Imagine Much Ado About Nothing performed in the style of Iron Man and you’re almost there.


18 April 2011

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Plot summary

Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior, is banished to Earth where he is forced to live among humans. When the most dangerous villain of his world sends its darkest forces to invade Earth, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero.

The latest in a line of Marvel comic-based films is Thor, a tale of gods amongst men, which welcomes actor/director Kenneth Branagh into the franchise fold. Imagine Much Ado About Nothing performed in the style of Iron Man and you’re almost there.

In the world of Asgard, a dynastic struggle is taking place between the noble but arrogant Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his trickster brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who battle for the approval of their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). After Thor challenges Asgard’s enemies, the frost giants of Jotunheim, to a war which will break a long-held truce between the two planets, Odin is forced to banish him – and his hammer.

Meanwhile, down on Earth, astrophysicist Jane (Natalie Portman) is chasing a series of unusual electrical storms, aided by mentor Professor Andrews (Stellen Skarsgård) and friend Darcy (Kat Dennings). Low and behold, one such storm produces a dishevelled and confused Thor, who Jane manages to run over in her Jeep. While she and the gang proceed to chase Thor around the hospitals and diners of New Mexico, the hammer is discovered by some local rednecks who try to haul it out of the ground with no luck – having clearly watched The Sword and the Stone, Odin has bewitched the hammer so it may only be wielded by someone ‘worthy’. It’s not long before mysterious men in black show up, claiming to be from an organisation called S.H.I.E.L.D. (Marvel buffs will know this one).

The action is then split between the two planets. Thor attempts to get his hammer back while Jane swoons – the shady government types have taken all her notes and he promises he will get them back for her, just as soon as he can get at the blasted hammer. What a romantic. Thor’s cohorts back home realise that Loki has more sinister motives than they first thought; they should have cottoned on sooner really. The frost giants want their massive block of liquid ice back, which like the Stone of Scone, is dubiously residing in the weapon’s chamber of Asgard – apparently it’s the source of their power which makes their truce with Odin seem slightly unfair, but they look evil so not to worry.

Branagh is an obvious choice as director, there is certainly a lot of grandstanding in the Asgardian royal family and the scenes between Thor and Loki practically bleed Shakespeare. There are a lot of humorous touches and often the pomposity of Thor’s world is gently mocked. It does have a rainbow bridge after all. As a trio, Portman, Dennings and Skarsgård provide the best laughs, and more should have been made of their dynamic. The film spends a little too long setting up plot points in Asgard when the best action takes place elsewhere. There are enough nods to the Marvel clan to keep fans happy, notably a Tony Stark mention, and a suitable amount of romance, action, Norse mythology and verbal battling to keep everyone else satisfied.