Saturday, 29 September 2012
Unfortunately, Thor is little more than perfunctory world-building in preparation for The Avengers. Despite a storyline that takes place over three distinct realms, Thor is surprisingly small in scale. Earth action is rooted to a tiny desert town and a few anonymous science rooms. Asgard is one gigantic, empty room, the Norse pantheon shrunken down to Thor's family unit and a few bumbling acquaintances.
Jotunheim, the domain of the frost giants, is one starkly lit glacier, manned by an army of unremarkable action figures. The cosmic creativity of Jack Kirby and Walter Simonson is lightly stressed in the winding, celestial architecture of Asgard, but it's no exaggeration to say that there's significantly more imagination in a film like cut-price Cannon's Masters of the Universe than this.
Thor isn't completely without merit though. When the plot will leave him alone, Chris Hemsworth gets to play Thor as an arrogant super-Viking, inclined to booze and batter his way around exile. This culture clash is quickly abandoned to knuckle down to action machinations, but it's the best use of the actor. Hemsworth, and the film around him, are much more comfortable tuned to the central character's hulking, petulant charisma. Thor is much more fun to watch striding into a pet shop and demanding a steed than stranded in unclear, canted, computer animated drudgery.
Tom Hiddleston's Loki is similarly schizophrenic, pinballing back and forth between an interesting, conflicted adversary and a panto villain. With all the major players locked in dynastic drama, it falls to Idris Elba as Heimdall to stress the otherworldly. Elba's God seems to operate on an entirely different plane of consciousness to his Norse stablemates. His speech and intonation are slow and soft, his gaze always locked elsewhere. There's a sense that the universe's information is constantly flowing into him. Heimdall is unmoving and eternal where the other Gods actually seem rather temporary. Elba's performance is the only thing in Thor that evokes a real sense of wonder Everything else borders on dull.