Chris Hemsworth brings the thunder in the title role of Thor, doing a terrific job of selling the Asgardian prince's vain pride, and an even better job of evenly transitioning to the selfless nobility that makes him the hero on Earth we recognize from Marvel's lore. His compelling star turn is playful but not farcical, and plays a big part in defining the film's appropriately unembarrassed B-movie tone, although as much credit should go to director Kenneth Branagh. A veteran of Shakespearean stage and cinema, Branagh may not have been the intuitive choice to helm one of Paramount's precious special effect extravaganzas, but what he might lack in action savviness he makes up for in theatricality, one of Thor's winning qualities. His way with actors is a benefit for the whole cast, which includes Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Colm Feore, barely recognizable beneath a fantastic makeup job that disguises him as the menacing king of the Frost Giants.
Not everything in the picture works. It stalls whenever the romantic subplot becomes the focus of the otherwise fluent screenplay, and the glossy CG-rendered realm of Asgard seems a tad overproduced sometimes, but like a good popcorn pick should, it remains enjoyable underneath all those layers of butter.
*** out of ****