After many found Iron Man 2 disappointing, Thor certainly has its work cut out. Not only does it have to restore faith in the crumbling superhero genre, it has to fit into the established Marvel film canon, demonstrate that the Norse God of Thunder is a credible protagonist and pave the way for the forthcoming Avengers assembly. Not an easy task for anyone.
Itís a bloody good job, then, that comic writers/ fans J Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich were on hand to provide a fabulous story for director Kenneth Branagh to follow. While Branagh might have been a left-field choice for a comic book adaptation, the decision has proved to be an inspired one. Without his keen eye for grand spectacle and tiny human touches, this might well have been a disaster.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth, doing his best to steal your girlfriends), gets tricked into waging a heavenly war against the Frost Giants by his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Enraged that his son has put Asgard in danger, Odin (Anthony Hopkins, chewing the scenery) casts Thor out and strips away his powers, leaving the once-mighty god to fend for himself on Earth.
Perhaps the strongest criticism that can be levelled at Thor is that the first thirty or forty minutes are almost off-putting in their complexity. Indeed, the whole first hour comes close to collapsing under the weight of the exposition that needs to be established. Norse gods are real, the nine realms exist and the Frost Giants want nothing more than the extinction of Asgard. Except itís massively more complex than that, requiring so much time and attention from the viewer that newcomers are in danger of total alienation.
Once thatís out of the way, the film becomes a whole new beast. Fantastical sets, amazing costumes and pompous dialogue all get traded for the refreshingly human world of New Mexico. This is when things arguably start to become more appealing, as Thor is forced to face his shortcomings, aided by the lovely Natalie Portman. Although it stills jars with the celestial worlds above, the film really begins to gather pace at this point, allowing the wonderfully flawed human side of Thor to emerge from beneath his chiselled abs.
Just barely tying the film with the entire Marvel franchise is the character of Agent Colson, last seen in the bonus post-credits scene of Iron Man 2, as well as the surprise cameo appearance of one of the Avengers. It will be interesting to see how everything ties in together, but at the moment the continuity between the films is only just hanging by a thread.
Thor works well enough as its own product, containing plenty of humour and action, as well as Chris Hemsworthís abs (for the ladies) and Natalie Portman looking gorgeous (for everyone else). Well acted, with stunning CGI and great characters, Thor might just restore faith in the doubters and prove that Marvel still have a fair few tricks up their sleeves. You might say itís Thorsome-[gunshot]