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Movie review: 'Thor,' 3 stars

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in "Thor" directed by Kenneth

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in "Thor" directed by Kenneth Branagh, from Paramount Pictures and Marvel Entertainment. Credit: Marvel Studios

3 stars
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins

Kenneth Branagh, who’s directed no fewer than six Shakespeare adaptations, brings his penchant for wit to the comic book genre in “Thor.” The result is a blockbuster more entertaining than it probably ought to be.

Hailing from the extragalactic realm of Asgard, Thor is a headstrong warrior whose bloodlust leads him to break a truce with the evil Frost Giants. Tired of his son’s arrogance, papa Odin (Anthony Hopkins) banishes Thor to Earth to teach him a lesson in humility.

Stripped of his powers (including his almighty hammer), Thor falls in with a small team of scientists led by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and it’s a hoot to watch him adapt. “How dare you attack the son of Odin!” he roars at aggressors. “I need sustenance!” he barks at locals. The townies ogle him for his bizarre manners, but also because he’s ripped — one Thor bicep is about equal to one Natalie Portman head (which will make for some frightening love scenes when they presumably consummate the relationship in a sequel).

As Thor gets in touch with his softer side on Earth, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who longs to be the apple of their father’s eye, wreaks havoc in Asgard — and this is where the movie loses its way. Loki’s traitorous schemes come a-tumbling left and right, and the pile-up of exposition undoes much of the effortless narrative that Branagh spun in the film’s first hour.

Still, “Thor” is much too likable a movie to dismiss because of bungled storytelling. The cast, in particular, is strong. Hemsworth plays Thor with just the right amount of brutish bravado and playfulness, and even supporting actors — like Kat Dennings as a deadpan research assistant — leave an impression.

As for the visuals, they’re often burnished to the point of resembling a video game more than reality. Nevertheless they’re shiny and expensive and are sure to satisfy your inner blockbuster lover.

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