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Just as he is to be anointed the future king, ahead of his resentful brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is cast out of the mythological Norse world of Asgard, by his father the ruler Odin (Anthony Hopkins). This is his punishment for recklessly disobeying an order not to start a war with Laufey (Colm Feore) who rules over the frozen celestial realm of Jotunheim. Thor is sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he encounters a small scientific team of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Professor Andrews (Stellan Skarsgard) and Darcy (Kat Dennings). But SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is soon on the scene to arrest Thor and confiscate Jane's hard won research. The hammer of thunder which had been sent to earcth with Thor is now useless, until 'a warrior worthy of it' takes possession of it.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Marvel comics were onto something when in 1962 they launched The Mighty Thor, taking readers into the realm of the mythical gods of Norse legend, comparable to the gods of Greek mythology - and at least as interesting. Sibling rivalry, the prize of a kingdom, vanity and recklessness ... all great themes for drama, with the added zing of gods as the main characters.

Gods in comic books and on screen tend to have all sorts of superpowers we now take for granted; objects obey you, gravity is not what it used to be and the elements are mere toys. This familiarity tends to diminish their impact, but the young, mostly male audience to whom this film appeals will no doubt be happy to revel in those powers in this setting.

Occasionally clunky and/or cheesy, Thor has the advantage of well-judged pace, so we don't dwell on flaws. The 3D functions mostly for long distance establishing shots; the hammer of thunder never flies into our face.

Topline cast like Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman give their stamp of approval and newcomer Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth revels in the role of Thor. A little bit reminiscent of Heath Ledger in face and voice, Hemsworth gives Thor a milder manner than we might expect, but this makes him less like a brutal killing machine and more like the prince he's supposed to be.

Hopkins as Odin and Portman as Jane are both in top form, the latter comfortable as the eager scientist who's quite taken by this new arrival. Hopkins does regal authority with class and overshadows everyone in his scenes. Tom Hiddleston is impressive as the jealous younger brother, Loki, Stellan Skarsgard is measured and effective as Professor Andrews helping Jane with her research, while Kat Dennings is terrific comic relief as Darcy, a not quite scientific addition to the team.

The film begins in Asgard, a mythical realm where gods quarrel over dominance just like humans, only with much bigger weapons. When the bad guys from Jotunheim break into Asgard (with help we later learn from a traitor) all heavens break loose. Frisky young warrior Thor wants to avenge this cheek immediately and disregards his father's kingly and diplomatic advice to wait. He leads a small band of warriors across the mystical bridge to the enemy camp, but his mission fails. He barely survives.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins) his father and king tells him he's grounded - on earth. That's how he ends up in New Mexico, right in front of Jane Foster's 4WD.

With the connection between the two world established, Branagh and his team spend enormous amounts of energy on creating sizeable effects that range from electro-plasma flashes to circular storms, not to mention an amazing 'bridge' made of multicoloured glass (looks like) and some fearful baddies from Jotunheim, a kind of ice-land, where the gods can turn everything to sharp icicles the size of spears.

The jumps from these mythical environments - the royal palace, the dark world of the ice and so on - to contemporary New Mexico give the film its muscular contemporary tone. We are at once in a recognisable reality and yet a moment later we are inside the myth, in a land where nothing is familiar.

There are plenty of action scenes, a few little laughs and an air of genuine adventure; it doesn't take my breath away, but I can see it has an audience.

Review by Louise Keller:
Stunning effects, a terrific cast and a well told story involving magic, science and mythology makes Thor impressive and dazzling 3D entertainment. 

I felt as though I was travelling through a spectacular fireworks display into another world tinged with metallic gold and linked by a translucent rainbow bridge. It is a fitting setting for this large scale Marvel Comics superhero adventure based on Norse mythology about gods and mortals, father son relationships and sibling rivalry. Good and evil also figure in the tale, but it is the learning of humility that is the story’s main theme. 

Larger than life and strikingly handsome as the well-built golden-haired God of Thunder, Thor, Australia’s Chris Hemsworth started his acting career in Home and Away before his US film debut as George Kirk in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek in 2009. Hemsworth has a strong presence and delivers a powerful and modulated performance, in keeping with the Shakespearian background of director Kenneth Branagh. 

Just as he is about to be anointed the future king of the mythological world of Asgard ahead of his envious, resentful and destructive brother Loki (Hiddleston is suitably slimy), Thor is banished to Earth by his father, King Odin (Hopkins). Odin has taught patience and tolerance to his two sons, whose blonde and dark physical attributes symbolically reflect the colour of their hearts. 

‘A wise king never seeks out war, but is always ready for it,’ Odin tells his sons. But Thor, impatient to be king and with the foolish arrogance of youth declares war against the monstrous red-eyed foes from the ominous, blue-tinged realm of Jotunheim. 

Asgard by contrast, is a serene and beautiful world couched in golden tones, with an ornate spinning globe, an arresting and loyal gold-armour suited gatekeeper (Idris Elba is memorable) and a key central gold structure resembling gigantic organ pipes. 

The scene in which Thor is stripped of his powers and banished to Earth by his father resonates with drama (Hopkins delivers with his usual gravitas), followed quickly by humour when Thor reacts like a fish out of water to his new environment. 

It is in the remote New Mexican desert that Thor literally runs into a small scientific team investigating deep space disturbances. The team comprises astrophysicist Jane Foster (Portman), her mentor Professor Andrews (Skarsgard), who is familiar with the legends of Norse mythology and intern Darcy (Dennings). Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) from the secret government agency SHIELD is quickly on the scene to apprehend Thor and confiscate Jane’s precious research. The powerful hammer of thunder sent to earth with Thor is now useless, until ‘a warrior worthy of it’ takes possession.

There’s instant chemistry between Hemsworth and Portman, reinforcing the magical elements of the tale and adding to the already weighty stakes for Thor: saving his kingdom, the love of the mortal beauty and to win the approval of his father.

Branagh directs this grand fantasy with theatrical aplomb and sets the tone perfectly, injecting grandeur while simultaneously keeping us grounded by welcome bursts of humour. He makes everything accessible – characters, their emotions and environments. 

The scale of the stunts is huge and at times I felt like I was in a plane on the runway – right at the exciting part, just before take off. There’s no question the film takes off and in great style, offering a fantastic fantasy adventure with all the latest by way of 3D, visual effects and production design, ensuring a thrilling and stimulating escapist movie experience. There’s the promise of a sequel (two of them), as the clouds form into a gigantic waterfall linking the realms.
Published first in the Sun-Herald

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(US, 2011)

CAST: Natalie Portman, Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Stellan Skarsgard, Rene Russo, Tom Hiddleston, Jaimie Alexander, Clark Gregg, Jeremy Renner

PRODUCER: Kevin Feige

DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh

SCRIPT: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, Don Payne (based on a Marvel comic)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Haris Zamabarloukos

EDITOR: Paul Rubell

MUSIC: Patrick Doyle


RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes



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