, Henry IV, parts1 and 2 and Henry V. Thor is an arrogant jerk, disrespects his father, and gets his drinking buddies in trouble by stirring up a war in Jotunheim; Prince Hal is an arrogant jerk, disrespects his father, and gets into trouble at Falstaff's behest. Thor gets banished to Earth to learn to behave himself and subsequently understands how to be an adult; Prince Hal inherits the throne and decides that he can't rule England if he runs around with drunken lowlifes. And so on. Branagh even brings in his long-time composer, Patrick Doyle, who has created a really expansive score for Thor and I've loved his film music since Henry V (Non nobis, anyone?).
Thor is a great movie to watch - the visual effects are stunning. They shot the Earth sequences on location in New Mexico and the expanse of sky is something you just can't duplicate with CG. Asgard was designed with this amazing Art Deco/steampunk-ish vibe with vast, sweeping gold buildings and an amazing, breathtaking field of stars that comprise Yggdrasil. Idris Elba, who plays Heimdall the Guardian, has this amazing gate he uses to open the Bifrost bridge and his costume blends into it in such an amazing way.
I have to really call one performance to the fore and that is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. It could be really easy to play Loki off as just a goofy trickster like the Joker or the Riddler in Batman. Hiddleston, though, imbues the part with such a subtle shading of emotions that you're not quite sure where Loki's real motivations lie. Is he merely jealous? Spiteful? Evil? Overgrown child? I'm still not sure but I can't wait to see what Joss Wheedon has him do in The Avengers movie coming out next May (Chris Hemsworth, too - Thor does grow on you).
I had so much fun with Thor - can you tell?
(Sorry no previews - I forgot to write myself a note!! I want to say one was for Xmen: First Class and one was for Conan...but don't quote me on it.)