Dir: Kenneth Branagh
Star: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg

Yes: that Kenneth Branagh. Hamlet. Henry V [but apparently not the first four...]. And now, a $150 million Marvel comics adaptation. Go figure. I suppose there is something a bit Shakespearean about this, with Thor (Hemsworth) disobeying his father, king of the Norse gods Odin and being exiled to Earth where he stumbles into cosmic scientist Jane Foster (Portman); his hammer lands elsewhere, and does a pretty impressive imitation of Excalibur, being embedded in a rock and resisting all efforts to remove it. Meanwhile, back in Asgard, the home of the deities, his brother Loki (Hiddleston) is plotting to show that he, not Thor, should be the true heir to the throne, with the help of the frost giants, who've been at odds with Odin since he kicked their chilly butts in a previous battle. Thor's friends travel to Earth, wanting him to return, but Loki sends his giant robotic minion - subtly named 'The Destroyer' after them. Destruction ensues, but I regret to report, at no point does anyone get to say, "Hammer time". Three writers on the screenplay, plus two more on the story, and none of them came up with this. Sheesh.

If Shakespeare were alive today, maybe he would be writing scripts for comic-book adaptations in Hollywood. Or maybe not. For despite Branagh, this is mostly a big, dumb action pic, though I have to say, the visual side is very pretty and shiny. Hemsworth looks like he could have been straight out of the WWE - either Triple H or Edge the closest candidates - and the rest of the cast are similarly broadly-painted, though who knew that Norse mythology had room for both African-Americans and Japanese. Who knew? That said, this is adequately entertaining, with a couple of brisk one-liners, and some amusing scenes as Thor adapts to life on Earth, such as the hero going in to a pet-shop and trying to buy a horse. Or, when that fails, a large cat. I laughed when a government agent sees The Destroyer and says, "That one of Stark's?", and there are, inevitably, nods towards the upcoming Avengers film, which will basically be an All-Star Game of Marvel superheroes. If you're excited by that, you'll love this, and the rest of us can simply be mildly entertained by the spectacle.

[October 2011]

I said.. Hammer time!
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