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As a huge fan of Marvel Comics while I was growing up, I must say that it is great to see all of these comic book heroes come to life on the big screen. Although, not all of the Marvel movie ventures were hits (e.g., Daredevil, Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider, and the 2003 Ang Lee Hulk movie come to mind), others have been huge successes (e.g., Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Iron Man, Iron Man 2). I would rate Thor in the category of “success.”

In 2008, Marvel Studios began producing and distributing their own movies (previously they were produced and distributed through other movie studios) in what is being called the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Beginning with Iron Man (2008) and continuing with The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010), Marvel Studios is attempting to create a universe in which each movie shares a timeline and interconnects with the other movies. Each of the aforementioned movies contained “Easter Eggs” after the credits that makes a connection with other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Iron Man contained a short scene in which Tony Stark meets with Nick Cage of SHIELD who speaks to him about “The Avengers Initiative.” In The Incredible Hulk, there is a scene where Tony Stark speaks with Col. Ross and tells him “we’re putting together a team.” Finally, in Iron Man 2, SHEILD agent Colson drives to New Mexico where he reports to his superiors that he’s found “it” (“it” being Thor’s hammer). Thor is the latest installment to this cinematic universe.

The movie takes place in two worlds: The mythical world of Asgard where the Norse ‘gods’ live and Earth. Of course, the Asgardians are not ‘gods,’ but an advanced race of people who have mastered the art of combining ‘magic’ and science, and who appeared to the ancient Norse (and us as well) as godlike. Through the power of the Bifrost Bridge (which is a machine that allows them to travel through worm holes in space), the Asgardians can travel to all of the “nine realms.”

Thor, who is son to Odin the all-father and king of Asgard, is about to ascend to the throne of Asgard, when the coronation is interrupted by three frost giants (inhabitants of the realm of Jotunheim) who break into the weapon’s vault to recapture their Casket of Ancient Winters (the source of their power). After the frost giants are defeated in their attempt by the Destroyer (a indestructible robotic guardian), Thor and Odin get into a disagreement as to what the response to this attack should be. Odin wishes to let bygones be bygones, whereas Thor wants to mount an attack on Jotunheim and seek retribution. Against Odin’s explicit orders, Thor, along with his ‘brother’ Loki and four childhood friends (Lady Sif, Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg), travel to Jotunheim to ‘question’ King Laufey. A battle ensues and Odin is forced to rescue Thor and his friends in order to preserve what’s left of the fragile truce between Asgard and the frost giants. After which, Thor is stripped of his power, his hammer (Mjolnir) and banished to Earth. Odin casts a spell on the hammer that whoever is worthy can unlock the power of Thor.

While banished on Earth, Thor meets up with astro-physicist Jane Foster, her mentor, Dr. Erik Selvig, and her assistant, Darcy Lewis. Foster has been tracking weather and astronomical phenomena related to the operation of the Bifrost Bridge, which is what leads her to find Thor. At the same time, SHEILD agent, Phil Colson, finds Thor’s hammer and commandeers the landing sight from the locals who had set up shop. After hearing about the discovery of Mjolnir, Thor attempts to retrieve it, and after wading through SHIELD agents like they were nothing, is reunited with his hammer only to find out that he too cannot lift it (he is not worthy). Defeated, Thor is eventually released from SHIELD custody into the protection of Foster and company.

Meanwhile back in Asgard, Loki, who had earlier found out that he is not Odin’s son, but actually the son of King Laufey, manages to ascend to the throne after Odin falls into the “Odin-sleep” (a sort of “hibernation” sleep for Odin). Loki them embarks on a plan to trick the frost giants and King Laufey into invading Asgard so that he can kill Laufey, destroy Jotunheim with the power of the Bifrost and prove himself worthy to ascend to the throne permanently. Loki actually visits Thor while in SHIELD custody and lies to him by telling him that Odin has died due to the disappointment of Thor’s betrayal and that Thor must remain in exile to keep the peace. Thor, believing his brother, accepts his punishment.

When Thor’s friends learn of Loki’s plot, they sneak to Earth, with the help of Heimdal, the gatekeeper of the Bifrost, to warn Thor. Loki then sends the Destroyer to kill Thor and his friends. As the Destroyer begins raining destruction upon the small town in search of Thor, his friends attempt to fend it off as Thor seeks to evacuate the town’s inhabitants. Of course the Destroyer is no match for Thor’s friends and Thor sacrifices himself to save them. Thor, who has been stripped of nearly all his power, is even less of a match for the Destroyer. He attempt to communicate with Loki, who is controlling the Destroyer, to kill him and leave everyone else alone. Loki is only too happy to comply and the Destroyer deals a fatal blow to Thor. As Thor is dying, his selfless act of courage and sacrifice has broken the spell on Mjolnir and his power and status have been restored. Thor then dispatches the Destroyer and returns to Asgard to thwart his brother’s plans.

The movie ends with Thor defeating Loki and destroying the Bifrost to prevent the destruction of Jotunheim; which he is able to do. In the battle, Loki appears to have died as he falls off the Bifrost into the abyss of space. With Odin restored, Thor takes his rightful place as his son and heir, even though he longs to return to Earth and Jane Foster, with whom he has become attracted.

I really enjoyed the movie. I thought the casting was well done. Chris Hemsworth does a wonderful job as Thor and Tom Hiddleston plays Loki to a “T”. Jane Foster is more than ably played by Natalie Portman, and who can beat Sir Anthony Hopkins as Odin? As a comic book geek, I can also say that Thor was a very good representation of the look and feel of the comics. As you see the scenes in Asgard, you can almost feel the influence of Jack Kirby’s space age art leaping off the screen. They even manage to pay homage to the old comic book identity of Thor, Donald Blake, by having Thor wear his clothes and assume his identity in the movie (Donald Blake being an ex-lover of Jane Foster in the movie). Plus as a piece of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor fits in quite nicely with the other three movies. The “Easter Egg” at the end of the movie introduces a strange power cube that will play a prominent role in the movie Captain America: The First Avenger, which was released two months after Thor. We also see that Loki is not quite as dead as we were led to believe. The morale of the story is a good one too, namely that there is more to a leader than martial skill. Thor was Asgard’s greatest warrior, but he was also extremely arrogant, vain and all to eager to start a fight; all bad qualities for a king. Through his exile and his relationship with Jane, Thor learns to temper his arrogance and warrior skills with the much needed qualities of humility, compassion, honor and sacrifice. A good ruler is one who is humble and wise and seeks the betterment of the people under his care.

I look forward to reviewing Captain America when it comes out on video, and the culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the release of The Avengers in 2012.

Thor: 3 out of 4 stars!