I feel like every time I watch ‘Thor’ I walk away with a different opinion of it. At times I walk away with the impression that it might actually be an under appreciated entry to the MCU that deserves more critical praise than it receives. But then on other instances I kind of understand why Marvel have gone for a slight course correction with the character. On this instance I find myself gravitating towards the latter option.
That being said I think there are many unique and interesting qualities to ‘Thor’, most of them brought about by director Keneth Branagh whose specific additions to the movie are intriguing to say the least. In fact like much of the film there are aspects of it which work brilliantly and aspects that are baffling inclusions. Branagh’s world building is excellent. He frames Asgard in such a way to endow it with real mythic weight and stature. Though he doesn’t quite flesh out the world to any great degree (a task that should have befallen the sequel, but we’ll cross that bridge later) you understand enough about their basic atmosphere and system that you become engrossed in the eventual fate of the world.
But where Branagh’s direction exceeds on an establishing front, it somewhat fails on a more momentary basis. The elephant in the room would be the overuse of Dutch angles which are so utterly unmotivated that they are more baffling than noticeable. I’d be lying if they said they greatly disrupted my viewing experience of ‘Thor’ but it certainly makes the viewer raise some questions over why the camera is constantly on a tile. Even in moments of humour or levity I still find that specific angle creeping its way back into the story.
I’ve always maintained that if you are able to notice something this kind of problem on a regular basis, it speaks to some degree for how engaging the story is as well. So that leads me into another issue with ‘Thor’, namely that its narrative is quite simplistic to say the least. Thor’s central arc is painstakingly predictable from the outset and there really isn’t any variation in how that development is presented. If anything it comes across as being rushed and a little contrived, but ultimately it is still believable and affecting to a certain degree.
I’d say the cast follow a similar pattern in that certain aspects are terrific and others are Cat Dennings. I feel a little bad saying that as I usually don’t like to single out individuals, but both Dennings’ performance and the character the script provides her with are drastically out of tonal synch with the rest of the movie. Natalie Portman also feels slightly flat as Jane Foster. She shares decent chemistry with her on screen romance but just doesn’t seem to flourish as an individual character. Whether that’s the fault of the script or Portman not bringing enough energy to the role, or both, it’s hardly a huge detriment to the film. It’s just one of the aspects that makes the narrative feel somewhat contrived when I’m asked to invest so heavily in this relationship even the narrative seems to be uninterested in.
But outside of that the titular character is brought to life brilliantly by Chris Hemsworth. For starters there is no denying that Hemsworth completely and utterly embodies the role of a literal god on a physical level. The way he struts around each scene, exuding charisma and carrying himself with such grandiose is immensely entertaining to watch when the character is both in and out of his comfort zone. He’s also perfectly countered by Tom Hiddelstone as Loki whose performance is the complete parallel. Loki also exudes charisma but it’s of a much more villainous nature that does wonders for his sense of menace. Hiddelstone’s performance single handedly works to elevate the narrative since his portrayal of Loki feels like a genuinely prevalent threat that needs to be dealt with.
‘Thor’ is a mixed bag in every regard, but it still contains enough unique elements to be interesting at times as well as frustrating at others.