Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
Kenneth Branagh has directed “Thor” with the sort of gloppy boyishness that I’ve sometimes enjoyed in his acting. The tone is consistently breathless, jaunty even, and not a frame of it is underworked. I took it as an effective antidote to the “realistic” trend in superhero movies, epitomized by Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” films with their square literalism and glowering attitudinizing. By contrast “Thor” is dippy and cheekily hyperbolic; it has a Liberace loopiness, and it might be the gaudiest pop fantasy since the 1980 “Flash Gordon.” As the Norse god of thunder, Chris Hemsworth is all hunk, but he’s surprisingly good with humor. This comes across primarily during his scenes on Earth, where Thor’s father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes him to learn humility. The screenplay milks these scenes for fish-out-of-water yucks, and Branagh and editor Paul Rubell give the gags just the right emphasis — they come in from the side, like wisecracks, then get out quick. The New Mexico town in which the Earth material is set is filled with neon signs and rundown space-age architecture, and there’s a notable absence of chain stores. It’s like a daydream of ’50s-style shagginess, one rendered in strokes so broad that you register it half-subliminally, out of the corner of your eye. This provides an effective counterpoint to the visual bombast of Asgard, the realm of the gods, with its chiaroscuro shadings and riotous Jack Kirby detailing, and for a while the movie maintains momentum mostly by visual means, happily seesawing between its two main locations. It’s a pity that the plot eventually catches up with the art direction. Like so many over-marketed, effects-laden productions, “Thor” feels like it was written by committee and begun before the screenplay had found a satisfying shape. The motivations of Thor’s main antagonist, his brother Loki (a dyspeptic Tom Hiddleston), are many and muddled, and Thor’s group of Asgardian pals has little to do once they show up on Earth to rescue him; one suspects they were conceived in order to round out the line of action figures. It’s also something of a drag that Thor, the mighty god of storms, war, and oak trees, is forced to learn a politically correct lesson in order to assume Odin’s mantle. It eventually leads him into the arms of a bloodless Natalie Portman, who does nothing here to deter me from the opinion that she’s the worst major actress in American movies.