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Movie Review: 'Thor' brings legendary character to life

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“Thor”
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Clark Gregg, Jaimie Alexander, Tadanobu Asano, Joshua Dallas
Rated: R

I've written this in reviews before, but anytime I see a film based on a Marvel Comics character, I remember how Marvel changed my life when I was a kid. I was raised on DC Comics: Superman, Batman, The Flash, et al were great superheroes, without a doubt.

But when I discovered Marvel, by way of The Fantastic Four, something changed. These super-folks had flaws and neuroses; they made wisecracks. Sometimes they even lost battles. Yes, Marvel comics, like movies and rock-n-roll music, changed my life. The Marvel super heroes were perfect for the 1960s. I gave up (most) comics a long time ago but have fond memories. And I've seen just about every super hero movie made in the past 30 years. Some, “The Dark Knight” (based on DC's “Batman”), “Spiderman” and “Iron Man” (from the Marvel stable) have been noteworthy and compelling big budget films. I even like some of the cheesier ones in the genre. “The Fantastic Four” comes to mind.

The latest from Marvel is “Thor.”

For those who aren't aficionados, Thor is based on the Norse god of thunder, and he hails from the mythical planet, Asgard. His father is the head honcho Norse god, Odin, and his brother/nemesis is the evil trickster Loki.

When I saw the previews and read press releases for “Thor,” the most surprising thing to me was the fact that Kenneth Branagh directed the film. Branagh is a fine actor and is best known as a director for his Shakespearian productions “Henry V,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Hamlet” and a few others. “Thor” seemed like a weird choice for a project he would want to direct.

Another heavyweight tied to the film is Anthony Hopkins in the role of Odin.

Well, “Thor” isn't Shakespeare, but Branagh uses his directorial chops to bring a regal air to the denizens of Asgard that befits them. They are Norse gods, after all.

The story is (literally) the stuff of legend.

The film opens in New Mexico where astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her team are tracking some very weird atmospheric anomalies. In the course of her hectic drive through the desert, she runs over a handsome man (he looks like a Norse god). Her first line to him is “Do me a favor; don't be dead.”

He isn't. But he's extremely sore and somewhat upset.

From this point, the film flashes back to Asgard, and we get the story of how the god of thunder has landed (without his godly powers or magic hammer) on Earth.

Thor is the heir to the throne of Asgard but there are problems involved. Thor (true to his thunder-oriented godliness) is easily angered. When the Asgardians' mortal (or immortal, I should say) enemies, the Frost Giants, start causing a ruckus, Thor wants to teach them a lesson.

Odin wants to negotiate, and when Thor disobeys his decree, the thunder god is banished to Earth. His hammer - Mjolnir - is frozen, Excalibur-like, in a rock. Thor is unable to wrest it from its position. And much like Underdog without his glasses, Thor is helpless without his hammer.

So he is forced to wander around as a mortal. On the plus side, he meets Natalie Portman who, once seeing him sans shirt, falls madly in love with him and his rock hard abs.

The remainder of the film deals with Thor's struggle to regain his powers, retrieve  Mjolnir and get back in his dad's good graces. Asgard is a much more suitable place than Earth for a Norse god.

I enjoyed “Thor”, but as I mentioned, I'm a sucker for Marvel movies. Macho types might be put off by the “chick-flick” elements of the film. But there is plenty of action.

The biggest problem I had - and it was my own fault - is the fact I chose to see the 3-D version of “Thor.” I generally dislike 3-D effects and usually get headaches watching them. “Thor's” 3-D was, overall, less annoying than other films using the technique. But due to the fact it wasn't actually shot in 3-D - the producers re-rendered it in post-production - makes the effects somewhat dull. The color of the entire film is rather dark and murky. Reviews I have read by people who have seen both versions say the “regular” (2-D) version has vibrant colors and a crisp look.

I look forward to seeing it again in 2-D when it comes out on DVD.[[In-content Ad]]

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