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Review: Thor

This seems like it would be one of the more challenging Marvel characters to adapt. Unlike the other Marvel film adaptations, which are largely grounded in reality, Thor is a far more challenging tale of a God from Norse mythology. Kenneth Branagh takes the challenge of directing the film, which follows Thor, a warrior from the realm of Asgard, cast out of his father's kingdom after his arrogant actions reignite an ancient war. As punishment, Thor is cast down to Earth where he meets a scientific research team intent of finding out more about him. Whilst, Thor faces his punishment his corrupt brother, Loki has other plans for his father's kingdom of Asgard.

From the above description it may seem to difficult to see the film being overly realistic, but as comic-book adaptations go, this does well. Thor takes place in three realms - Asgard, Jotunheim and Earth, the first two locations are created with absolutely stunning use of CGI reflecting the grand, luxurious nature of Asgard and  exploring the harsh, baron land of Jotunheim, home of the Frost Giants. Branagh's direction is on top form, most noticeably in the scenes in Thor's home realm of Asgard - we seen an almost Shakespearian bard in these scenes. The relationship between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), features dialogue and events that feel like they've been lifted from an 18th Century play - given Branagh's background in the National Theatre and his direction of several film adaptations of Shakespeare, this should come as no surprise. It's clear his hiring as director was a perfect decision - his skills and past experience come into full use. Branagh also shows a clear knack for the big blockbuster style action scenes, however, there is no over-reliance on these. We also see Branagh tackle some light comedy, primarily on the scenes when Thor is banished to Earth, there are numerous amusing scenarios of Thor adapting to 'normal society' which helps to ground the film. One of the most entertaining examples of this is when Thor's warrior friends walk through New Mexico in full battle armour with security personnel stating "Xena, Jackie Chan and Robin Hood" are on their way.

The casting choices are excellent, ranging from up-and-coming stars to cinematic veterans. Chris Hemsworth (star of excellent b-movie Ca$h, check it out.) takes the lead role as Thor, a brave move considering he is quite a little-known actor - however, he shows he is more than capable in a lead role - showing a flair for comedy, action and more emotionally based scenes. He has an excellent on-screen chemsitry with Natalie Portman who plays Jane Foster, a scientist trying to find out more about Thor. Portman is surprisingly good and the role never falls into the cliched 'women-in-peril' character. Anthony Hopkins is again on fine form, clearly enjoying bellowing his lines and working with Branagh. As much as Hopkins is always a great pleasure to watch and I'd class myself as a huge fan, part of me does wish his role of Odin had gone to Brian Blessed. He and Branagh are old pals and at one point Blessed was down to play Odin, although pressure from the studios wanting a bigger name lead to his replacement by Hopkins. It's certainly a role Blessed was born to play, however, Hopkins does do it justice. Rene Russo features as the criminally underused wife of Odin/mother of Thor and ignites the screen when she appears in her two scenes. Other supporting performances from Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings add nice touches of humour and reality to the film as Foster's colleagues. Tom Hiddleston's features as Loki but the role feels slightly underdeveloped, I think it would have been more effective to see him as slightly more damaged in order to justify his behaviour, although Hiddleston does well with what he has been given and shines in the confrontation scenes with Hemsworth's Thor. Marvels fans will be glad to know the film features many homages and references to the Marvel Universe and enjoyable cameo appearances from Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye (prior to The Avengers); as well as Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury.

This addition to the Marvel movie-canon will certainly not disappoint fans of the series or those simply looking for big budget entertainment. Excellent casting and performances as well as grand direction and writing help to make this one of the strongest Marvel adaptations, as well as an all round stylish piece of Summer entertainment. Bring on Captain America: The First Avenger!

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