Thor lives up to larger-than-life hype

Thor is a pretty good movie, but it’s an extremely good comic book movie. And with the parade of spandex-clad heroes and villains marching towards the big screen such a hectic one, especially this summer, that’s rather decent praise.

Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is flanked by his two sons Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Marvel Studios’ Thor.

Thor is a pretty good movie, but it’s an extremely good comic book movie. And with the parade of spandex-clad heroes and villains marching towards the big screen such a hectic one, especially this summer, that’s rather decent praise.

Directed by Kenneth Branagh (yes, the man who brilliantly dabbled in classic work like Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing takes on a flick about a muscular dude with a hammer … isn’t that kinda awesome?), Thor tells the tale of the immortal warrior-who-would-be-king (Chris Hemsworth), who is banished to Earth by his father (Anthony Hopkins) for almost starting a war with the frost giants who are always looking to cause problems in Asgard.

Once Thor becomes a mortal, the movie veers into comical fish-out-of-water territory, with the big guy … now vulnerable … getting tasered, hit by cars, etc. If it sounds cliché, uh, it is. But it’s also a ton of fun, and it doesn’t hurt that Natalie Portman (The Black Swan) plays Thor’s love interest on Earth, astrophysicist Jane Foster. Every scene Portman is in, she automatically makes better because, well, because she’s Natalie Portman. (Seems to me, in talking about movies like No Strings Attached and Your Highness, we’ve touched on this subject before; so-so movies + Natalie Portman = much better movies.)

But Branagh and his screenwriting team never fail to forget that Thor is a story that should be larger-than-life. Thus, the plot frequently zips back to Asgard, where Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is up to no good. A showdown with the mythic cityscape as a backdrop is inevitable — and this gang makes darn sure it’s a good one.

Thor, like last year’s Iron Man 2 and this summer’s Captain America, is paving the way for 2012’s massive Marvel Comics star-studded jamboree, The Avengers; we know that. But because it’s so much fun, it’s tough to care that the movie exists primarily as a marketing tool. If Hemsworth can continue to keep his tongue-in-cheek with as much passion as he keeps that hammer in his mitt, I wouldn’t mind seeing more solo efforts from this big lug.

Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give Thor a three-and-a-half.

The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.

Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.