Thor

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Chris Hemsford and Clark Gregg debate the hierarchy of authority| Paramount Pictures

5 StarsWhy I Saw It: Invited to a press screening, and curious to see what Natalie Portman referred to in the an interview about providing strong material to girls. (Thor? Really?)

What I Thought: [Magnificent] Really. Sublime for me personally, and certainly Great in general.

Thor. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Kat Dennings. Paramount Pictures, 2011.

After behaving with such reckless arrogance as to raise threat of war, Thor of Asgard finds himself banished by King Odin ~ to Earth, where he encounters a scientist and her team studying (unwittingly) evidence of previous visits by his people.

My first moment of real attention to Thor came upon heads up to a new trailer and article regarding Natalie Portman’s motivation for participating (link’s gone ~ strong female character, good role model). Strong female characters, goodness for girls. Trailer promised serious action and much intrigue. Curiosity peaked.

Then the screening came scheduled on a Saturday morning. Uh-oh.

Usually when a film screens on Saturdays, it’s for the real kiddos: Yogi Bear and such fare. So was the trailer misleading (inconceivable!)? Was this actually more elementary than promised? [Insert furrowing brow]

Happily, not ~ and it was very nice that the promoters made Thor available when the non-driving set could attend. (Note: this would make a super Mother’s Day family outing.)

Thor‘s one of those movies that’s superb in virtually every sense, and won’t get any kudos for its prowess because A) it’s not “serious” and B) its cast and crew start at such a high level, their merely show up for work appears as though they’re not doing much.

Clark Gregg as the ranking federal agent provides the most fun on this front, with his inscrutable demeanor that keeps us guessing as to whether he’s a decent man doing a serious job, a bit of a bumbler in over his head, or a sinister calculator posing as Everyman. With Gregg, we never know what we’re going to get until things are fairly well underway. Love that about him.

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Tom Hiddleston nurses some serious resentments / Photo: Paramount Pictures

My next favorite was Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He’s a new one for me, who based on the trailer alone went straight onto the Interested list. He’d worked with director Kenneth Branagh before on the British television series Wallander (this on the heels of a recent Entertainment Weekly profile, I’m now officially about to swan dive into the work of Swedish novelist Henning Mankell, see you all in a few years…). It’s not easy to make the trickster sympathetic, and Hiddleston pulls it off.  He brings the mischievous energy we expect with Loki, and then expands the portrayal into new directions. The writers took small liberty with the traditional mythology, but it works; it creates additional drama necessary to keep a film moving without detracting from the original narratives, similar to the expansions of the Narnia adaptations.

On that note ~ the original narratives ~ the handling of the Norse mythology dazzles. The production design in all its aspects creates a spectacular rendering of Asgard, depicting it as modern (for them) and high tech magical (for us) while keeping our “ancient Vikings” sensation ever-present. In so doing, it acknowledges the lore from an historical perspective, but also states more recent interpretations; it’s a real treat for those interested in the ancient astronaut theory. And it was crazy fun to watch Stellan Skarsgard paging through an elementary school book on the myths; flashed me right back to fourth grade Henry David Thoreau Elementary library, where the Norse myths grabbed me and never let go.

Chris Hemsworth simply personifies Thor. The physique necessary to the role obviously limited the casting field, but no sacrifice was made even in the slightest. The man can act; more to the point, he may even belong on the Roller Watch ~ never once did I connect him to A Perfect Getaway (that doesn’t happen often, and is so delicious when it does). Stay tuned, I’ll report back on that one…

Finally, there’s Idris Elba, lovely to behold. Encased in armor with contact-covered eyes, standing stock still virtually the entire time, and uttering perhaps sixty words of dialogue, he’s a powerhouse. True, there was some production enhancement, but this ain’t no Avatar wizardry. He was just that good.

Everything and everyone else earns excellent scores, from every single aspect of production, to the strong female characterizations, to the impeccable comedic timing and dialogue, to the Oscar winners abounding, to the fun cameo by Jeremy Renner, to the plain ole’ solid story.

Multiple viewings pending, bring on The Avengers!

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