'Thor': A superhero with a hammer learns some lessons
Thor has the lumbering gait of a film fashioned by committee. All the requisite ingredients are wedged in: romance, redemption, a giant invincible robot. But it seems no one was paying attention to overall quality control.
Based on the Marvel comic book series, Thor stars Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth as the pulverizing Norse god. (Not that it matters, but Hemsworth looks a good deal more like NFL receiver Jeremy Shockey than he does the immortal Avenger.)
As our story begins, Thor is about to succeed his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as the ruler of Asgard, a realm that resembles the Emerald City as redecorated by King Midas. Like most elaborate CGI sets, Asgard looks magnificent and chintzy at the same time.
Stuff happens and Thor tries to solve things a little too forcefully. Hey, when you're a superhero with a hammer, the whole universe looks like a nail.
An incensed Odin strips his son of his powers and banishes him to Earth. It's a cut-rate exile, as Thor condenses Earth into a small, flyblown Potemkin Village in the desert. With a reported budget of $150 million, most of the film transpires on a set that makes Tremors look like Inception.
The guys in the cast (including Ray Stevenson and Colm Feore) fare all right because they can strut around like they're in a cartoonish version of Henry IV.
But the women are less fortunate, particularly Natalie Portman as a brilliant, independent astrophysicist who goes weak-kneed and giddy the moment she meets a man with biceps.
As Thor's mother, Rene Russo is reduced to flashing occasional looks of concern.
Our Goldilocks god has a thing or two to learn when he arrives on our planet. Striding into a modest pet store, he demands, "I need a horse!" But in remarkably short order, he discovers the values of sacrifice, humility, patience, and compassion.
Like its protagonist, Thor is handsome but vacuous. It is a triumph only for the costume department, the helmets and hammers division.
The 3-D effects are largely superfluous, adding only depth of field. Maybe IMAX will lend Thor the grandeur it thorly lacks.
Because as fanciful as the source materials are, as rich the mythology, this is a thudding failure of imagination.
Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@ phillynews.com. Read his pop-culture blog at www.philly.com/dod.