Marvel’s Thor now joins his comic book mates Spider-man, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, X-Men and others as a movie.
The plot is fairly basic. Thor is an arrogant young god who defies his dad and attacks their mortal enemies -- the Frost people. Ticked off, his formerly doting dad and god of the realm Odin tosses Thor from Asgard and banishes him to Earth. A comic twist or two has Thor befriended by scientists curious about the energy phenomenon that got him here.
Thor’s legendary hammer is also sent to Earth and lands not far from the fallen god. No one is able to pick it up, and the government has surrounded the crater. Thor’s quest to retrieve it introduces him to new, unique allies.
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Meanwhile, Thor’s brother Loki is a double-crossing jerk and takes over the kingdom when Odin goes into a deep and mysterious sleep. Conflict breaks out in Asgard and spills over to Earth.
Two big stars share the landscape with an excellent supporting cast. Natalie Portman is the scientist who falls in love with the super-buff god played by newcomer Chris Hemsworth. He does a fun and mock-serious Thor. Anthony Hopkins plays it straight and is very god-like as Odin.
Portman — who seems to be in about every movie this year — is always terrific and has girl-next-door fun with the part. Other than Stellan Skarsgard, Colm Feore and the always lovely, very talented and under-used Rene Russo, the rest of the cast is pretty much unknown.
While not rocket science, Thor benefits from the choice of directors. Kenneth Branagh’s last trip behind the camera was Hamlet. He acted in that one and also acted in and directed Much Ado about Nothing.
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Other than a brief appearance in one of the Harry Potter flicks and doing a really dumb version of Frankenstein, he’s better known for directing and acting in more cerebral work.
The good news for Thor is Branagh manages to infuse a bit of Shakespearean irony, intrigue and humor to a plot penned by three TV sci-fi writers.
Another plus for the God of Thunder’s film. Few of us expect a lot from comic book movies. Translating crude drawings into real life is tricky. Whether it’s animated or done by stunt professionals hanging from wires the animation often looks fake. Half the time the plots are as two-dimensional as the publications.
A third of the time they’re tolerable. But the upper-third — such as the middle Spider-man, the last two Batman flicks and the first and second Iron Man — are superb and can even be called excellent.
Thor lands in the upper third. It doesn’t do anything earthshaking, but it isn’t bad. Branagh and his effects people do a marvelous job of transporting you to the majesty of the halls of Asgard and the beauty of its surrounding heavens. It has enough dimensions to recommend literally and figuratively.
Catch Thor in a 2D format and the effects will be pretty good. Do the three-dimensional special thing and you’ll find them spectacular.
By the way, do sit through the credits or ask someone that does. A hint of what happens next is at the very end.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some violence. It opens Friday, May 6 at Regal’s Columbia Center 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.