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May 16, 2011 | by  | in Film |
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Marvel Studios’ films have been a mixed bag so far. While the first Iron Man film was a pleasant surprise, its sequel and The Incredible Hulk were less successful. Although neither were bad enough to derail proceedings, it is nonetheless with bated breath that fanboys have been waiting to see whether 2011’s double offering from Marvel suggests we should be excited about next year’s ambitious ensemble The Avengers. It is with great relief that I proclaim that the first of the two final pieces of the Marvel puzzle (the next being Captain America) succeeds.

Thor follows the titular Norse god as he gets exiled to earth for his vanity, learns humanity and redeems himself by smashing shit with his hammer and protecting his newly-beloved mortal companions. This is all shallow stuff but the talent of everyone involved means that this film is promoted from dumb action fare into well-acted, great-looking dumb action fare.

Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth (you know, Kim from Home and Away?) stars and surprisingly holds his own against a cast including Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston. While Hopkins as Thor’s father Odin and Portman as his love interest Jane take this project seriously enough, their screen time is rather limited compared to Hemsworth who convincingly and effortlessly shifts between a comic fish-out-of-water, a lover and a warrior. As Thor’s brother Loki and the film’s primary antagonist, Hiddleston is the best thing about this film. His character arc mirrors Hemsworth’s and like his diegetic brother he displays an impressive range, ambiguously sympathetic until his true intentions surface.

With Shakespearean director Kenneth Branagh at the helm, this is the best looking of Marvel’s films so far. A starry, colourful, sci-fi-inspired Asgard provides a gorgeous juxtaposition with the much more restrained New Mexico town where Thor lands. The latter provides a reprieve from the former and stops it from becoming overwhelming but it is nonetheless equally pretty with empty desert landscapes and lens flares aplenty. Like Iron Man, this is hardly the most action-packed film of its ilk but the fight scenes are clear, well choreographed and shot with the grandeur they deserve—no shaky-cam.

Of course, the film throws in some token references to The Avengers and while some feel awkward, it is still its own film and never becomes the Avengers-prequel that Iron Man 2 was. If the post-credit teaser does not have you excited for next year’s team-up then nothing will. *

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