It is understandable, at least among those familiar with the Marvel Comics universe, that in order for a film to be made of the team of superheroes known as The Avengers, a film about almost all of the individual characters would be necessary. Thor, one of the lesser characters in the Marvel canon, has finally arrived on the big screen with just as much pomp and circumstance as Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk have before him and how Captain America will arrive in theatres later this summer. There isn’t really any sort of necessary or urgent need for a film about the son of the Norse deity Odin, but at least the film isn’t a complete waste of time that is devoid of any sort of fun despite Kenneth Branagh being the absolute wrong director for this assignment.
On the evening he is about to ascend to his father’s position on the throne, Thor (Chris Hemsworth, father played by Anthony Hopkins) attempts to avenge the breaking of a truce between the residents of the far off land of Asgard and their enemies known as the Frost Giants (lead by an unrecognizable Colm Feore). For showing a complete lack of diplomacy and nearly starting an all out war, Thor is banished by his father (much to the delight of Thor’s brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston) to the realm of Earth and is stripped of his superhuman strength (mostly, I guess, the film isn’t entirely clear on this one) and of his trusty hammer of rebuilding and ass kicking. Once on Earth, Thor is caught up in a bit of intrigue because his hammer has become of interest to the shadowy government agency known as SHEILD (which the film flat out assumes the audience will understand since Iron Man made about a bazillion dollars two times over) and it threatens to destroy the research of a group of scientists (Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgard, and Kat Dennings) who are studying, um, something. I really don’t remember. Something about astronomy. Or physics. Astrophysics? I can’t say that I cared all that much either way.
Thor has some guts on a very basic screenwriting level because while it functions quite well as an entertaining standalone film, it takes great liberties by assuming the audience has seen the past few films that Marvel studios have put out. That’s fine since that is the way comics were originally produced. The problem is that right off the bat, the film assumes that the audience is automatically familiar with Thor as a character and that the viewer has an intimate understanding of the comics going in. This leads to a real disconnect between the scenes that take place on Asgard and the scenes that take place on Earth. Fans of the comics will probably get more mileage out of the Asgard sequences, but I honestly at times had no clue what was going on there or why I should have remotely cared. The opening twenty minutes of the film felt deathly slow and incoherent with some really suspect production design, baffling costumes, and overacting that would have been out of place in Anchorman. Fans of the comics will probably like the scenes on Earth considerably less because they are played mostly for laughs in a typical “fish out of water” fashion. I got more mileage out of these sequences because it actually followed a plot arc that I could actually follow and understand.