Thor: A Second Tier Marvel Comics Hero Gets A First Rate Production

The year 2233 a George Kirk was a First Officer in the J.J. Abrams Star Trek universe, played by Chris Hemsworth in the 2009 film. A mere two years later the Australian actor has landed the role as the Marvel Comic Group’s rendition of the god from Norse mythology and the instant luster for both Comicon attendees and Star Trek fans certainly isn’t lost on the producers and directors.

What is interesting about Thor is that – again – a second tier Marvel Comics hero gets a first rate production and while the acting is certainly light years ahead of the Sy Fy channels sophomoric made-for-TV Almighty Thor (broadcast on May 7, almost simultaneous with the release of this big motion picture) it is still the special effects which will keep you mesmerized.  

Natalie Portman will not be receiving an Academy Award nomination for her role as Jane Foster, and as All-father Odin, Anthony Hopkins (now about 73 years of age) comes off as a sort of wise-old Hannibal Lecter with a more appropriate diet. Rene Russo makes a comeback to the silver screen (after a 5 year absence) as Odin’s wife, which is less stressful than being Mel Gibson’s wife in the 1996 film Ransom, or appearing in Gibson’s 1998 epic Lethal Weapon 4 as Lorna Cole(and 1992’s Lethal Weapon 3). With Freejack under her belt, Russo is no stranger to Sci Fi, and though at 57 years of age in real life she’s 16 years the junior of Sir Anthony Hopkins, as an immortal that’s just a twinkle in the eye of this mythology-turned-comic-book universe.

The still very beautiful Russo makes 57 the new 20 standing next to the silver-haired actor who played one of the screen’s most compelling villains, now being as paternal to Thor and Loki as he was to Jodie Foster in Silence of the Lambs.

At $15.00 for a regular (not IMax) 3-D version of THOR, the movie better sparkle, and director Kenneth Branagh does a superb job of creating Asgard and a stunning rainbow bridge as well as spectacular outer space scenes which are worth the price of admission. The actors have a fun time not taking it all too seriously and the fight scenes are fun and not too cumbersome.

British actor Tom Hiddleston does a fine job as the conflicted brother of Thor, Loki, coming off as a sort of Star Trek: The Next Generation villain. Portman and Hopkins (and Russo) do not let their star power get in the way of Hemsworth and the special effects – it’s his movie – and it is a brilliant set-up along with the Hulk and Iron Man franchises for next year’s The Avengers – giving that group an opportunity to do what Fantastic Four and X-Men failed to achieve on the big screen. We shall see.

This Thor, however, is already doing a huge box office and will make back its $150 million dollar budget in about a week – and that seems to be the going rate these days for big, noisy, splashy comic book films. On a cultural level, it is nice to see that capitalism has given these action heroes a more important role in our lives, too often disregarded as irrelevant (my sixth grade teacher considering them a Communist plot…ahh…the good old 1960s…but that didn’t stop the nun from allowing us to purchase the colorful stories at bake sales!).

Thor works on many levels…the God of Thunder’s Asgardian pals look as out of place as Kirk and crew in San Francisco for Star Trek IV or – even more specific – the criminals from Krypton in Superman II walking down the street in their other-world attire. Don’t think Branagh wsn’t being coy about the cop of a scene from Superman II – it appears to be a very blatant nod to what came before – and it works as some comic relief for the usual – inevitable – fire and brimstone blowing up of buildings and automobiles that were such a part of Superman 1, II, III, IV – the cataclysmic happenings on Earth all seen before. But that makes the delicious sets from Asgard to the world of the ice people all the more appealing.

The film Thor is another step in the right direction for giving these iconic comic book characters from the 60s a new realm to conquer.

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He was a film critic for Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, has written thousands of reviews and biographies for, and produces and hosts Visual Radio. Visual Radio is a fifteen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed John Lennon’s Uncle Charlie, Margaret Cho, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere, Marty Balin, Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.