This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 1 May 2011
There are only two things you need to know about Thor. First, be warned that the film starts off a bit weak: there are shades of Star Wars meets LOTR meets Twister, and the palpable CGI robs the opening battles of any real emotional punch. But second, as soon as Norse god Thor Odinson is banished from his father’s kingdom and dumped unceremoniously on earth to be scooped up by Natalie Portman’s weak-kneed scientist, Thor rapidly ascends to become of the superior super-hero movies of recent years.
Shakespearean demigod Kenneth Branagh is back, here directing a multinational cast whose round vowels and strong enunciation lend genuine gravitas to an otherwise pretty traditional quest story. Thor (Australian Chris Hemsworth) sports a physique that rivals Schwarzenegger, and his charm and wit provide the biggest laughs – with touches of Crocodile Dundee as he brings his archaic behaviour to a diner in the desert of New Mexico.
Film geeks will be thrilled by (too brief) cameos from hardman Jeremy Renner, and the even harder Idris Elba (Stringer Bell from TV’s The Wire). Miraculously, the intermingling of Nordic sci-fi with human sci-reality works well, thanks to Portman and Hemsworth’s chemistry, and while a Thor 2 may be a bridge too far, this prototype is an enjoyable ride.