Giving Branagh the director’s chair might have been an unlikely choice, the same can be said for composer Patrick Doyle. Doyle also has a very Shakespearean pedigree (though he's penned the music for a Harry Potter film among — excuse the pun — scores of others). As does Branagh, Doyle pulls it off, with help of the London Symphony Orchestra. Don’t expect any nods to Wagner’s Ring cycle, though, when the Bifrost rainbow bridge and the gold shield-thatched walls of Asgard (Valhalla) are revealed, but Doyle’s Thor score is appropriately huge where needed, yet restrained and subtle when it needs be. And apart from a little Foo Fighters, the soundtrack mercifully spares us the marketing trick of inserting token metal or pop songs.
The sound design is superb: massive and icy when the Frost Giants attack,with resonating whirling vortexes arising when the Bifrost is activated. And it is subtle in places — a soft “hum” whenever anyone tries to approach Mjolnir. Unless you’ve got a flawless home theater (and can wait for the Blu-ray release), the sound effects alone are worth the price of admission. The mixing engineers did a terrific job; check out the precise balance between the triumphant score and the sound effects of the rainbow bridge being destroyed. Throughout the movie, the delicate balance of music and sound effects is maintained. As with the restraint in 3D gimmicks, there aren’t a lot of sound effects flying around the soundstage: a few well-placed swirls from the wormholes, for example, are just enough to immerse the audience in the whirling vortex.
There are enough cameos to make it clear that Thor is an installment in the larger Avengers series (the Avengers film should be in theaters next year). A nod to Iron Man will make insiders chuckle: When the metallic Destroyer appears, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents ask if this is one of Tony Stark’s creations. Nice. A teaser following the credits features Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, and an appearance by Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye shouldn’t be missed. Fans of the Marvel series will appreciate the reference to Dr. Donald Blake, Thor’s human alter ego in the comic. There’s even a cameo by Stan Lee: The creator of this comic version of the myth asks, after trying fruitlessly to move Mjolnir, “Did it work?”
Yeah, Stan, it most certainly did.
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