Review: Can Kenneth Branagh Make The Mighty Thor Really Just As Mighty On The Big Screen?

The fourth piece of the large Marvel Studio's Avengers puzzle has arrived, and this time they're taking on a character completely different character and story than anything that's been done before: Thor. But does continuity strain the movie's story, or does it still manage to be an enjoyable ride, and is Tom Hiddleston's Loki really a worthy opponent for the Avengers come next May?

The film begins by explaining the relationship between the Gods and the humans. There are nine realms in the universe, one of which is Asgard (Home of the gods), another is Midgard (Which is Earth), and then there is Jotunheim (Home of the Frost Giants). In 965 A.D., the Frost Giants had entered Midgard, and froze the humans on Earth using The Casket of Ancient Winters. A young god named Odin (Anthony Hopkins), brings an army to Jotenheim to defeat the Frost Giants, and he is successful by taking the Casket, and making a truce with their king; Laufey (Colm Feore).
Years later, Odin is now king of the gods, but it is the day he will be giving his son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) the thrown. His other son Loki (Tom Hiddleston), is jealous of this, primarily because he has always been over shadowed by Thor. During the ceremony, two Frost Giants break into the vault where Odin was hiding the Casket of Ancient Winters, and while they were not able to steal it, Thor insists that they go and fight off the Frost Giants for breaking the truce.
This idea angers Odin, which causes him to delay his actions on making Thor king. Furious, Thor is able to convince his army; The Warriors Three, Sif, and Loki to follow him to Jotunheim and fight the Frost Giants. After convincing the gate keeper Heimdall to let them into Jotunheim, Thor goes to Laufey and threatens him for what he's done. Laufey gives Thor the chance to turn around and leave with out a fight, but instead he fights off Laufey and his army of Frost Giants. After being able to fight off many of them, he soon realizes that he's out numbered by them, and they surround Thor, Loki, Sif, and the Warriors Three, but they are rescued by Odin.
Odin has lost his patience for Thor's arrogance because of what Thor has done, and soon comes to the conclusion that Thor is not fit to be king. He takes Thor's hammer Mjolnir from him, and banishes him to Earth until he learns his wrong doing. Odin also puts a curse on Mjolnir and sends it to Earth, making sure that "whoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, sha'll posses the power of Thor."
When Thor crashes on Earth, he is found by three astrophysicists named Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), who take him in and try to find out where he came from, and who he really is. Soon S.H.I.E.L.D learns about the Mjolnir, and begin to research and try to find who it belongs to. Now Thor must learn to fix the error of his ways, so he can get his hammer back from S.H.I.E.L.D, and return to Asgard to stop Loki and the Frost Giants from unleashing total destruction on his home world, but his world isn't the only one in danger.
For starters, every performance in Thor was truly amazing, and perfect for the way I envisioned the characters. Chris Hemsworth was a fantastic choice for Thor, and really brought the god like characteristics of the character to life, as well as making his character development from an arrogant boy to a humble hero very clear. While he didn't speak in a Shakespearean language like in the comics, he managed to make up for that by using a very deep projecting voice, and spot on accent to really make the character feel like he was a god, and from royalty.
Natalie Portman was a pretty good Jane Foster, but unfortunately she didn't really have a large part in the film. Her love for Thor felt very rushed, and sort of hard to believe, but her and Hemsworth did have very good on screen chemistry, which helped the situation. Kat Denning's character of Darcy Lewis wasn't really necessary for the film, and while she was meant for comic relief, there were actually funnier moments in the movie that had nothing to do with her. Stellan Skarsgard character of Erik Selvig is a fantastic addition to the film, and he sort of plays a father figure for Thor on Earth, one that is much easier to talk to than Odin. It was also interesting to see Skarsgard actual heritage brought into account for the character, so Selvig already has some knowledge on who Thor really is.
As for the Asgard side of things, I really loved the inclusion of Sif and the Warrior Three into the film. They were all great characters, and fantastically played out, and also quite humorous. Jamie Alexander was a perfect Sif, and I would really like to see a love triangle between her Thor and Jane like in the comics in a sequel, and Ray Stevensen as Volstagg really stood out for me as an excellent performance. Anthony Hopkins was an amazing Odin, definitely being able to capture the anger he has towards his son, but he really isn't very godlike, especially in comparison to Chris Hemsworth's Thor (the voice in particular). But my favorite member of Asgard would have to be Heimdall. After the controversy of hiring a black man to play a god, Elba was truly spectacular on the role, and is also the most godlike of the whole film.
