Andy Bockelman: Superhero movie ‘Thor’ brings the thunder

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

'Thor'

2.5 out of 4 stars

114 minutes

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston.

Now playing at the West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Carmike Chief Plaza 4.

As you go into the theater to see “Thor,” you need to be adequately prepared to see some astonishing feats, performed by a man who’s more powerful than a locomotive and can leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Wait, that was another guy…

Well, this particular hero also comes from another world and wears a red cape, but the piece of hardware he carries sets him apart from others of his kind.

In the mythical realm of Asgard, there is no lack of heroes, but standing out from the crowd is Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a diehard warrior-god who lets nothing prevent him from protecting his homeland. As the son of Odin the All-Father (Anthony Hopkins), the headstrong young man is next in line to rule the kingdom and ensure the future of Asgard.

At least he is until he disturbs the peace his father has maintained for centuries with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, whose dormancy has only recently been breached. Furious at his son’s actions, Odin declares him unworthy, stripping him of his indestructible hammer Mjolnir and exiling him to the realm of Midgard, otherwise known as Earth.

With his powers at bay as he falls to the land of mortals, Thor is nothing more than another vagabond speaking in archaic language as he wanders around the New Mexico desert, running into astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is most intrigued to find out how his sudden appearance relates to the meteorological anomalies of late.

Also interested in the Asgardian’s arrival is the covert espionage organization SHIELD, who hope to learn more about where he came from. But, back home, things are not well, as Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) seeks to steal Odin’s throne.

Let’s be clear — Hemsworth is simply not right to play Thor. That much is obvious, as the inexperienced actor struggles to look the part of the regal, mythic God of Thunder.

But, even though he makes Thor look more like a surfer dude than an age-old immortal, the miscast star has an irrefutable confidence that almost makes us forgive his weaker moments.

Hopkins on the other hand, is just right as Odin, the granddaddy of all the Norse gods, sporting a metal eye patch and bizarre headwear with nary a flaw. Hiddleston holds back a tad too much as devious trickster Loki, but as he bides his time, it allows him to build to a fine villainous reveal.

As far as other inhabitants of Asgard, Ray Stevenson, Jaimie Alexander, Joshua Dallas, Tadanobu Asano serve finely as Thor’s warrior cohorts. African-American actor Idris Elba is an odd bit of casting as Heimdall, guardian of Asgard’s interdimensional portal, the rainbow bridge Bifröst, but he doesn’t disappoint.

Meanwhile, on Midgard, Portman is fine as Jane, upgraded from her Marvel Comics role as Thor’s nurse love interest. Native Swede Stellan Skarsgård is a good addition as her colleague, Erik Selvig, whose childhood in Scandinavia was filled with the tales of Thor and Odin.

And, what Marvel movie would be complete without an appearance from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)? But, his is not the only cameo signaling things to come in later years…

As one of no less than five comic book movies this summer — two of which are based on Marvel characters — the adventures of Thor make for a bombastic entry into the season of enormous action flicks.

Though the hero doesn’t have quite the widespread appeal that Spider-Man, Iron Man, Batman and other comic icons enjoy, director Kenneth Branagh looks to go beyond the usual superhero circles. Besides employing some outstanding visual effects, Branagh crafts Thor’s story with a Shakespearean touch, touching on themes used in his own “Hamlet” and “Henry V” as the son attempts to live up to his father in conquest and otherwise.

There’s also a touch of Arthurian legend when Mjolnir lands in a desert crater, stuck in a rock, waiting for Thor to prove himself and pull it out.

But, if we’re looking at this story in a traditional five-act staging, only the first and final acts reach the true potential. Thor is simply at his best when he’s in Asgard, and being a fish out of water on Earth gets old fast as he makes the transition from divine prince to a guy who can gulp down Pop-Tarts, pancakes and boilermakers with reckless abandon.

At times, “Thor” crackles with excitement, though the electricity goes out of it in the middle of the story. Hemsworth may make the Norse deity look like a real meathead, but when he swings the mammoth Mjolnir, even the most skeptical audience member can’t help but cheer.

Now playing at the West Theatre and Steamboat Springs’ Carmike Chief Plaza 4.

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