(Warning: This review may contain Spoilers!)
Summer doesn't officially begin until late June, but the summer movie season began last week with the opening of the franchise front-runner FAST FIVE. However the season doesn't really feel like it's underway until a big-ass superhero flick swoops in, so today we get us the latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe: THOR.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a cocky (and somewhat douchey) Norse God who lives in the splendiforic golden CGI-ed city of Asgard off in the heavens above, in another realm, or something.
Thor's father, the King of their realm, played with his patented gravely gravitas by Anthony Hopkins, is ready to let his son take the throne, but an attack by a gang of scaly skinned creepy creatures called Frost Giants throws that plan out of whack.
The Frost Giants steal the source of Asgard's power "the Casket of Ancient Winters." Defying their father, Thor and his brother (Tom Hiddleston) go after their frigid foes into their icy realm, along with their gung-ho troop of hearty warriors (Tadanobu Asano, Joshua Davis, Ray Stevenson, and Jaimie Alexander).
A busy and bombarding battle goes down, which doesn't please Hopkins so he banishes his son to Earth, and throws his hammer of power down there with him.
It then becomes a bit of a fish out of water story with Thor meeting up with a trio of scientific researchers in a desert in New Mexico where he crash lands - Natalie Portman (much more animated than in YOUR HIGHNESS), a befuddled Stellan Skarsgård, and the wise-cracking Kat Dennings - who take him in as they just happen to be up on Nordic mythology.
Thor's predicament is that he has to fight through a military instillation that has surrounded his mighty hammer in the desert since, like the Arthurian legend, it can not be removed by just anyone.
The film gets bogged down in noisy fight scenes and impenetrable exposition that I couldn't follow recognize the weight of, but since I don't know the comic from which this is based, that stuff may mean a lot more to the hardcore. I mean, I get that Thor must fight his brother Hiddleston, who turns out to be half Frost Giant I guess, and take on a giant destructive robot in order to restore the kingdom of Asgard and awaken his father from some deep sparkling golden slumber, I think.
It was hard to follow or care about this because Hemsworth has little charisma or believability in the role, and his being paired with Portman is forced and fairly chemistry-less.
Those elements don't completely cripple THOR, because on the surface it's a serviceable super hero movie with plenty of fast paced action that folks just wanting mindless thrills will likely go for.
It's also fun to see how the Marvel movies are building what my fellow local entertainment writer friend Zack Smith calls an "uber continuity" with Clark Gregg reprising his role as Agent Coulson from IRON MAN 1 & 2, a cameo by Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, and an after the end-credits scene, which I won't spoil, but will just say that it foreshadows events to come in THE AVENGERS, so stay until the very end.
I was very surprised to see that this was directed by Kenneth Branaugh because in retrospect except for some nuanced acting from a few members of the cast, there is precious little in this assembly line formula that could be reasonably attributed to him.
While I normally avoid 3-D, I didn't have a choice with the advance screening I saw of this. I didn't get a headache, but apart from a few scattered arresting visuals, the 3-D added very little.
THOR is bombastic and in your face enough without such enhancement, but I bet kids of all ages will eat it up in whatever format.