THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS
As Marvel Studios planned their unprecedented crossover The Avengers, it became clear to them that they first needed to establish the characters that would play a major part in the film. This is crucial as jumping straight into the crossover would be madness, something that Warner Bros. was clearly not told when planning Justice League. Kenneth Branagh’s Thor introduced the world to Chris Hemsworth as the Prince of Asgard, a role which has turned him into one of the most sought-after actors in the industry.
Thor tells the story of an arrogant Prince, soon to be named King, who is cast out of Asgard after one arrogant act too many. Banished to Earth, he learns what it means to be a good man as his new world comes under threat.
The performance of Chris Hemsworth is really where the film prospers. Aside from his physicality, he absolutely nails the arrogant yet charming demeanour of Thor. As for the rest of the cast, it really is rather mixed. Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki is still to this day considered to be among the best comic book villain performances of all time. Loki is easily the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), with the only serious competition being Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger from Black Panther. There is one exceptional casting in the form of Anthony Hopkins as Odin. He steals every scene he is in (it’s just frustrating that the Thor films constantly keep him on the sidelines). Much as been said about Natalie Portman’s performance as Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster. Criticisms are often based on her bland delivery of lines and blunt lack of chemistry with Hemsworth and these criticisms are ultimately justified as watching Portman’s scenes feels like a chore.
The film is rather small-scale, largely due to the decision to feature Earth as the primary setting over the luxurious visuals of Asgard. Unlike many superhero films, set in New York or Los Angeles, Thor is set in a small town in New Mexico. An appropriately small setting for a small film. There was potentially a great film in Thor, however, the decision to focus the plot so heavily in New Mexico really drags the film down as audiences, especially comic book fans, were hoping to see a film set predominantly in Asgard are forced to watch Thor wander around the desert as well as being knocked out by tasers.
Kenneth Branagh’s direction for me is somewhat mixed. He handles the Asgard scenes well, bringing his knowledge of Shakespearian storytelling to the film. However, the film is littered with canted shots (tilted shots) that add nothing but frustration to the viewing experience. As for the Shakespearean-esque Asgard scenes, Branagh’s directorial style adds a real majesty to the film. Similar to the majority of MCU films, humour plays a massive role in Thor and Branagh proves himself more than capable of helming a film both wonderfully entertaining and hilarious.
Similarly to Iron Man 2, Thor tries to set up the future of the MCU, albeit much more successfully. Jeremy Renner has a brilliant cameo as Clint Barton/Hawkeye. It’s just a shame that their one-sided interaction goes unmentioned in The Avengers. It’s a small scene but it works better than anything attempting to set up the MCU in Iron Man 2.
The action sequences are rather forgettable with there really only being one memorable moment: Thor’s rash actions against the Frost Giants which result in his banishing. It manages to truly serve as an introduction to the type of character that Thor is, setting up the character journey that he goes on throughout the film.
The third act may be the worst of the initial phase of MCU films. There aren’t any major stakes as it never really feels as though the characters are in danger. As Thor finally becomes worthy of wielding his mighty hammer, the audience is left questioning if they would be worthy as all Thor does is have a few conversations with Jane and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard). It just doesn’t feel as though Thor has gone through enough to become worthy and therefore the final act just feels rushed. That being said, watching Thor sever the only link to Jane and Earth in a moment of selflessness, during the final confrontation with Loki, is a brilliant moment (even if it is completely undone in Thor: The Dark World).
At the end of the day, Chris Hemsworth’s career-making performance as the ‘God of Thunder’ is easily the most celebrated aspect of the film and rightfully so. Though not without its faults, most notably the New Mexico setting, Thor is another thoroughly entertaining film from the MCU.