6 May 2011

THOR (Dir. Kenneth Branagh, 2011, US) - Branagh's Blockbuster

Thor is yet another big budget comic book extravaganza from the Marvel universe and with the decidedly low key cast coupled with a more than competent director in the shape of Brit Kenneth Branagh it succeeds moderately in achieving its aims of sensational entertainment. This was a considerable financial gamble given the lack of an A list star in the main lead, Thor’s relative obscurity as a comic book hero and Branagh’s inexperience with blockbusters yet an old fashioned morality tale that forms the main conflict in the transparent narrative prevents the machinations from becoming caught up in the now generic pause for spectacular action. In many ways, Branagh’s planetary landscapes and hyperbolic production design resembles the world of Mike Hodge’s Flash Gordon – a cult favourite amongst science fiction fans today. With a sizable opening box office take, Thor also confirms the monolithic grip that the comic book genre now has over audiences and sets up a depressing notion that Hollywood is likely to retreat to such a bankable position for years to come. Whilst the Nordic mythology of Thor is predictably realised and sustained, this is an origins film and in some ways cynically works towards establishing a foundation for the likelihood of a franchise. With Disney’s 2009 acquisition of Marvel, the foreseeable future looks very bright for comic book fans but I’m not so sure if this means the same for cinema audiences. The main reason I watched Thor was for Branagh because I do think he is a fantastic actor and an under rated director in many respects. I'm happy this film has been commercially and critically successful as it might give Branagh a chance to pursue more personal cinematic ideas.

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