"Thor" gets summer off to thunderous start

Mon Apr 18, 2011 1:39pm EDT
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By Megan Lehmann

SYDNEY (Hollywood Reporter) - The Marvel universe moves into the cosmic realm with "Thor," a burly slab of bombastic superhero entertainment that skitters just this side of kitschy to provide an introduction befitting the mighty god of thunder.

It's a noisy, universe-rattling spectacle full of sound and fury with a suitably epic design, solid digital effects and a healthy respect for the comic-book lore that turned a mythological Norse god into a founding member of the superhero team known as The Avengers.

The arrogant warrior Thor's great conversion, central to the plot, is unrealistically lightning-quick and the movie's dramatic arc falters amid the constant shifts between earthly and celestial realms. But execs at Marvel Studios, gambling heavily on the success of "Thor" and the upcoming "Captain America: The First Avenger" to set up next summer's ensemble behemoth "The Avengers," can rest easy: You've built it and they will come. They may even bring a date.

"Thor," which world-premiered in Sydney on Sunday, opens in various foreign markets ahead of its North American bow on May 6 through Paramount.

The ultimate accessibility of Thor's fantastical world is due in no small measure to the good-humored direction of Kenneth Branagh, a man with a highbrow history who knows his way around an epic tale, and a star-making turn from Chris Hemsworth.

As the hammer-wielding protagonist who learns humility among the humans, the little-known Aussie soap star (last seen briefly as Captain Kirk's father in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot) shoulders the burden of selling this $150 million entrant into the ever-expanding Marvel franchise.

Branagh may convey a lofty intellect to the Shakespearean interplay of feuding fathers and sons, and co-stars Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman the actorly gravitas. But the 6-foot-3 Hemsworth adds the winning ingredients, bringing a lusty Viking charm to his rumbling Olde English line readings, a towering physicality and biceps that look forged in a furnace. Verily, he is ripped.

Thor crashes into being in a desolate stretch of New Mexico desert, his face planted inelegantly against the windshield of an RV driven by Natalie Portman's storm-chasing scientist Jane Foster.   Continued...