I found it interesting when it was announced that Shakespearian guy Kenneth Branagh was going to direct a film starring the Marvel comic hero Thor.  Let scratching of head ensue is what I thought.  I was wrong.  Branagh proved himself to be the perfect choice to bring this part mythology, part comic book story to life.

The self-important warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth – Star Trek – 2009, A Perfect Getaway) is banished by his father, the king Odin (Anthony Hopkins – The Wolfman, Beowulf) to Earth from his home of Asgard.  Odin has done so to teach his proud and stubborn young son a lesson, but all is not as it seems in the kingdom.  Thor is the heir apparent to his father though at his ceremony to name him the crown prince his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston – Midnight in Paris) is lurking in the shadows in envy.  Before Odin can formalize everything the alarms in the castle go off indicating that the Frost Giants have breached it.  Though they are stopped Thor sees the attack as a breach of the peace treaty between the two people and wants to attack.  Odin forbids this.

Not deterred and believing he knows better, Thor grabs his brother and his closest friends, Volstagg (Ray Stevenson – King Arthur, The Book of Eli), Fandral (Josh Dallas – from television’s Once Upon a Time), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano – Vengeance Can Wait), and Sif (Jaimie Alexander – Love and Other Drugs) leading them off to confront the Frost Giants.  Once there they confront King Laufey (Colm Feore – Face/Off, Chicago) and a battle ensues.  Thor and his friends look to be defeated and surely killed when Odin arrives to save them all.

Odin is furious at Thor and tells him that this behavior indicates that he is not fit to be leader.  Without a hesitation Odin strips Thor of his power (the hammer) and banishes him to Earth.  He lands in the desert in the middle of the United States.

On Earth, Thor is happened upon by scientists Jane Foster (Natalie Portman – No Strings Attached, The Other Boleyn Girl), Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard – Good Will Hunting, Mama Mia: The Movie) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings – House Bunny, The 40-Year-Old Virgin).  Once the trio of scientists rescues Thor from a secret branch of the U.S. government they begin to realize that he is not of this planet.  Thor discovers that his hammer has landed in the desert and that some locals are trying to lift it out of the ground without much success.

Once at the site of his hammer Thor and Jane discover that the government has got there first.  Not deterred, Thor takes on all comers, but is finally subdued after he discovers that he cannot lift the hammer up either.

Back in Asgard, Thor’s friends begins to suspect that Loki is behind everything.  Though they cannot do much as he has put Odin into some deep sleep and is acting as king.  Something must be done or Asgard will be permanently under Loki’s rule and Thor will remain on Earth.

Once I began watching Branagh’s Thor I began to realize that the story has many Shakespearean elements what with the jealous sibling, betrayal by family, plotting, and the confrontation between father and son.  It began to all make more sense to me.  It was a Shakespearean film with just a larger budget and special effects.

Now this is not Henry V or even Hamlet, but it is a little better than your usual comic book hero fare.  Chris Hemsworth is physically perfect for the role with his large size, bulging muscles and Nordic good looks.  He turns in an energetic and nuanced performance.  Natalie Portman just hands in a performance of the cute and intelligent scientist who falls for the hero from Asgard.  Nothing too strenuous for her.  Anthony Hopkins plays a role we’ve all seen him do a dozen times with his fierceness, blazing blue eyes and shouting, but he is still rather good at it.  What really set the film apart for me was the way it looked.  Visually it is spectacular!  Branagh really knows how to use a budget and incorporate special effects into a story without allowing them to take over.  In regards to the story, Branagh balances the Marvel comic book side very well with the more compelling Norse mythology aspect.  Each is given its own time to shine.

Special Features:

-4 Deleted Scenes

-Road to The Avengers

-Previews of Thor: God of Thunder Video Game, Captain America, Super 8, Transformers: Dark of the Moon

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