Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted: Thor

Title: Thor

God Of Thunder? And rock and roll. Wait, that was a different guy.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Three-and-a-half Nick Furys out of five.

Tagline: "Two worlds. One hero."

Better Tagline: "And one six-pack of sweet Nordic abs."

Brief Plot Synopsis: Spoiled scion of privilege is disowned by his father and must prove himself worthy before he can assume the rightful mantel of leadership. It sounds like Billy Madison with frost giants, but bear with me.

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and heir to the throne of Asgard. He's also a spoiled brat, and on the day he's to be named king, Asgard's ancient enemies the frost giants break into Odin's weapons vault to recover the "Casket of Ancient Winters." Thor takes personal offense to this, disobeys his father, and leads his friends to Jotunheim to confront their king, whom Odin defeated more than a thousand years ago. Against the protestations of Thor's brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Odin strips Thor of his power and his hammer Mjolnir - now enchanted so that only those worthy can wield it - and casts him down to Earth.

Is There A Post-Credits Sequence? Of course there's a post-credits sequence.

Do Any Other Avengers Make An Appearance? Yep.

"Critical" Analysis: We've come a long way from that dreadful first trailer, with its underwhelming action sequences ("Look out! Plastic!") and unfortunate one-liners. Looking down the barrel of summer blockbuster season, I was anticipating this one about as much as Cars 2 and the 3-D Smurfs movie.

So whether director Kenneth Branagh (yes, that Kenneth Branagh) re-jiggered things after some early screenings or if the trailer itself simply misrepresented the finished product (shocking, I know), I couldn't tell you, but the end result is surprisingly enjoyable. What flaws there are (it's occasionally cheap-looking and the 3-D is absolutely pointless, like it usually is) are largely erased by solid action, entertaining performances, and a story that moves well in spite of the near-two hour running time.

Now, I know modern superhero movies are generally required to be Shakespearean tragedies that plumb the depths of the character's brooding angst, but they can also be a real chore (if you don't believe me, go watch The Dark Knight again and try not to look at your watch during the last 30 minutes).

That isn't to say they have to be dumb, either (Fantastic Four, anyone?). But there should be a happy medium between existential undercurrents and excessive property damage. Thor finds that middle ground and holds it admirably.

Credit has to go to Hemsworth. Yes, the guy certainly looks the part, but I wasn't expecting him to bring much in the way of depth.He carries the film believably, whether he's showcasing immortal arrogance or newfound humility. And while I've been on the fence with regards to Natalie Portman for a while, her Jane Foster (the astrophysicist tracking celestial wormholes/Thor's love interest) is obviously a role she had a good time playing.

Of the rest of the cast, Hopkins plays paternalistic deity much better than Liam Neeson did in Clash of the Titans, and Hiddleston will likely fool some people early on who don't realize Loki is the bad guy. Then again, Rene Russo is mostly wasted as Odin's wife Frigga, and was sticking him in a helmet and putting a vocoder on him the best use you could make of The Wire's Idris Elba?

Beyond any of that, however, there are just some great *moments* in Thor: The battle with the frost giants...The appearance of the aforementioned "other Avenger"...Thor's initial awkward attempts to prove his identity...And finally, when he's reunited with Mjolnir for the climactic battle (that's not a spoiler people, it's a freaking Marvel Comics movie).

It will probably sound cheesy to the hard-bitten, cynical readers of the Press, but there were many times watching Thor that I was reminded of how entertaining going to the movies used to be. Escapism doesn't have to be mindless, and comic book movies don't necessarily have to reach for some greater human truth. It may be formulaic, and hammy in spots, but Thor is also a hell of a lot fun.

How Does This Stack Up Against Other Filmed Versions Of The Thunder God? Head and shoulders above the unfortunate Incredible Hulk appearance, and even better than Vincent D'Onofrio in Adventures in Babysitting.

Thor is in theaters today. Buy some popcorn and enjoy yourself at the theater for once

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar