(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: THOR is a comic-book film that gives us a different sort of superhero, the Norse god banished from Asgard and exiled to Earth and struggling to retrieve/earn his hammer of power. If I were to picture the gods in Asgard, what we see of them in this film is not what they would look like in my mind. Some veteran actors like Anthony Hopkins seem over-qualified to play opposite Chris Hemsworth in the title role. If the concept of Kenneth Branagh directing a 3D super-hero film seems a bit odd, he is moderately less ponderous than he was with MARY SHELLEY'S FRANKENSTEIN. But the real star of this show is Bo Welch whose production design is original and different enough to steal the show from the actors. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Thor is sort of a new hero to me. I never read a comic in which he was a character. I must have spent more time in the DC universe. So I was learning as I went. Bear with me, Thor-comics fans. I did know that this was the Thor of Norse folklore as opposed to an ordinary Joe who is heir to the powers of Thor. But what powers does Thor have? He is muscular. But his strength is like that of maybe ten mortals. That is not all that useful. He has a hammer. How much damage can he do with a hammer? Of course, this would be a magical hammer, but I had no idea what it could do beyond clobbering. Each use would be something of a surprise, though none of the powers turn out to be very imaginative.

I cannot say I took to the Thor character right away and perhaps not at all. What do I think of when I think of the Norse Thor? This is the guy who makes the thunder and the lightning with his mighty hammer like the god of blacksmiths. Chris Hemsworth looked too much like a buff surfer dude who sometimes wore Norse armor, as it would be envisioned for a Las Vegas stage show. It was a little on the gaudy side. He seems to have no trouble speaking English for reasons unexplained except perhaps for story expediency. On the whole he is not a character who is really interesting. On the other hand where Superman is an Earth resident with a little concern for the Planet Krypton, Thor mostly is all about what is happening in Asgard. He has some concern for the people on Earth, but this film could be called THOR'S NEW MEXICO ADVENTURE. His mind is on Asgard. He has an agenda of his own other than making the world (our world) a better place. So there is something to him.

Thor has been up to his usual tricks of being too headstrong and arrogant, though you would think that being the god who brings the thunderstorms arrogance is sort of the name of the game. But he pushes it too far and is exiled from the realm of Asgard to the realm of ... New Mexico? Most people there find him just plain weird, which is about par for the course these days. But when he falls to Earth he drops his best friend, his hammer. He wants just to pick up the hammer, but the hammer has had enough and does not want to be taken for granted. He must earn his hammer. Luckily or unluckily Thor's brother Loki is staging a coup d'etat in Asgard and this provides Thor with an enemy to vanquish and a way to earn back his hammer. Along the way a pretty particle physicist teaches him about love.

Actors Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Colm Feore (completely unrecognizable), Natalie Portman, and Rene Russo may be more than this film really needed and a bit too much competition for Chris Hemsworth. He falls a little short of being believable as the god who makes huge storms with his mighty hammer. In THOR there is a desperate shortage of people who really look Scandinavian enough to be Norse gods. The real competition for the first class actors is Bo Welch, the production designer who gives real visual splendor to Asgard. My only complaint was that the central palace looked too much like a golden pipe organ. Patrick Doyle does the music, surprising for a comic-book film, though it may be expected for a Kenneth Branagh film. Doyle's musical style is better suited to sunny Sicily than to Norse worlds of ice and cold. His score follows the action rather than setting the emotional tone.

It is great to see Sir Anthony Hopkins's career panning out and his getting to play all the great dramatic roles, you know, like Zorro, Hannibal Lecter, Odin, the Wolfman's father, and Van Helsing. Good to see him out of his Shakespeare rut. I rate THOR a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

Additional notes:

-- Kudos goes to Kenneth Branagh who showed a breakfast sequence without a single product placement. But come to think of it, after his product placement in DEAD AGAIN nobody would ever trust him with one again.

-- Of course, there was a cameo for Stan Lee. He wrecks his pick- up truck trying to pull the surprisingly Arthurian hammer from the stone.

-- If you come into THOR with absolutely no knowledge of what an Einstein-Rosen Bridge is, you will leave the film knowing even less.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2011 Mark R. Leeper