Marvel Studios have been methodically making their way towards a "Every Summer Box Office Domination", especially since they got into bed with Disney.
Their juggernaut now faces another barrier with the release of what was considered one of their "harder sells" to a public that have recently lapped up the grounded-in-reality exploits of Christopher Nolan's Batman saga... a Norse God of Thunder. And directed by The Bard Man himself... What could possibly go wrong?
In a word, nothing! Literally, despite all the factors stacked up against it, THOR is a perfect Blockbuster and yet another solid foundation block for Marvel to build their inter-connected saga's upon. Just like the unlikely pairing of a washed-up actor (Downey Jr.) and a kids movie director (Favreau) created the deserved surprise hit of Iron Man, director Kenneth Branagh (best know for his Shakespeare affiliations such as Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing) tries his hand at action and adventure whilst tackling the subject of a mythological God when modern audiences are queuing up to see "more realistic" heroes.
By going all out for it, Branagh melds different worlds to a point where a cut between the humoures exploits taking place on Earth doesn't jar with the serious implications occurring on Asgard - which is no mean feat. He balances the "fish out of water" Thor banished to Earth - smashing coffee cups and demanding more as if he were in the halls of Valhalla drinking beer - with the Shakespearean quarrelling brothers fighting for their father's favour. And none of it feels forced or out of place.
Pine, Portman, Hopkins and Hiddleston play it straight, letting the written dialogue deliver the jokes (of which there are plenty) rather than hamming it up for laughs, and Branagh in turn tilts his camera as much as possible to subtly remind us of its comic-book origins (if it ain't between 30 to 45 degrees to evoke the idea of comic story boards, then the camera isn't placed correctly!) Whether it's an in-yer-face opening sequence where Thor and his buddies take on the Frost Giants (graphically gripping) or where Portman and her human buddies reflect upon Thor's quirks (smirk-inducing), it gives hope for the rest of the entries from the Marvel cannon to come before they launch The Avengers next year.
And this time, do NOT leave your seat until the end credits have finished, you'll thank me for it.
UK release date: 27.04.11