Like its fellow Marvel blockbusters, Thor is half enjoyable pulp adventure and half finely-tuned franchise builder. Kenneth Branagh has fun with Thor’s comic-book mythology, a blend of Norse legend and pseudo-science, hitting action beats while injecting some character depth into the theatrics. Branagh is no stranger to high budgets, having adapted Hamlet and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Thor is suitably operatic, but also winningly tongue-in-cheek.
The arrogant son of Norse god Odin (Hopkins) and brother of devious Loki (Hiddlestone), Thor (Hemsworth) is stripped of his powers and banished to Earth after breaking a truce between the realm of Asgard and a neighbouring world of Ice Giants. In New Mexico he works and falls in love with scientist Jane Foster (Portman), while attempting to earn back his powers and prevent Loki from unleashing a new war between the cosmic realms.
One of the most consistent appeals of Marvel’s superhero series has been their willingness to contrast the bleakness of DC’s Batman franchise with primary colours, deadpan humour and unabashed fun. Explanations for the film’s mythology are dealt with lightly, and Branagh offsets spectacular action sequences with well-worked chemistry between his lead cast. Along with Captain America, Thor demonstrates how far Marvel have refined their character introductions.
However, Thor is also one part in the long-planned Avengers franchise. Crossovers are hinted at across the film, mostly without distracting too much from the central plot-lines. This had been the case with Iron Man 2, and reflects what has been the biggest challenge for the Marvel films so far in keeping up the energy and novelty of their introductions without repetition or expanding action-sequences. On its own terms though, Thor keeps Marvel’s blockbuster machine turning over with some charm.
EXTRAS ★★ The Blu-ray is spread over 2 discs, but the extras are routine. Disc 1 has one bonus short on a minor character that sets up The Avengers, and seven behind-the-scenes featurettes that skim through production design, props, and casting. Insight is limited to exchanges of thanks between Branagh, the cast and the crew. There’s also a director’s commentary, deleted scenes, and another teaser for The Avengers. Disc 2 contains the high-definition feature and a digital copy. A 3-Disc Blu-ray with a 3D copy of the feature is also available.