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Film Five Stars
Before we heard anything about cast and crew for Thor we heard that they were bringing the mythical Norse God who commands amazing powers through his hammer to the big screen. It couldn't work, that's exactly what I was thinking, the character was just too fantastical to imagine brought to live action.

Then the surprising news came that Kenneth Branagh was set to direct, and my interest was whipped around. This kind of epic feel is something that seemed to suit him well and the combination was exciting, and that was way back at the announcement of the director, there was a lot yet to come our way. The photos, trailers and comments about the film did nothing but build my hopes and raise my excitement, and that usually means I'm in for a big let down.

So what was the opinion of the final film? Well it's fair to say that my original thinking about the director hasn't changed much now that I've seen the final film, and my excitement didn't fade one bit.

Plot.pngThor.jpgAsgard is a realm in another universe ruled by Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins. He's getting old and is looking to one of his sons Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth, to take his place as the King. However his other son Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, looks on from behind the shadow of Thor and just as Thor is about to be crowned their old rivals the Frost Giants appear in the middle of Asgard, somehow getting past Heimdall, the man who guards the gateway to other worlds.

While they get their hands on the weapon they once used to take worlds, they are ultimately stopped. However the ceremony has been disrupted and Thor's anger is raised, he heads out and attacks the Frost Giants for their incursion, something he does against the wishes of his King and father.

For that defiance he is banished from Asgard, his powers taken and he's sent far away to Earth. On Asgard Loki is challenging for the throne and wants to ensure Thor does not return, and on Earth S.H.I.E.L.D. and some scientists investigating energy surges and wormholes are showing interest in this strange man.

TheFilm.pngIt was clear from quite early on that Thor had two great things going for it, one was the epic feel of the world of Asgard and how the characters fit in that world, and the other was the fact that it wasn't leaping into superhero territory, taking time to build the characters and their relationships, something that always benefits any film by delivering a strong basis for the story from the beginning.

Obviously Kenneth Branagh helped in bringing through both these aspects, his classic background and his ability to make Shakespeare modern, accessible and exciting is undeniable and it really did feel as though he brought a lot of that ability to Thor.

The story is a strong feature in Thor, not always apparent in most superhero films, and that helps make it work so well. It creates the characters, builds the foundations on their relationships and motivations, giving them plenty of weight before the classic aspects of the superhero take over. Even then it doesn't disappear into a superhero film and instead keeps treating Thor and his fellow other world travellers as humans, grounded as well as they can be in our reality and making us feel the weight of the story, something that is often lacking in superhero and graphic novel related stories.

So many films of this type try to rest easy against the existing fan base and hope that people will come in droves just because their beloved character has arrived on screen no matter how irreverently or unintelligently they've treated them, think Daredevil as an example. Thor is the exact opposite of this. Not only have they really tried to keep true to the source materials and understood that even graphic novels and comic series rework character history, they've also ensured that the story is about people and the things that affect us every day. At its core Thor is really close to those great tragic stories that Branagh is so well known for, indeed you could say that the relationships amongst Thor's family are quite Shakespearean.

However don't think that it concentrates on story over anything else, there's an excellent sense of pace too, for as much as the story spends more time on building the core, it never feels like it's too long or it is taking time out from what superhero fans want to see. The superhero is there in all his glory and the action sequences don't suffer for all this storytelling.

Thor also manages to inject humour into the story, not quite Iron Man (Filmstalker review) style, but certainly enough for the audience. A lot of this comes while Thor is beginning to understand Earth.

During these sections there are some funny moments and it demonstrates strong comic writing, but it doesn't lose sight of the strengths of the film. When Thor's friends arrive on Earth there are more light hearted moments, and it does verge slightly on the silly for a moment, but the film doesn't allow them to go too over the top and it manages to pull it back.

I don't think that the film version of Thor misses a beat, and looking back there are only really three niggles I found with it. One was the slightly irritating desire to tilt the camera all the time, while it worked for the most part, at some scenes it was one of the first things I noticed about the scene, and that irked me a little at times, taking me out of the film for a moment.

Another irk was the speed of the scene where S.H.I.E.L.D. strikes a deal with Thor, it seems like it's a scene everyone just wanted out of the way, one of those Marvel tie-in scenes that just needs to be done to link up with The Avengers. However it feels a little odd with the rest of the film. To be fair they've been getting better as they've made more and more films, and this is the best film so far where S.H.I.E.L.D. feels part of the story, except for this moment.

The last irk? Well it's one of the scenes where Thor flies. For the first couple of times we see him fly it does feel as though the hammer's power is lifting him, rather than him flying like Superman, except the last time we see him fly which just feels a little out with the rest of the character's powers.

You see, I told you they were niggles and they really didn't spoil the film for me at all. All the other aspects of the film are superbly done.

Another great aspect of the film is the casting, to reflect the weight that Kenneth Branagh brought to the film, and I don't mean the cameos from J. Michael Straczynski and Stan Lee, no the full cast.

Chris Hemsworth does a great job in his role and really pulls the character along with him while Natalie Portman delivers a natural and fun performance and she and Hemsworth have some great moments of chemistry together. Tom Hiddleston is very good as Loki, the jealous brother of Thor, and visually fits the story for his character and delivers strong final scenes.

I sometimes have doubts about Anthony Hopkins, not that he isn't a great actor but sometimes it just feels as though he's delivering enough to get through the film, with Thor that's not the case, not at all. Hopkins is superb as Odin, the father of Loki and Thor and the King of Asgard and it does feel as though he's delivering his best.

I was a little surprised by the small role of Idris Elba was and yet how cool his character was and the performance he gave. I definitely wanted to see more of his character but unfortunately we didn't get the opportunity, perhaps next time.

Overall.pngIf you hadn't guessed so far, I really enjoyed Thor and the comments and reviews to date suggest that I'm not the only one. I felt that this was one of the best superhero films we've had to date. It packs the best aspects of the superhero films together with some rather powerful and epic storylines and moments, and what I think does make this particularly strong is that despite the humour and the fantastical idea of Thor, it concentrates on building characters and relationships before the superhero side.

Branagh makes the fantastical Shakespearean, and the action powerful and epic, and the cast is a surprisingly strong ensemble with some excellent actors and very strong performances, and it all manages to squeeze in some humour as well. Thor has it all. If you haven't yet, you should see this film.

Don't forget to stay for the end credits as Marvel don't disappoint with the usual closing credits scene which gives us hope for more of the same, and although we might be seeing an Avengers film first there's a distinct feeling that there will be another Thor, and quite rightly so, he deserves a second shot at the hammer.

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