Certainly those familiar with the work of Kenneth Branagh may well remember his all-too-often tendency towards pomposity. Branagh is often guilty of treating his subject matter with far too much gravitas: in Thor, based on the Marvel comic, Branagh has, surprisingly, found a film that suits his grand directorial style.
Chris Hemsworth plays the young arrogant Thor, chosen by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) the King of Asgard, as successor to the throne. Thor, despite his apparent capabilities is told by Odin that he still has much to learn. His lack of Kingly wisdom is made all too apparent in his dealings with the Frost Giants.
The Frost Giants, in direct violation of the standing agreement they have with Odin, make their way into Asgard. After this intrusion, Thor, convinced of his warrior abilities, demands he be allowed to make his way to question the Frost Giants, in order to discover what has transpired. Odin refuses, forbidding Thor from enacting on his arrogance, fearing the ramifications of challenging the Frost Giants.
Thor rejects Odin’s bidding and through his disobedience, disrupts the already fragile truce between the two nations and is subsequently banished to earth, stripped of his powers, with his hammer useless to him until he has proven himself worthy of wielding its power. Upon earth Thor comes into contact with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), a scientist researching wormholes, Jane finds Thor to be a curiosity, believing him to hold the answers she seeks. Whilst Thor is on earth, his younger brother Loki wreaks havoc in Asgard, threatening the safety of the nation.
Branagh’s talent for directing grand-scale set pieces certainly suits the over-the-top style chosen here. Thor clearly has aspirations of a rather epic nature, and it will certainly sate fans of this particular genre. Chris Hemsworth proves to be a winning protagonist: his arrogance, whilst consistently apparent, is charming enough to prevent his Thor from becoming entirely hateful. The characters themselves are poorly drawn and entirely one-dimensional, but this is admittedly not a character driven film.
The success of the film thus relies on the success of the action scenes; here adeptly directed by Branagh, the action set-pieces, whilst entertaining, have little emotional resonance. The 3D too, added in post-production, does little to enhance the film, often proving a distraction rather than an improvement.
Thor is not an entirely bad film, there are some redeeming features – Anthony Hopkins is particularly enjoyable as Odin, clearly having fun with the role. The excellent Kat Dennings, playing an assistant to Natalie Portman’s scientist, delivers several snappy lines that help to ground the far-fetched nature of the film. Certainly a poor successor to Branagh’s earlier work, it is still a fairly good addition to the summer blockbuster.