Tuesday, 26 April 2011



Yeth, I know it'th childith, but I've been doing the "going to the thinema to thee Thor!" gag all week and I'm not going to thtop now. Frankly I had to do something, anything, to make Thor a more exciting proposition: yet another Marvel gig full of massively overblown CGI and aimed at spotty comicbook fanboys with inadequate social skills. Okay, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But I can honestly say I don't get comicbook superhero movies: either they're glum and heavy affairs where they've tried to load Real Human Emotion onto something originally designed as primary-coloured pantomime to keep the kids quiet at breakfast, or they're so bland and shiny with whizzbang computer effects that they might as well be a cartoon. Christopher Nolan's Batman movies may be absolutely top-notch A-list productions with great casts and the best production design and effects work that hundreds of millions of dollars can buy, but they're no fun. So I end up preferring something as insubstantial as the Fantastic Four movies - not because they're particularly good, but because they know they're basically camp and colourful pantomimes, and play it accordingly, rather than thinking they're Proper Drama and wallowing in Bergmanesque angst.

Well, call me a spotty nerd, but Thor is terrific. It's not going to win the big Oscars, but for my money it's easily the best superhero movie since the first two Christopher Reeve Superman films. This is an origins story: Thor (Chris Hemsworth: personable and likeable) is banished from Asgard by the All-Father King Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins, mercifully not doing Valhalla by way of Port Talbot and Cork this time, but a consistent if neutral accent) after a disastrous quest for vengeance into Jotenheim, the realm of the Frost Giants, goes awry. Crashing to Earth, he's picked up by scientists Natalie Portman (!) and Stellan Skarsgard and has to blend into small-town New Mexico. But there's a traitor within the Halls Of Asgard (and frankly you should be able to spot the traitor from the next room): can Thor retrieve his mighty hammer, summon Heimdall the blind gatekeeper to bring him across the Rainbow Bridge and save the kingdom?

In simple terms, what they've managed to do with Thor is create a likeable character you don't mind spending time with, and succeeds in doing the fish-out-of-water thing without making Thor look like a dick. The modern Batman is a tortured and humourless bore and I couldn't give a toss about whether Peter Parker gets off with Mary-Jane or not, but with his surfer-dude good looks, Thor is a charismatic lead once he's slightly humanised. In Asgard, Thor is arrogant and spoiling for a fight, but he's stuck on Earth as a human until he becomes worthy of his gifts, and it's only then that he can wield his hammer again and save the day not just on Earth but in Asgard as well. And its big triumph is the visualisation of Asgard: the production design and costumes are absolutely mental in the best way and reminded me of the 80s Flash Gordon movie in the fabulous look and complete impracticality.

Okay, Natalie Portman's role is a complete blank (I honestly didn't even realise it was her), Rene Russo has almost nothing to do as Frigga (Mrs Odin and mother to Thor and Loki) and Tom Hiddleston, as prankster brother Loki, is basically playing the part as Michael Sheen. But it's such good fun I don't really want to complain too much, and certainly it's the last thing you expected Kenneth Branagh to be involved with - no Derek Jacobi or Brian Blessed declaiming in iambic. Two other points: firstly the 2D version is more than sufficient. That's how it was shot and after the unholy post-production mess they made of Piranha I won't go and see fake 3D films. It simply doesn't need the artifical depth layered on in the computer afterwards. And STAY THROUGH THE END CREDITS because there's the now-obligatory extra bit tying it in with the ongoing Marvel Avengers uberproject. Four thtarth. Go and thee it.


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