Movies: "Thor" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Thor"
Movies: "Thor"

So you want to make a summer blockbuster?  Here’s all you have to do.  


First, option a Marvel Comics hero -- any one of them should do the trick.  Next, scrape together a jillion dollars for special effects and hire a small army of (mostly French) CG professionals.  Then find yourself an appealing leading man -- say, blond Australian hunk Chris Hemsworth (Thor).  Toss in a few big name supporting actors like Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Anthony Hopkins (Odin) and Rene Russo (Frigga, and please don’t snicker).  


Now for a director.  How about pretentious British hack Kenneth Branagh, who fancies himself a Shakespearean sort of chap.  Add some bombastic music (by Patrick Doyle) and a script by five or six writers, and start your shooting.  


The result will look a lot like “Thor,” the first big comic book movie of the summer season -- but far from the last.  In fact, another Marvel hero, Captain America, is already on the way.


This is not to say that “Thor” is all bad.  It strives mightily to recreate the fantastic Nordic realms created on paper by Stan Lee (who has a cameo in the movie) and the late, legendary Marvel artist Jack Kirby.  Hemsworth is mighty cute as the mighty son of Odin, banished by his father to Earth for his hot-headed ways, and finding himself a god out of water here.  


Meanwhile, back up there in Asgaard, Thor’s brother Loki (the god of mischief, played by talented Brit Tom Hiddleston, who worked with Branagh in the “Wallander” TV series) is up to no good, trying to usurp the throne and sending a giant robot down to Earth to shoot up the New Mexico town where Thor ended up, along with his new friends scientists Jane and Dr. Selvig (the ubiquitous Stellan Skarsgard), plus hipster girl Darcy (Kat Dennings). 


And there are more friends on the way:  sort of a Viking four musketeers (played by Jaime Alexander, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobe Asano and Josh Dallas) arrive on Earth to come to Thor’s defense, but they don’t really accomplish much.  Neither does Odin, really, who spends a good part of the movie asleep.  This may explain why Hopkins’ performance seems to have been phoned in.


Among the best performances in “Thor” are Hiddleston as the crafty Loki, Colm Feore as the king of the dreaded Ice Giants and (my favorite) Idris Elba as Heimdal, the giant warrior who guards the rainbow bridge that connects Asgaard to Earth and other planets. 


As for the special effects, you can probably already picture them in your mind:  Asgaard as an otherworldly city that looks a lot like Legoland, massive armies of CG soldiers, and here on Earth, explosions galore.   The best stuff comes during the closing credits, sort of an animated Hubble Telescope series, followed by thousands of names and a promo for the upcoming “Avengers” movie, in which Thor returns.


“Thor” is rated PG-13 for some mythological violence.  I give this one a B-Minus.


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