‘Thor’ moves superhero scene into realm of magic

In yet another rebooted story line, Hollywood has continued the buildup toThe Avengers” (May 2012) by introducing Thor, the God of Thunder, to the box office this summer.  “Thor” stars a well-chiseled Chris Hemsworth, who you might not recognize except for his brief appearance as James Kirk’s father in the most recent installment of Star Trek.  The leading lady Natalie Portman is easily recognized, making a sharp turn from a tortured ballerina to a physicist weak-in-the-knees for Thor.

The movie borrows from the comics, which borrow from Norse (Viking) legends about Thor, the hammer-wielding god.  In the movie, Thor is ready to ascend the thrown in magical Arsgard until his pride and (typical) ‘act-before-you-think’ actions land him banished to Earth by his father Odin.  Once there, without his magical powers, Thor falls in love with Jane, a physicist who happens to be there when he lands.  But Thor and his hammer are needed at home to help his people fight off his evil brother Loki.  The question is, can he become the man his father hoped him to be?

The CG in Thor is particularly convincing, considering that Thor is a comic book that mixes in magic.  The celestial storms and landscape scenes fall somewhere between reality and miracle.  Add in realms light years away, CG can imagine to its hearts content.  And the audience is treated to images and scenery of what they might expect divine, magical kingdoms in the sky to look like, such as the great Golden Hall and throne room that Thor’s failed ascendance takes place.  

For diehard fans, both delights and gripes abound.  They will instantly notice the cameo that Hawkeye, another Marvel Avenger hero, makes. They will also be well aware that Jane was actually a nurse in the comics, not a physicist.  Although the plot turns are thinly veiled, it is partially excusable because the characters themselves remain believable.  And Marvel used a combination of Norse legend, both versions of the original Thor comic, and good ol’ fashioned Hollywood creative license to keep some things new.

The romance between Thor and Jane is important, both in the comic books and the movie, as it is what ties Thor to Earth.  And while Natalie Portman’s act of fawning over a hot, shirtless guy comes seems as easy as it probably was in real life, there are scenes in which the romance detracts from the film, and tips the scales from slightly cliche to downright cheesy.

Either way, the entire cast is charming. The scene in which Thor gets tazed had the audience laughing, along with another in which Thor smashes his coffee cup on the restaurant floor, loudly requesting another in true Viking tradition.  But we can forgive him because he’s just not from this realm.

The mix of magic into the story takes away some of the grittier acting seen in other recent adaptations such as “The Dark Knight” or even “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.”  Thor is a special kind of superhero because he does not just have super powers or “mutations,” he has magic.  But that’s okay, because the movie is still aesthetically pleasing and enchanting, much like the character himself.

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And don’t forget to stay after the credits for another Marvel post-credits special scene.