One thing that I've always liked about the Thor comics, which caries on to the film, is the fact that Thor already has power, unlike most superheroes such as Spider-Man and Green Lantern. So that helps the film start off right in the middle of the action, but unfortunately when Thor looses his power, it basically becomes another origin story. And that also means that there's a lot more down time on Earth. There's also the absence of Thor's alter ego from the comics; Donald Blake (In the comics Odin banishes Thor into the body of a handicap doctor named Donald Blake). While I can see how Blake changing back and forth from Thor to himself would take up a lot of time in the movie, it would've made the relationship even more realistic, because Jane was already in love with Donald, the only difference was now Thor was the one inside. But Branagh still pays homage to the character with multiple references, and Thor's lack of power on Earth still proves the point Odin was trying to make.
But by far, the best performance of the film was Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He played the character exactly as I envisioned him, and really was a perfect match up for Hemsworth's Thor. He really made the character feel very complex, and we actually get a clear understanding of his point of view on things. He's easily the best comic book villain I've seen in a while, and while his kind of hard to hate, I'm sure it will be easier come next May. Unfortunately, we really don't get to see much of the truly evil Loki, due to the fact that he's hiding his dark side for the majority of the film, but from the little bit I've seen at the end of the film, it's no stretch to say that Hiddleston's Loki will be a perfect match-up for the Avengers next summer.
Director Kenneth Branagh is able to make up for this down time by switching from Asgard to New Mexico, so we get a little taste of action, and then back to Thor's evolving romance. While Thor isn't in Asgard for most of the action, it's still very exciting thanks to the inclusion of Lady Sif (Jamie Alexander) and The Warriors Three (Ray Stevensen, Joshua Dallas, and Tudanobu Asano), and the famous god Heimdall (Idris Elba), who all manage to bring together great fight scenes despite Thor's absence.
What really weakened the movie for me, and really just felt like a waste of time, was the inclusion of S.H.I.E.L.D, similar to that in Iron Man 2. The middle of the film gets a bit drowsy and drags on because of Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), and S.H.I.E.L.D interrogate Thor and asking him question. That time could've been used to establish a stronger relationship between Thor and Jane, or show more action in Asgard, but was instead forced in for continuity reasons. Their involvement really held Thor back from being a great solo film, but luckily there's still some redeeming qualities about their appearance, such as a cameo from Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, but other than that S.H.I.E.L.D was the real problem about Thor.
Now without question, Thor has the best action if any of the previous Marvel Studios films (Maybe with the exception of the final scene between Abomination and Hulk in The Incredible Hulk). Everything between the ancient style of combat, and all of Thor's hammer moves, it's really exciting to watch. There's also some great action scenes while Thor is powerless, and it's interesting to see two completely different styles of fighting in one film (One involving magic and weapons, the other just being hand-to-hand combat).While the fight scene between Thor and The Destroyer is a bit lengthy and boring, the final battle scene is truly terrific, and fans and movie goers alike are sure to really get into it.
Another impressive aspect of Thor was it's visual effects. The effects used for the Frost Giants and The Destroyer were very realistic, and really had a genuine look to them. The look of the Frost Giants might give us a glimpse of what aliens might look like, if they were ever put into the Avengers or a sequel. One of my favorite effects used was the teleporting to and from the nine realms, which had an amazing mix of color which really made it look like the awesome way gods would travel. The settings were really breathtaking, most notably Asgard which was extremely impressive, but it slightly reminded me of something out of the Star Wars prequels (Not that that's a bad thing). 
In the end Thor definitely surpassed my expectations, especially the Asgardian side of the story. While the Earth portion of the film might have been boring and bland, what really mattered was Hemsworth and Hiddleston's performances, which are sure to impress all movie goers. Thor proves a story and character that may seem cheesy, can definitely transition well to the big screen, with the right people behind it. It had more potential, and really could've been longer, and had more characters and events from the comics fit into it, but that's not to say it doesn't work well. I have no worries on whether Hemsworth will be out shone by his Avenger costar Robert Downey Jr., now we just have to see how Chris Evans does as Cap in July.
I give Thor 4 out of 5 stars:
And here's the Thor trailer:

What did you think of Thor? Are you going to see it?