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by Sine Thieme, a writer and mother of four who is new to South Africa and busy chronicling her experiences on her blog, Joburg Expat.

I have no patience for people who don’t like Harry Potter because a boy doing magic is not realistic. The same goes for the Narnia series and the idea of this other ancient world. There are so many great parts in these stories, and so much to learn from their characters, that all you have to do is suspend your disbelief of the overall premise and truly enjoy them.

But I admit I struggled a bit with that in the movie Thor. There was just too much all at once. It starts out promising, with a mysterious cosmic beam somewhere in the desert of New Mexico, which the scientist Jane (Natalie Portman), together with her father and sister, sets out to track. The experience soon turns scary and they scramble to escape in their truck, only to accidentally hit a man who appears out of nowhere. So far so good. But then we’re taken back in time to Norway in the 10th century to learn about an ancient war that involved several battling worlds, or realms, with the one of Asgard under King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) victorious, and since then the protector of mankind by keeping the peace. Only the peace is now threatened as an aging Odin is handing his son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) the crown while traitors from the realm of the Frost Giants break into Asgard to start a new war. Thor, hot-headed and easily provoked, decides to defy his father’s wishes and takes his friends to Yodenheim, where a lot more fighting ensues, which is one of the scenes I found a bit hard to believe. It’s part gladiators, part intergalactic warriors, and part mythical gods. With, oddly, some medieval-type horse riding thrown in for good measure. In any case, Odin is eventually able to save the group from certain death but is furious with Thor and banishes him to Earth, bringing us back to the start of the movie, as of course the man appearing out of nowhere is Thor.

I think it might be easier to be drawn in if you knew the Marvel comic series this is all based on, which would give you a good background as well as appreciation of this universe of different realms and the role of the gods and demigods populating it. But, being a mother – even if an understanding one – I’ve never heard anything about any of this, and it took me a while to find my way through all these worlds and feuds to embrace them wholeheartedly.

I liked the movie much better once Thor was on Earth. Stripped of all his powers but still very strong, he sets out to get back Mjolnir, his magical hammer, which has landed not far away and attracted a big crowd of spectators as well as a group of vaguely sinister FBI-like government workers intent on analyzing it. There were some comical scenes when Thor, used to being a god, clashes with modern-day inconveniences such as moving vehicles, but he soon learns his way around (conveniently being the English-speaking kind of god), helped by Jane, who is intent on getting back all her equipment confiscated by the government guys. As you might have guessed, the two of them fall in love and make a very good pair. It turns out getting back Mjolnir is not as easy as it looks, because Odin stipulated that only “one who is worthy of its powers” would be able to carry it, and Thor’s brother Loki (brilliantly played by Tom Hiddleston) further complicates things by waging his own battle for the future of Asgard.

I personally could have done with a lot less heavy fighting and all sorts of unbelievable weapons (that miraculously never hit the good guys even though huge fireballs are flying every which way), which is also a reason I wouldn’t take any of my younger kids to see this movie. In the end it all does come together and the storyline is pretty good. Overall, Thor reminds me of Star Trek the movie, with the same epic battle between good and evil. I especially liked the coming-of-age of Thor’s character, the idea that you have to be more than brave to be a wise leader, that you have to truly care for others, putting your own ambitions aside, that not strength and power but humility and self-sacrifice will gain you the greatest respect. Oh, and the acting was also pretty good. The ending of the movie was especially redeeming. Not cheesy and, of course, leaving room for a sequel!

Rated: PG-13

Length: 2 hrs 10 min

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins

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