This week, the God of Thunder smashes onto screens around the world. Armed with his mighty hammer Mjolnir and an all-star cast, Thor has the potential to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer!
Thor opens with a small group of scientists, physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), her mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), and their assistant Darcy (Kat Dennings), coming across a freak electrical storm and finding a mysterious man in the middle of it. The man turns out to be Thor (Chris Hemsworth), son of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and prince of Asgard. Odin has cast out Thor for reigniting the millennia-old war between the gods of Asgard and the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. Odin strips Thor of his powers and his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, stating that Thor will be able to reclaim both when he is worthy.
On Earth, Thor becomes friends with Jane, Erik, and Darcy. It turns out that the anomalies Jane has been researching are not wormholes, but the Bifrost, the rainbow bridge that connects the nine worlds. Jane’s research is quickly appropriated by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and S.H.I.E.L.D., who are investigating Mjolnir, which landed nearby soon after Thor. Thor and Jane go to reclaim the hammer, but Thor, still deemed unworthy, is unable to move it.
Meanwhile, in Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) discovers that he is actually a Frost Giant that Odin adopted after the first war ended. As Odin falls into the Odinsleep, Loki begins to plot a way to take over the throne from both Odin and Thor and goes to make a deal with Laufey (Colm Feore), the ruler of the Frost Giants. Discovering Loki’s treachery, Thor’s friends journey to Earth to warn him. It is up to Thor to reclaim his power and save both worlds from destruction.
The story is full of Shakespearean undertones, which, given director Kenneth Branagh’s past work, is not unexpected and are handled quite deftly. Odin, the king, banishes his unruly son and then has to face the vengeance of his false son. This is not something we have seen before in the Superhero Genre, and many other familiar superhero elements were nowhere to be found. The trajectory of the story did not follow the same origin structure as previous films, mainly due to the fact that the film focused on Thor losing his powers instead of gaining them. In this way, it becomes much more like a typical sequel instead. This is interesting, as it begs the question of what happens when a superhero has powers before he becomes a superhero? There is still an origin story, but it must focus more on the acceptance of the responsibility of those powers. This was explored previously in Superman, but it is pushed much more to the front in Thor. Will Thor be able to put aside his pride and get the chip off his massive shoulders or will Loki succeed in turning these flaws against his brother?
The prominence of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the storyline was much more surprising, as I don’t believe Thor’s origins ever included the organization so directly. However, their inclusion here is fairly smooth. It makes sense for a group like S.H.I.E.L.D. to take an interest in a new, otherworldly power, and does more to ground the story in the real world than Foster and co. It was also great to see Gregg’s Agent Coulson finally get a chance to shine, and as the only actor to feature in multiple Marvel franchises so far does a lot to link the different worlds.
The set and costume design was perhaps one of the best aspects of the film. Each of the four main locations, Asgard, Jotunheim, the small town in New Mexico, and the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, had a distinct look and feel. Asgard was golden and majestic, with floating towers and ornate decorations. Its brightness contrasts with the darkness of Jotunheim, the lair of the Frost Giants, a frozen, barren land. On Earth, Jane Foster lives and works in an open-air building, but prefers the roof, where she can gaze at the stars and wonder about other worlds. The S.H.I.E.L.D. base is a maze of efficiency and uniformity, just like the organization itself. The costumes, especially those worn by the Asgardians, are quite wonderful, with each character getting a distinct color scheme and style.
Overall, Thor is a highly successful Superhero Film. It complicates the idea of an origin story and, with luck, could breath new life into the genre as a whole by demonstrating that it is possible to deviate from the established formula. I’m hopeful that Marvel’s two other Superhero Films this summer, X-Men: First Class and Captain America: The First Avenger will follow suit.