3 Stars — Wholesome

The genius of the myths of the ancient Norse gods is their ability to magnify human strengths and weaknesses to obvious proportions. Thus, what might not be as apparent when seen in a mere mortal’s life becomes easily recognized on this much larger scale. In the lives of the gods, sibling rivalry becomes a threat not only to the peace of the family but also to that of the universe, while romantic love not only reaches across the distance between two hearts but across the light-years of space as well.

When the strengths of the myths are combined with the simplicity of a comic book, then the imaginations of children and the insights of adults become one. This is accomplished in Marvel’s Thor.

Very much a collaborative effort, directors Kenneth Branagh and Joss Whedon engage the writing skills of Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz and Don Payne to adapt the story written by J. Michael Straczynski and Mark Protosevich based on the comic books by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby. The combined skills of these artists give us a feast of visual, moral and political fare.

The title role of this Norse God of Thunder is played by Chris Hernsworth. The first-born and heir to the throne, Thor is the handsome son of King Odin (Anthony Hopkins). His younger brother, Prince Loki (Tom Hiddleston), is known for his silver tongue and magical arts, while Thor’s strength and warrior spirit is expressed through a weapon of unequaled power, a hammer named Mjoinir.

The uneasy peace of the nine realms connected by a magical-scientific bridge is breached when a clandestine attack against Asgard implies a traitorous presence within the realm. Such treachery fuels Thor’s warrior desires, so he defies his father’s will and starts a war. This causes him to be banished to Earth without his powers but with the promise to regain them if he learns wisdom and love.

We won’t share more except to note that Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finds Thor when he arrives on Earth and their mutual attraction begins.

The moral and political lessons are presented on a larger-than-life scale as pride and humility, loyalty and betrayal, courage and vengeance, genocide and compassion are all woven together in a tapestry of moral messages. The cinematic style is a feast of both mythical symbols and science fiction allusions presented in a comic-book style of simplicity that makes this film a wonderful adventure into Norse mythology. As it sets us up for sequels, we look forward to the next chapters in this tale.


» If you experienced sibling rivalry, what was the impact on you and your family? If you were King Odin, how would you have raised his sons differently?

» The genocidal rage that Loki expresses has been seen throughout history. Why do you think people turn so completely against a particular race of people?

» The governmental agents led by Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) are not shown to be the villains of this film, but the question is raised. Did you appreciate the respect shown the government or did you see them as being disrespected? Why?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.