*Light spoilers ahead!
Saw Thor on Friday evening. I should say that the latest crop of Marvel films have not featured my favorite characters; I grew up on the X-Men, and hardly ever read the Avengers, Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America. I was aware of them as characters but was largely uninterested in their stories, so I have gone into these films with only basic knowledge of the background mythology of each. I'm actually pretty glad about that, as I tend top be a nit-picker over details, and this has freed me to enjoy each film on its merits;)
I'm not going to keep you in suspense over what I thought of the film: it was awesome. Very rarely do I have a movie experience that energizes, that makes me remember why I love movies, and why I love going to the movies. Thor was that kind of film. I was so excited I called my sister as I walked out of the theatre and jabbered nearly incoherently about it for close to fifteen minutes. It was fun and grandly epic at the same time, and there aren't a lot of movies that can pull that off.
I gotta admit that when I found out Kenneth Branagh was the director a few years back, I was stunned. Henry the V was directing Thor? Really? Why? But, after seeing it, I know exactly why it appealed to the British actor/director: there was a Shakespearean quality to it, especially where it concerned the central relationship in the film. I'm not talking about the romance between Chris Hemsworth's Thor and Natalie Portman's Jane Foster, though that was fun and sweet to watch. I'm talking about the real meat of the story: the relationship between two brothers and their father.
Tom Hiddleston walked away with this movie. Totally. I wanted to see more of him. Yes, Chris Hemsworth was good as the titular character: he was broad and larger-than-life when necessary, and sweet and funny when he needed to be. You do root for him (as said in a brilliant and surprise uncredited cameo by Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye in the middle of the film). But, the reason you want to watch the film at all, in my opinion, is because of the much more complex and layered character of Tom Hiddleston's Loki. He seems for all intents and purposes to be the family peacemaker, the more mature brother with quiet restraint, unafraid to make hard and unpopular decisions if he needs to, the voice of reason that is the perfect foil to Thor's immature bombast.
But, under that you find an insecure and conniving child who has lived in the shadows for far too long, and has slowly manuevered himself into the position of power. The film may be the story of Thor's maturation and evolution, but it is the story of Loki's unravelling. He cries to his father in one pivotal scene, asking why he bothered to choose him to be his son if he was just going to ignore him over Thor anyway. He was fascinating and affecting to watch, and I can't wait to see what he does in the Avengers next year (he is slated to be the Big Bad, and I am salivating to hear him spout Joss Whedon one-liners).
Thor was surprisingly beautiful as well, with the largely-CGI scenes of Asgard and Jotunheim absolutely breathtaking. The Frost Giants, especially Colm Feore's King Laufey, were not incomprehensible monsters. Anthony Hopkin's Odin was, well, just what you'd expect from Anthony Hopkins. Pretty damn cool. And, the costumes! Loki was in particular beautiful, and I was disappointed every time he appeared on screen without that magnificent horned helmet.
In short, I really enjoyed the whole thing with very few criticisms. I do wish Thor's "Greek Chorus" of friends had been slightly more fleshed out; they barely got names. Otherwise, I kinda want to see the film again (and, maybe I will!) This definitely gives me hope for the Captain America film coming this summer, and for the comic book film genre in general. I hope Marvel continues to make smart choices like this. If they do, I'll keep buying tickets.