"Thor Thubject (It's Hammerin' Time!)"
"Natalie Portman's Post-Oscar Slump, Part 2"
Never having been a fan of the comic, I could approach Thor without bias—I couldn't argue about the graphics on the hammer, or whether they followed the comics-mythology well, whether the casting was appropriate (they do well with what they got for material, and star Chris Hemsworth does a fine bellow just this side of Brian Blessed in his early, primal days).
But, as a movie, there's nothing too fresh about Thor, in fact, it reminded me a lot of Superman II, but with better architecture (designed by Bo Welch) with its super-beings walking through a hick-burgh doing derring deeds (in this case, a Gort like robot with a furnace grate for a face-plate—it's one of the genuinely cool things about this one), some dicey flying sequences that look a little flat and the big plot-holes in story-logic (if he could do that THEN, why couldn't he do it before?), and a little too much Unexplainium in how things happen and why.
By now, the Marvel films have become formulaic, let me count the ways: 1) love interest—which feels a bit tacked onto Thor (shouldn't there be a demi-goddess he should be attached to?); Stan Lee cameo (mercifully short); cross-characterizations and Marvel Universe details (S.H.I.E.L.D. is back with Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and a post-credits sneak with Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (which doesn't amount to much, there aren't any other super-heroes in it, and seems bottled up as it involves Stellan Skarsgård's research scientist and Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston), Stark Industries is mentioned a couple times and there's an intriguing sneak peak of another Avenger in the film, (played by an Oscar nominee) and three action set-pieces that involve a lot of hammering, lots of ice-giants who all seem instantly shatterable and not much of a threat, despite some gratuitous growling (Colm Feore is pretty much unrecognizable as the King of the giants), and leaping with single bounds.
Kenneth Branagh directs with a lot of emphasis on swoops over spires for 3-D effects, ornate throne rooms full of pixelated somethings or other, and a curious propensity for dutch angles (I don't believe there's such a thing as Norse angles). When Thor is at his most boastful, there is a tinge of Branagh's own Shakespearean projection, and Thor's brother Loki serves as an Iago-like presence throughout.
But, it ain't Shakespeare. The script wheels between the flat-nothing desert of New Mexico that seems to attract a lot of things falling from the Heavens (make that "The Seven Realms"—one of which is called "Anaheim") and the castles built on nothingness of the Asgardians, ruled over by Odin Allfather (played by Anthony Hopkins in "elderly King" mode, although he has flashes of interestingness here and there). Natalie Portman tries her best with the romantic sub-plot, but it's a "nothing-girl-friend" role and her sections have a slight "blah-ness" to them, though they punch it up with some wacky banter from a wacky intern (Kat Dennings). Thor feels like a second-rate Marvel movie, like the "Hulk" movies or the "Fantastic Four" films (but several steps above Howard the Duck*). Try as they might to make it relatable, the scale just fails to register as something that humans have an business being a part of...or even caring about. I found myself uninvolved and not caring. Thor might be a hit this weekend, but it's more of a myth.
Thor is a Rental. Thorry.