2011 has been a great year for super-heroes. Over the summer, we saw the release of three Marvel-based motion pictures (X-men:First Class, Thor, and Captain America), all of which were well-received by critics and fans alike. I was lucky enough to see First Class and Captain America in the theater, and I loved them both (First Class becoming one of my favorites of all time). I wanted to see Thor, but I never got around to it. However, based on the reactions of the critics, I was rather confident that I would find it enjoyable. Finally, I was able to rent Thor and view it for myself. I must say, I was a little disappointed.
The film starts with a short intro, showing Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) hit a newly-arrived Thor (Chris Hemsworth) with her research van. This short scene seemed to short to feel necessary, especially as it is revisited almost verbatim not thirty minutes later. We are then transported back in time to Asgard, from whence Odin (Anthony Hopkins) barely scratches the surface of Norse Mythology and the defeat of the Frost Giants centuries ago. After the Frost Giants once again invade Asgard, interrupting the crowning of Thor as king of Asgard, Thor becomes hot-headed and decides to take on the giants in their own realm against his father's wishes at the advice of his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Unsurprisingly, the invasion goes awry, and Odin is forced to save Thor and his friends. Odin then banishes Thor to Earth and drains him of his power, bringing us to the intro scene. It is also revealed that Loki is in fact a Frost Giant taken in by Odin after the great war.
Thor has to become accustomed to life on Earth, and he his helped along the way by Jane Foster and her two companions, Darcy and Dr. Selvig. What follows are a few humorous scenes in which Thor does things like rudely call for another coffee and rush into a pet store looking for a horse. Eventually, he discovers that his signature hammer has also landed on earth and is being guarded by S.H.E.I.L.D. With the help of Jane, Thor breaks into the facility and tries to lift the hammer but fails. This scene contains some well choreographed hand to hand combat and a Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) cameo. S.H.E.I.L.D. captures Thor and questions him, thinking him a normal human. During the interrogation, Loki arrives and deceives his brother by saying that Odin is dead (he has merely fallen into Odinsleep), informing Thor that Loki is the new king. As Loki leaves, he tries to lift Thor's hammer, but fails, showing that he is not his brother's equal. A grieving Thor is rescued by Dr. Slevig and is brought back to the research camp of Jane Foster. He then shares a rather romantic night with Jane and the audience is meant to believe that the two are deeply in love from here on.
Thor's friends, aided by the gatekeeper, Heimdall, go to Earth to retrieve the Thunder God. They are only there for a few moments when Loki sends an Asgardian metal guardian to destroy his brother. During Thor's time on Earth, Loki has made a deal with the Frost Giants that involves them killing Odin so that Loki can become the permanent king. The guardian easily defeats Thor's friends, and Thor approaches it for a final showdown. Thor appeals to his brother (his friends have informed him of Loki's deceit) to spare the townsfolk, to kill him alone. The guardian then seemingly dispatches of the God with one blow. However, Thor's selflessness proves that he is worthy to once again wield his hammer, and it comes flying from its crater and into his hands. Thor regains his power and slays the guardian. He then rushes off to face his brother in Asgard, but not without first kissing Jane good-bye.
In a plot twist, Loki kills the Giant King before he can kill Odin, attempting to show his prowess as a ruler. Thor arrives, unconvinced the Loki has Odin's interests in mind. The two duel with plenty of special effects. Loki attempts to drive the Bifrost Bridge into the Frost Giant Realm, but Thor stops him. Thor is forced to destroy the Bridge, barring his way back to Earth and Jane. Odin awakes just in time to save Loki and Thor as they are tossed from the collapsing bridge. Loki tries to explain that he only wanted to destroy the Frost Giants to prove his worth. Odin tells him this is wrong. Distraught, Loki pushes himself off into open space, presumably killing himself. The film ends with Thor in grief for his brother, but hopeful that he will one day see Jane again.
I will not discount the fact that this film is full of astounding special effects, from lightning bolts to the city of Asgard. I will also not deny that it is reasonably well acted, with the exception of Portman, who seemed flat to me. However, this film has many flaws. In my opinion, the major issue is that the film feels lengthy but does not seem long enough to really cover the immense plot. There seemed to be too many unnecessarily elongated scenes followed by quickly covered plot points in order to catch up to the pace of the film. This is especially evident at the end as the return of Thor's power and the final battle take place within a span of about fifteen minutes. Also, the relationship between Thor and Jane never really developed to my satisfaction, and it seemed rather abrupt when Thor sacrifices himself to save her. This lack of a real connection between the two will no doubt cause the believability of the relationship to become even more strained in future sequels. I also did not like that the film seems to skip over the powers of the gods in its explanation of Norse Mythology, putting too much faith in the idea that the audience already knows the film's background. For instance, the fact that Loki is the God of Mischief is stunningly left out, forcing the film to play a lot of catch-up in forming a background for his dastardly deeds. Again with the mythology, one would think that the conflict between Thor and Loki would have been established long ago (there are even a few moments when Dr. Selvig refers to these types of stories), but the film makes this seem like a rather recent development. The gods, therefore, do not come off as ancient as the film claims them to be. Aside from these plot hitches, there are also a few odd camera angles throughout the movie that look intentionally place to convey some sort of idea but instead disrupt the viewing and make the filming seem disjointed.
Overall, Thor was an entertaining piece of cinema with enough action, special effects, and corny Marvel moments to carry it through its somewhat messy plot. I would recommend it to anyone who has enjoyed other Marvel films, but I do not think that many outsiders and more critical movie-goers will find it as entertaining as it has been advertised to be. I can actually almost recommend it solely on the performances of Hemsworth, Hopkins, and Hiddleston, who portray their respective gods with just the right combination of immortality, humanity, and (in Loki's case) villainy, making the relationships between their characters seem more real than any of those within the relatively small human cast (as a side note, there are actually very few interactions between Thor and the humans, making his time on Earth seem almost pointless).