- KENNETH TURAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES:
Think of "Thor" as the ultimate Superhero
Smackdown. In one corner is the canny Kenny B., a.k.a. Kenneth
Branagh, a director still best known for superior Shakespearean
productions like "Henry V," "Hamlet" and "Much Ado About
Nothing," a man not usually associated with comic book
adaptations. In the other corner are the mighty monarchs of
Marvel Entertainment, a well-oiled mass entertainment machine
boasting ownership of more than 8,000 comic book characters and
more than $6.1 billion in worldwide box office grosses.
So how did the match turn out?... Believe it or not, all
this commotion ends in a draw. For despite all the hype, despite
the $150-million budget, despite a post-shooting 3-D conversion,
despite stars like Oscar winners Natalie Portman and Anthony
Hopkins and hunky young Australian Chris Hemsworth as the God of
Thunder himself, what we have here is an aesthetic standoff
between predictable elements and unexpected ones. "Thor" has its
strengths, but it is finally something of a mishmash with
designs on being more interesting than it manages to be.
Part of "Thor's" artistic confusion and lack of unity can be
attributed to its having not only two different settings but two
completely different tones, which in turn may be partly because
of it having no fewer than five credited writers...
Anchored by a solid performance by Hopkins,
who has said the story energized him, the Asgard sections are
"Thor's" most substantial, with Branagh likely having had
something Shakespearean in mind with his portrayal of the
conflict between an unbending father and his headstrong son...
"Thor's" extensive special effects are also a mixed bag. Some
elements, like the Rainbow Bridge that leads to the "Beam me up,
Scotty" machinery that connects Asgard and Earth, are fun, while
other shots of Asgard make it look like Apple's futurist 1984
Super Bowl ad on steroids. This random quality extends to a lot
of the movie. For every weak element, like a generic killer
robot called the Destroyer, there is a strong one, like "The
Wire's" Idris Elba, a long way from Stringer Bell and the mean
streets of Baltimore, effectively playing the all-seeing
One aspect of "Thor" that touches a sore spot is the recurrence
of Marvel's awkward and greedy attempts to build audience and
pound the drum for future films. "The Avengers" doesn't
come out for a year, and I'm already feeling overhyped.