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Thor (2011)

by on 2012/02/13

“Also, how could you eat an entire box of Pop-Tarts and still be this hungry?”

* * * *

I read once that you could determine someone’s impulse control by observing how they consume hard candy. If they slowly savour it, they have excellent control. If they crack into it with flashing molars like a toothy, ravenous wolf devouring a deer, their impulse control isn’t so great.

I received my copy of Thor many months ago, an awesome gift from a very awesome-type person. It sat for months on my shelf, staring back at me in its crackly wrapper, watching and waiting. I thought about ripping into it and crunching through it like a purple-flavoured Jolly Rancher. But I always stopped myself.

I made a promise to watch it with the aforesaid awesome person.

So I waited and waited until this month – our 4-week journey into high fantasy films.

Now, it should be said, that Norse mythology isn’t known to be a bundle of belly laughs. I loved these stories as a kid but they really, really aren’t for the faint of heart.

Who can forget the yuck-fest tale of Thor’s brother Loki’s eternal punishment? Trickster Loki was cursed to lie in a cave, bound to a rock by the entrails of his sons, with a snake fastened to a stalactite above him, dripping painful venom onto his face. You know, for all time.

Feel-good fun for the whole family, that.

So, how do you transform the story of Norse god Thor into a light-hearted, entertaining blockbuster? How do reconcile that very delicately with the Marvel story of Thor? It takes a power equivalent to the great, one-eyed Odin to pull that off. And the great director Kenneth Branaugh (Dead Again) possesses just that sort of power.

The brilliance of this film comes from the ‘fish out of water’ convention – or in this case, god out of Asgard. Chris Hemsworth as Thor is single-minded, impulsive, and stentorian.  When Odin played by Anthony Hopkins (Legends of the Fall) banishes Thor from the dead-serious halls of Asgard, the bearded and be-muscled god of thunder is plunked into the desserts of New Mexico.

Hilarity and traffic accidents ensue.

Thor happens across (or falls upon) a crew of entertaining astrophysicists, Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and their Gen Y assistant Darcy Lewis, played by the hilarious Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist).

Ms. Dennings gets all great lines like, “You know, for a crazy homeless guy… he’s pretty cut.”

Meanwhile, in another dimension, the Frost Giants and Asgard are on the verge of war. The New Mexico desert is just as funny as the Frost Giant’s world is really scary. The Frost Giant King Laufey played by Colm Feore (The Wrong Guy) is genuinely terrifying.

I do love the funny-scary one-two punch.

Thor was just as purple-flavoured delicious and worth the wait as I had hoped. Unexpectedly funny, well-paced, terrific casting and solid special effects.

All hail the Branaugh.

* * * *

115 minutes

Rated PG-13 for damned scary Frost Giants, a shirtless Chris Hemsworth and Natalie Portman in false eyelashes which were just plain wrong …she’s too lovely for such awful things

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