How a 'special effects' movie should be done - with a strong human core
Set initially in the realm of Asgard, the movie quickly moves to Earth when Thor's rash behaviour threatens to re-ignite a war with the dealdy and impressive Frost Giants. It's here that Thor must discover if he's more than the 'vain greedy boy' his angry father has labelled him, and see if he can find a way to redeem himself and save Asgard.
Aided by Portman's scientist and her crew, he soon finds he's no longer able to throw his weight around so freely without his powers, and these scenes have very enjoyable comic effect. Thor himself is also played with a refreshing enthusiasm - it's nice for once to see a superhero who isn't agonising over past tragedies or crippled by emotional wounds, but is instead an optimistic, charismatic ball of boundless energy, only given pause when he fears he may be failing to live up to his responsibilities.
In his earth-bound quest, he's also hindered by SHIELD - the Marvel comics intelligence agency. Although they've cropped up before in Iron Man, I felt their presence here was a lot more natural, and it served the plot a hell of a lot better than Iron Man's seemingly 'crowbarred in' moments.
The fight scenes are spectacular, the effects utterly brilliant.
Asgard looks astounding, especially the glittering rainbow bridge that connects it to their portal device, and it feels like a real place of customs and traditions. The Frost Giants are a very enjoyable menace with some ingenious moments. And the one on one battles (especially that with a vast destroyer robot) are handled with great aplomb.
I wasn't sure why a theatrical director of Kenneth Brannagh's nature and with such a back catalogue of Shakespearean material would want to film Thor, until I saw it and realised it's basically a very 'Shakespearean' plot, with Thor displeasing his ruler Father and having to prove himself in time to fend off a threat to their kingdom, among other elements.
Branagh does a spectacular job, and the end result is an incredibly glossy action spectacular with a great hero and a satisfying self-contained story that works as a launch for the character as well as establishing his fans for the massive up-coming 'The Avengers' movie. I can't wait to see this in Blu-Ray, as I can imagine that in crystal clear high definition, it's going to be even more breathtaking than it was in the cinema.