My original review of Thor was written before I saw the film. I thought I was going to watch another of the world’s longest film trailers. [See my Captain America review]. The only purpose for the film was to move the comic book hero into 21st century Earth in preparation for Marvel Studios’ The Avengers. That’s what I thought before I saw the movie. I couldn’t have been more wrong…and possibly just a tiny bit right.
Thor is a movie where the credits run at the end, so I didn’t know that the director was Kenneth Branagh. Had I known, my expectations would have been different. His name as a director promises wit, style, and tight story-telling. He brings a Shakespearean actor’s appreciation of language and spectacle to his work. I think of him as an indie director, so I should have asked what would he do with a $150 million budget?
The first thing he did, it appears, was to hire Anthony Hopkins to play Odin – think King Lear without the madness. Again Branagh surprised me: I was unaware of Hopkins’ ability to play the warm, albeit not fuzzy, aspects of humanity. Branagh brought it out of him.
Half way through the film I wondered if James Campbell might have shown Thor in one of his classes about myth. This script offered a touch of Cain and Abel in addition to references to the Viking sagas. Plus all of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Unlike Captain America, Thor stands on its own. If you don’t wait through the miles of credits to watch The Avengers sneak peek, you might believe that the ice-crossed lovers will never meet again.
Branagh’s battle of Agincourt was his apprenticeship, preparing him for the big CGI battles of Thor. He didn’t break new ground here, yet he blew things up right good, my son.
Joss Whedon is directing The Avengers. I wish Kenneth Branagh had been given the job. I would be anticipating the film with pleasure. I can’t dismiss Joss Whedon out of hand – Kenneth Branagh taught me to keep an open mind.