Director: Kenneth Branagh
Thor played by Chris Hemsworth
In the land of America, far beyond the seas the mightiest viking warriors have traveled, the Marvel comics version of Thor is far more well-known than the actual Scandinavian legend. The character is one of Marvel's finest, being both one of the universe's most powerful heroes, being a quite hilariously a viking in a world devoted to high-tech industry, and of course being a really pompous Shakespearean trash-talker and swashbuckler. That being said, it was by no means a given that this outlandish premise would translate well for the big screen.
I most eagerly awaited how Shakespearean director Kenneth Branagh would play the dialect and the betrayals within the family of gods on the big screen. I should've known that it usually matter, who's behind the camera in a big summer blockbuster. For my money, Thor could've just as easily been directed by Jon Favreau or Louis LeTerrier, who did the previous official Marvel Universe films. The strengths in the film lie far beyond directing, in the action scenes, actor choices and set design.
The world of Asgard doesn't stem from the viking legends, but rather from the pen of Jack Kirby. It does look awesome on screen (although I would imagine 3D doesn't add anything), even if it is a bit barren, distant and cold. I would like to see Asgardian extras in other scenes than with banquets and coronations and such. But the main charceters are mostly well-realized. Chris Hemsworth has the charisma and strength of a god, but is also more quick-tempered than his comics counterpart, which is a good choice for the story. I was happily surprised to find that Thor's friends Lady Sif and the Warriors Three made it to the movie. I would gladly cough up more money to see the further adventures of just these four. "Xena, Jackie Chan, Robin Hood..." The most awesome of all characters would be Idris Elba's Heimdall, who is huge and otherwordly and thus threatening-seeming, but actually honorable, noble and willing to fight for what's right.
Thor is a fish-out-of-water story that mostlt deals with a god cast in a regular American small town. I found the film's humour to work pretty fine, on par with the Iron Man films. It's good that these films don't take themselves way too seriously, even though films like The Dark Knight might tempt them to do so. But in real world, I would like to see a couple of more strong scenes for Natalie Portman, who does little more than swoons for Thor's abs in the film. Kat Denning's Darcy is a lot more endearing version of the same female horniness, but with better one-liners and none of the awkwardness.
The action is huge and one gets plenty of bang for one's buck. Thor also isn't portrayed as too invunerable to work as a character the audience can emphasize with. He mostly does struggle without his powers, but when hammertime arrives, it does so with a bang. The film's biggest fault is the main villain, Tom Hiddleston's Loki, who's too much of a sniveling bastard child than a mischievous master planner. I think I went too far when comparing him with other failed on-screen Marvel villains such as Dr. Doom, Venom and Elektra, as he does have an arc and his motives are somewheat believable. But his powers aren't that well-realized and his final plan is heisty and borderline stupid, something I wouldn't expect from the God of Mischief. But as Thor will be back next summer in The Avengers, I hear Loki will too, and this time it seems he has a much grander plan, according to the after-credit scene at least.
Almighty Thor (2011)
Director: Christopher Ray
Thor played by: Cody Deal
The happy thing about Thor the ancient god of thunder is that he's a public domain character and thus anyone can make their own movie based on him. Particularly happy about this must've been the schlock-company Asylum, that makes its money by conviniently bringing out similarly-named low-budget films with every release of a major blockbuster. This time Thor at least got an "Almighty" adjective in front of it (Sherlock Holmes in 2009 wasn't so lucky). I was intrigued by this as I had heard Thor wields a machine gun in this. I was less intrigued as I heard it was produced by the SyFy channel, who have a knack of making films that seem awesome in theory (Mammoth - a film about a zombie mammoth with a soul-sucking trunk, anyone?) but simply make them so bad that such promising ideas are utterly demolished.
Luckily, Almighty Thor isn't at that level. One would exprct that such a film would over-emphasize the beginning and then run out of steam, but actually Almighty wisely saves its biggest bangs to the final reel. In this film Thor is but a youngling, not yet a true warrior. The evil wizard Loki attacks Asgard with his army of giant space coyotes and later dinosaurs, which makes the Allfather Odin launch an all-out attack against him. But even though Odin has The Hammer of Invincibility at his use, Loki manages to trick him to kill his other warriors and subsequently, Odin himself. But Odin manages to cast the hammer to Midgard before his death, and Thor promises to retrieve it to defeat Loki. But then things get confusing as Loki suddenly seeks to destroy the Tree of Life, but still goes after Thor and his latino valkyrie sidekick. What follows is a small training period and then a never-ending parade of different fight scenes between Loki and Thor.
|But the legends are still true.|
Thor - The Rock Opera (2011)
Director: John Cody Fasano
Thor played by Jon Mikl Thor
Finally, we have the most testosterone-filled epic of them all. Little more than a streched music video for the Canadian hair metal band Thor (or T.H.O.R. as it's spelled in the credits), the film is about 40 minutes of pure ass-kicking. I've heard rumours that there would be a lot longer director's cut available on DVD, so I might check that out at some later point too. The film itself is a combination of old music videos, live gig footage and new digicam footage that seems to be shot in a nearby park. The props are all visibly made from rubber. The film's story is told by a narrator, as the images alone only confuse the audience trying to get the plot of this thing.
The film is directed and written by the son of the director of Rock 'n Roll Nightmare, John Cody Fasano and Thor band frontman Jon Mikl Thor. It's based on the Thor band comic book, which I haven't read but if I had, it probably would've cleared a thing or two for me about the very confusing plot. What I understood from it is this: The film starts as young Thor descends to Earth from a spaceship. He battles some evil dudes running toward him in a hallway, wielding his magic hammer. After his victory, Thor decides to spred the message of Rock 'n Roll for years. METAL! But then, a cult worshipping a hilarious deep-voiced giant snake god kidnaps Thor's wife (Police Academy and Devil's Rejects star Leslie Easterbrook) and turns her into a superpowered witch. Thor can change her back but then for some reason he has to kill her. It was her dying wish, you see. Then Thor goes and beats up one of the servants of the serpent and the movie ends there. Huh?!
The most kickass thing about this would be the closeups on 70's Thor' muscles. They are best emphasized on a scene where he punches through a concrete wall and flexes his biceps through the crack. Also, the rubber snake in one point shouts "SILENCE!" to his annoying Australian accomplice and bites his head.
The film works perfectly as the opening act for Thor's gigs as it's completely cheesy but at the same time oddly honest. Plus, it contains more than its fair share of scenes where the viewing rock warriors can hoot and cheer together. You just know watching this that the main event is yet to come. And you get just the right shot of adrenaline to prepare for it.
★★★★★ (or if you're Loki or some other motherfucker, ★)