The film plunges you straight in to a dense 30-minute sequence in Asgard where we meet all the major players — Thor, Loki and their father Odin — and the notion that these extraordinarily powerful beings have been at war with a race of Frost Giants.
It’s bewildering at times, condensing nearly 50 years of comic history with a speed that can mean characters are paid scant lip service. You suspect there’s a lot of material on the cutting-room floor — the relationship between Thor and Loki, doesn’t really get going for a while.
When it does, though, as Loki manipulates the esurient Thor into defying his father’s orders,it’s powerful stuff. And when it comes to the Shakespearean material — and the relationship between Thor, Loki and Odin positively reeks of the Bard — it works.
So as father and sons square off against each other, it’s heady stuff, the three Hs attacking the material, and each other with fury and intensity straight from the West End stage. It’s intimate and affecting, yet as thundering and loud as you’d imagine gods would be.
Then, once you’re up to speed, the film yanks Thor off to the modern day and tackles the thorny issue of his near-omnipotence by separating him, and his powers, from his enchanted hammer, Mjolnir.
There’s a neat tonal shift, as human beings meet Thor and find everything he does or says ridiculous.
Here, Hemsworth comes into his own, adding new layers of humility and humour to his blustering God of Thunder.
At one point, Thor fights off hospital orderlies with an outraged, “You DARE attack the son of Odin?!?”. The fish out of water stuff works like a charm.
Hemsworth emerges from this a true star, adept at action, good with comedy, swell at the romantic stuff with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster (there’s a romantic streak a mile wide here) and with a physique cut like Kate Middleton’s engagement rock.
Thor, ultimately, stands on its own two feet. We’ll toast that with a glass of mead and a feast fit for a king.
RUNNING TIME: 130 mins
DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh
STARRING: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston