Marvel Comics’ Thor suffers lately from rushed and uninteresting stories with no real degree of importance. I watched Thor in a theater and Thor: Tales of Asgard on DVD and neither seemed like more than a set up for another story. I got the feeling that both movies were made just to get Thor’s backstory out of the way.
In the case of Thor it’s simply to explain who the big blond guy with the hammer is in the soon-to-be Avengers. His story of a god fallen to hubris works well enough and his supporting cast carries their end of the deal, but star Chris Hemsworth contributes just enough to get by. His slipping Australian accent distracts from his lines frequently, though I know of no other actor better suited for the role physically. Huge, blond and gruff, he looks the perfect Norse Thunder God. He’s best when hurling Mjölnir into Frost Giants and screaming battle cries. Not coincidentally, so is the movie best when Thor is limited to doing so. The comedic elements on Earth, though, work well due to Kat Dennings contribution as an intern studying under astrophysicist Natalie Portman. Portman’s good enough in the role, far better than a Star Wars performance but the role hardly demands another Black Swan turn from her.
Again, my main beef with the movie is that from crater where the hammer was buried (Iron Man 2) in the beginning right through the stinger at the end, this felt a building block for Thor’s eventual membership in the Avengers. The origin story in the film’s center felt too bookended by the outside influence of other films both past and future. Thor’s movie never belonged solely to Thor in the way that Iron Man belonged to Tony Stark or The Hulk belonged to Bruce Banner. Maybe that’s just the nature of the character but he felt far too blank outside of his readily remedied rageaholic tendencies. Unlike Stark’s alcoholism or the Hulk’s ever present rampages, Thor has no personality issues he can’t resolve by stopping to think briefly or any external problems from that he can’t solve by hitting them with his hammer. With Thor almost every problem really is a nail. 3 ½ of 5 stars
Thor: Tales of Asgard suffers even worse as it functions only as a prequel to Thor. Everything presented in the latter is shown in the former but with the always annoying transformation of the lead character into a teenager. The preening young Thor learns humility and heroism through his folly, much like the older Thor of the theatrically released feature film. So, apparently Thor goes through this same transformation every few years, retaining nothing of the original lesson. I found the voice acting and animation dull and the story rehash since I had seen the other already. I’m starting to question whether or not the character even deserves better than this. A little frailty would go a long way with Thor, especially some moral questions about the use of his power that aren’t wrapped up inside one battle gone wrong or thrust upon him by his father’s judgment. 2 of 5 stars