When I was a kid, all I knew about Thor was he had long blond hair and big muscles and he carried a huge hammer and he was a god. My fantasy life took over from there. To be honest, I had just as big a crush on his  nemesis, brother Loki, whose horns and lackadaisical villainy were seductive.

Those roles are almost reversed in Thor, the new live action film that kicks off the summer movie season. One look at bearded, impossibly over-muscled Aussie Chris Hemsworth as Thor and you’ll believe in at least one god.

Some mythologies are inherently more receptive to cinematic expression than others, and it was a stroke of genius to hire Kenneth Branagh to direct this. He gives the story a Shakespearean scope, with Loki playing Iago to Thor’s Othello. He also knows something of character development, humanizing Loki and making the bigger-than-life characters relatable.

There are some slow parts, and the opening is a visual muddle that doesn’t benefit from the 3-D add-on, especially when the special effects themselves are so impressive. The penultimate battle, with a hulking robot called The Destroyer, has a primal urgency that sneaks up on you. And the art direction is a glorious fantasia of otherworldly grandeur. It’s almost as pretty to look at as Thor himself. Almost.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Opens today in wide release.
Three stars

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 6, 2011.