Thor was always going to be the hardest of the original Avengers line up to bring to the big screen. In spite of the odd flirtation with fantasy, regular cinema going audiences – people who don’t spend their time on reading sites like this – tend to turn their nose up at anything that relies on magic or miraculous technology to drive the plot. Consequently a straight adaptation of Thor, casting him as a crime-fighting Norse god was never going to work.
In recent year’s Marvel had an alternate take on Thor, played out in their ‘Ultimate’ line of comics; an alien who is from a race with technology so far advanced he seems like a God. Think Stargate in the Midwest and you’ll get the gist. This version is, more or less, the Thor Marvel have brought to cinemas.
While this is a much easier sell for Marvel, and audiences are more likely to go along with this than suspend their disbelief in Norse mythology, it’s still pretty silly. As a result, the section of the film set outside of Earth can never quite reach the level of dramatic tension it should really have, an issue not helped by the Flash Gordon-meets-Power Rangers production design that runs through these segments. It’s a bit of a shame, because they are far from bad. The performances are, like all the performances in the film, excellent, and the story is certainly enjoyable, but it doesn’t marry with the semi-serious nature of the Earthbound segment.
The issue, which is almost certainly not a reflection on Branagh’s ability, is how the film fits in with the greater Marvel continuity. While the company were happy to let Letirrier pretty much do his own thing on The Incredible Hulk, Thor seems to be conforming to the ‘house style’ Jon Favreau laid out in Iron Man. Consequently most of the scenes we see of Thor on Earth are in small desert towns, laid out in white sands and blue skies. While this will no doubt help with the Avengers, it doesn’t do Thor any favours, a fact emphasised by our few non-sunny earthly scenes, which are much more dramatic.
In spite of this, Thor is remarkably good fun. While it may involve many cringe worthy moments for the actors: in particular the formalised dialogue used in Asgard, they are all clearly enjoying their roles. Chris Hemsworth and Kat Dennings in particular appear to be relishing the experience, and the humour and energy they bring to the film is great.
Unfortunately, the 3D techniques used on the movie aren’t. We may be a long way advanced from the dreadful post-conversion job on Clash of the Titans, but the technology still has a long way to go. Many shots fall too shallow, and a great many of the action scenes move too fast for the human eye to track them properly causing ghosting across the screen. In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor gripe, but it is certainly one with merit.
The strangest thing about Thor though is how it lived up exactly to expectations. The early casting news sounded impressive, and it was. The trailers set in Asgaard looked like Flash Gordon, and the film delivered. The dialogue was ropey, and the set up was silly, but that was inherent in the project,
Ultimately Thor was a piece of popcorn, at the start of a crowded Summer flick menu. It deserves to do well as it’s good fun, but with a little more planning, it could have been so much better.