Although epic in scale, it’s the little things that make Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 film Thor so mighty. The film has a lot going on in the plot but the basics are that Natalie Portman’s character Jane Foster is chasing strange readings and runs into Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth. Thor was recently banished to Earth by his father Odin played by Anthony Hopkins, for almost starting another war between Asgard and the people known as the Frost Giants. After banishing Thor, Odin is weakened and falls into the Odin-sleep which leaves Thor’s brother, Loki in charge of the realm. Meanwhile on Earth, Thor, stripped of his powers attempts to regain them by breaking into a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility which is housing his mystic hammer Mjolnir. From here, all hell breaks loose as Thor reclaims his power, fights numerous people, and of course all ends well.
The most surprising aspect of the film for me was the amount of humor in the film. Given the subject matter, I feel it was a smart choice as too much Odin, Loki, Heimdall, and Frost Giants, would have made for a solid yet ultimately drab film. By employing the work of actress Kat Dennings as Darcy, allowed for a character to not take the whole situation too seriously. Her character’s role is literally to sit and make jokes during the film, she has no other purpose being there other than that. While the Earth based humor was spot on and lightened the tone of the film, when similar attempts were made at humor by Asgard’s Volstagg, part of the warriors three and an aid of Thor, it fell mostly with a thud. Ray Stevenson, best known for his role in the HBO series Rome, and his turn in the appallingly bad 2008 Punisher film, tries his best to play the comedic, and overweight Volstagg. For those who might not know who Stevenson is, he’s a mean looking guy and to cast him away from type just struck me as odd.
Another surprising choice by the casting department was Idris Elba as Heimdall. The powerful all seeing gatekeeper has traditionally been depicted as a Scandinavian decent much like Thor and Odin, and to see him played by the African-American Elba, was a definite choice that pays off as Elba is extremely good in the role. Although the performance for me in this film has to be from Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Playing the God of Mischief is a little like trying to play The Joker in the Batman franchise. There are so many different interpretations of the character, you really have to made the performance your own and Hiddleston does that in spades. From early on, the film wants the audience to know that Loki is the liar, the betrayer, the mischievous, however Hiddleston plays the character straight and plays him more like a trickster instead of purely evil. From the point of view of Loki, depending on your own reading, he could be honest in that he tells Odin he wants essentially to made Odin proud of him.
Finally I want to discuss our main players in the film. Starting with Chris Hemsworth, the main cast really is perfect in their roles. Hemsworth as Thor not only looks the part, but he’s able to show arrogance and naivete in convincing form. During the action scenes Hemsworth gives all he has and really dives into the part head first. This is obviously the most important casting in the film and to give this big of a movie to a fairly unknown actor is a gutsy move that paid off big. Hemsworth has the voice, the talent, the look, and the chemistry with the ever stunning Natalie Portman to make this performance a career making turn. As for Portman, while this doesn’t exactly have as much room for her to work as her Oscar winning Black Swan performance. She’s strong here as the sweet, shy, scientist who really just wants to get answers to all her questions. Finally we have the All-Father himself, Odin. This was the casting I was most nervous about besides Thor himself. Casting Anthony Hopkins is a little like casting Sean Connery. You’re going to get exactly the stereotype they’ve become known by unless they’re working with a director that can reign them in and keep from using the crutch of past performances. Odin here isn’t asked to do much in particular but Hopkins presence gives him an authoritative look and voice and rounds out an enjoyable summer blockbuster film.