Marvel’s Thor has always skidded on the edge of mainstream entertainment and literary fare. As a comic book series it’s always been one of the most sophisticated of the pantheon of characters, so not every fan has subscribed to what tale the god of thunder has told fans for decades. And even with big names leading the pack like Natalie Portman and Kenneth Branagh, “Thor” is a hard sell for fans of the superhero cinema who want their entertainment and battles here and now and have to wait for their meals.
What director Kenneth Branagh does is balance out the important family dynamic with the fantasy action teetering between the edge of Shakespearan tragedy and action fare for the local yokels. But still, even after its tough sell, “Thor” is a top notch action adventure fantasy that digs deep in to the marvel universe to entrench itself in to the continuity of the impending 2012 “The Avengers” film. There’s even a surprise cameo within the action of a break in to SHIELD headquarters by Thor. Nevertheless, “Thor” stands on its own as a sophisticated superhero film and introduction in to the character, which is what “Iron Man 2” could not. It stands as a prequel but also garners us a hefty look in to Asgard as Thor, the son of the mighty god Odin, struggles to deal with his loss of the throne after a foolish attack on the Frost Giants in the next world.
Banished to Earth, he’s forced to live among the mortals of our realm while his brother, the sneaky Loki, crafts a kingdom for himself in the other realm and plans something that could grant him the throne for all eternity. “Thor” is of course the fish out of water action picture and much is made of Thor’s time on Earth as he explores the fragility of human life, learns to respect his inferiors as intellectual equals and falls in love. Though there is some comedy, Branagh relies on subtlety to get the job done and that’s all the way down to production qualities. What easily could have been a schlocky mess is turned in to an elegant tale about fathers and sons and the bonds that can be broken over time.
All the while Chris Hemsworth possesses the exact amount of humility and regality to be taken at face value as the almighty Thor, a man who begins as a braggart and dives in to sheer heroic acts to prove to himself he’s worthy of his hammer Mijolnir. The stand out though is Tom Hiddleston who is perfect as the devious and slimy Loki, a character infamous in the Marvel universe for bring the worm on every conflict’s back and here he turns the character in an almost super powered Iago who longs for the respect he may never be granted in his kingdom. “Thor” is a wonderful fantasy epic and one that can stand alone and attach to the Marvel onslaught of superhero cinematic entries storming theaters to make way for the ultimate clashing of superheroes on the big screen in 2012.