2011, PG-13, 113 min. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Rene Russo.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 6, 2011

Not to be confused with Canadian metallurgist Jon Mikl Thor – although what a multiverse movie that would have made – this is instead the long-awaited cinematic adaptation of Marvel Comics’ popular take on Norse mythology and the eponymous God of Thunder. If you're not familiar with Thor's backstory, far be it from me to recount it here; go grab a copy of Marvel's August 1962 issue of Journey Into Mystery #83 and proceed from there. (You've got half a century of catching up to do, you slacker, you.) This film version is one of Marvel's better big-screen adaptations, although it must be said straight off that the superfluous use of 3-D, which consistently darkens the film image, renders the brilliant crimson of Thor's flowing cape and the golden spires of his otherworldly homeland, Asgard, less than flatteringly. Following a bloody contretemps involving the dread Frost Giants, the arrogant, pouty Thor (Hemsworth, perfectly cast) is stripped of his all-powerful war hammer Mjølnir and cast out of Asgard by his father, King Odin (Hopkins doing Hopkins doing Titus). Wormholing his way to Earth (specifically the New Mexico desert, an area well known for the frequency of Unidentified Flying Gods in its skies) Thor encounters scientist Jane Foster (Portman) and friends, who wonder, rightly: Who is this muscle-bound mook with delusions of demi-godhood? Also pondering that question are Mulder and Scully, er, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson (Gregg), who wants to know what's up with that giant war hammer that held fast to the desert floor like a more practical Excalibur. Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Thor's brother Loki (Hiddleston), the Norse god of mischief, has usurped the throne and allied himself with the Frost Giants, or something. This film, which serves, like the Iron Man, and The Incredible Hulk films before it, as one big set-up for the Marvel's forthcoming Avengers superfolk mash-up, and really, if you don’t know Thor already, you're likely to walk away in a daze. There's so much backstory to cram in – Loki: Evil or ambitious? Discuss. The Destroyer: WTF? Discuss. Thor moves at a breathless pace, taking zero time for anything resembling the endearingly nuanced romance between, oh, I dunno, Spider-Man and Mary Jane. It's a spectacle, all right, and spectacular at times: Hemsworth nails Thor's royal insouciance and even injects a fair amount of humor into what could have been a dour downer of a deity. All told, though, Thor suffers from Iron Man 2 syndrome: too much backstory, too many subplots and character introductions, and not nearly enough full-frontal nudity from Natalie Portman, who frankly is given very little to work with here. (Seriously. Tell me geeks wouldn't flock to the multiplex in record numbers for even the barest hint of Portman's truly divine charms. Talk about a Thorgasm.)

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Thor, Kenneth Branagh, Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Rene Russo

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