When I first heard that Kenneth Branagh was directing the big screen adaptation of Marvel Comics’ Thor my second thought Slumming. (My first thought was What the--?) He had some genre associations with his direction of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) and his forgettable participation in Wild Wild West (1999) but…


But I was wrong. Instead of focusing on his “weaknesses,” I overlooked his strengths. The cliché is, regarding mediocre work in popular entertainment, “We’re not doing Shakespeare, people!” Well, Branagh does do Shakespeare—and Mary Shelly—so he has an appreciation for story. (It also helps that the co-writer of the story on which the screenplay is based is J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5 and architect of the recent Thor reboot at Marvel.) The elements aligned to make a pretty good movie—not Dark Knight good (it’s gonna be a while before that barrier is broken) but a far cut above a lot of its competition. So what did Branagh do right?


*The structure of the movie is very much like Saving Private Ryan: it starts with an intense battle sequence, segues into a l-o-n-g middle with character development, then ends with another intense battle sequence. And the characters do develop and are presented as having at least two dimensions: the secondary villains are not just bad for the sake of being bad, the principal villain actually has a valid justification for his “villainy,” and comic relief comes from the situations the characters are in rather than just because they’re there.


*The special effects and CGI actually serve the story rather than overwhelm it. Gratuitous violence and wanton destruction are kept to a minimum.


*Things were explained just enough, no technobabble or made-up laws of nature. The filmmakers seemed to say: you’ve paid good money to see a movie about a Norse god; your disbelief has been sufficiently suspended enough to get you this far. So we move on.


*The trickiest thing was Thor himself. This wasn’t your typical superhero origin story. Peter Parker had to learn how to be Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, Bruce Wayne trained to become the Dark Knight. Even Kal-El had to soak up a lotta rays before he could leap tall buildings in a single bound. But Thor was always Thor. From the time we first meet him, as a child, he knows he’s destined to be king. When we meet him as an adult he stalks toward the throne to accept his legacy like a rock star working the red carpet. When he’s banished to Earth as punishment he still thinks he’s the God of Thunder. It’s only when he discovers he’s not that his true heroic nature settles in. Other heroes have to learn to be super; Thor was already super. He has to learn how to be human.


While Thor is a very good movie, there are still a few things that keep it from being a great one. A lot of character development is short-handed for the sake of moving the plot along and compared to Thor, everybody (deliberately) looks not as great. But these are minor quibbles. Spend a couple of hours with the God of Thunder. You’ll probably be glad you did.

You need to be a member of Blacksciencefictionsociety to add comments!

Join Blacksciencefictionsociety

Email me when people reply –