May 12, 2011
By Conor Gilliland *

By Conor Gilliland *

Kenneth Branagh has struck super-hero gold with his latest directing achievement – “Thor” – as he brings a touch of virtue and humor to the most entertaining comic-book-on-the-big-screen since “Iron Man.”

The movie begins with the coronation of the new All-king of Asgard, the young and rebellious Thor (Chris Hemsworth). However, the pomp is interrupted when frost giants break into Asgard to reclaim what Thor's elderly father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), took from them – a frosty “casket” from which the frost people derive great power. The attempt is thwarted but not forgiven, at least not by Thor.

Thor, along with his friends, travel to the frost giants' home planet to teach them a lesson, against Odin's orders. When they get cornered by the frost giants Odin rescues them, but punishes Thor for his disobedience by stripping him of his power and his mighty hammer, and casting him into exile on Earth.

What follows is a fluid interplay of two story-lines, one terrestrial and one celestial. On Earth, Thor struggles to figure out who he is without his former power and purpose. Back on Asgard, Thor's brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) emerges as a jealous usurper of the throne.

The two narratives are weaved together through the bifrost – an inter-dimensional channel known as a worm-hole to earthlings like astro-physicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Jane's interest in such phenomena lead her to Thor's landing site and, later, a youth-appropriate romance with the God of Thunder.

In addition to his son, Odin also casts Thor's mighty hammer to Earth. And by an enchantment, Odin secures it so firmly in a stone that only the “worthy” one would be able to remove it. In short order, a shanty-town of farmers and BBQ's develops around the hammer while would-be champions attempt to remove the hammer.

That is, until the feds show up and secure a perimeter around the hammer. Thor locates the hammer site and breaks through the perimeter. He makes an attempt to remove the hammer only to realize he is not worthy – at least not yet.

Meanwhile on Asgard, we learn that it was Loki who let the frost people through the bifrost to steal the casket, and has further plans to kill his father, Odin, and usurp the throne – leaving Thor in exile on Earth.

Thor's close warrior friends travel through the bifrost to Earth to tell Thor of Loki's plan.

In a story of maturity and redemption, Thor rediscovers his role as the God of Thunder and his purpose in the fight against evil.

Branagh, a British actor/director famous for his Shakespearean appropriations to the silver screen, brings a flavor of humor to the movie as well. The humor, suitably described as: Proper British royalty bumbles through crude American West culture, hits home and delivers several good laughs.

Some intense sequences of magical violence and one mild romantic scene might be inappropriate for some small children.

Conor Gilliland is an affiliate professor of philosophy at Metropolitan State College of Denver. 
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