THOR is Marvel’s first big summer blockbuster (soon to be followed by X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER) and serves as a stepping stone towards next summer’s THE AVENGERS. It tells the tale of Thor, the son of Odin, who is banished to Earth as punishment for his rebellious nature right before he is about to take the throne and rule the fantastical realm of Asgard (Capitol city of the Norse Gods). This was a fun introduction to the Thor universe, with a few minor shortcomings that prevented this from being something truly epic and great. Those Shortcomings aside, this is most definitely a fun summer movie full of cool characters, an engaging story with beautiful landscapes, and some pretty cool action sequences.

THOR is well directed by actor turned director Kenneth Branagh (HENRY V, WILD WILD WEST) and stars and amazing lineup of actors and actresses that includes Chris Hemsworth (STAR TREK) as Thor himself, Anthony Hopkins (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) as his father Odin, relative unknown Tom Hiddleston (WALLANDER) as Thor’s brother Loki, and Natalie Portman (BLACK SWAN) as Jane Foster who serves as Thor’s human love interest. All of the leads do a wonderful job portraying their characters and Hemsworth truly shines here as our lead. He is the arrogant and rebellious son of Odin who we see as a complete bad ass in the realm of Asgard and an old softy during his time on Earth where people can’t decide if he is crazy or not. Hiddleston as Thor’s mischievous brother Loki and Hopkins as Odin (father to both) play their roles well and it is fun to watch the family dynamic as Odin gives Thor the attention Loki has always desired.

The rest of the supporting cast is divided between the residents of Asgard and the puny humans of Earth. On Asgard, Thor is accompanied by a rag tag group of warriors, including the awesome Ray Stevensen (ROME) as Volstagg, who are fun to watch but offer little in terms of depth. Also on Asgard, actor Idris Elba (THE LOSERS) plays the gatekeeper between realms named Heimdall who is perfectly stoic and bad ass. On Earth, Portman is joined by fellow storm trackers/scientists Stellan Skarsgard (MAMMA MIA!) and Kat Dennings (DEFENDOR) who are the ones that discover Thor upon his arrival to the Earthly realm. Skarsgard does well as the protective father figure and Dennings serves as the bulk of comic relief on Earth often reminding me of a more attractive version of Jar Jar Binks. Both starring and supporting characters create a rich (if not over crowed) array of fun characters to join Thor on his adventure.

THOR does a fantastic job blending the realm of the supernatural with that of Earth. Nothing felt cheesy or out of place and the transition between the beautiful landscapes of Asgard and the familiarity of Earth never felt abrupt. One major complaint I do have with the Earth portions of the movie however was the obsessive use of product placement. I HATE it when movies cram ads in the background and it completely rips me out of the universe. How many times do I need to see a Seven Eleven, a Bank of America, or references and ads for Southwest Airlines. Get that crap out of my movies please! Those minor nitpicks aside, Branagh really tackled what was potentially a confusing mess of a story and found a way to seamlessly combine the worlds and make everything interesting and easy to relate to. This has to be one of the hardest Marvel franchises to convert into a modern story and I was pleased to discover just how cool and engaging this film turned out to be! Well done Marvel and team!

Luckily the bulk of the movie was set in Asgard or other supernatural realms (just as I had hoped) and the Earth sequences were limited to just an old beat up town in the desert with a crap ton of product placement ads. I do feel as if there was somewhat of a missed opportunity to play up Asgard a bit more. While we were treated to a handful of sweeping long shots of Asgard (which look awesome), we only really get to visit the throne room and the gate between realms. It all felt a little too confined and I would have loved to see the characters in their natural home a bit more. On a more positive note, the gate between realms was very cool and the trip to the Frost Giant’s realm was welcome because it showcased a huge jagged rock infested landscape with a cool blue hue that set the stage for the movies most memorable moments and bad ass action sequences.

The main draw of THOR, or any superhero movie for that matter, is the action sequences. While THOR was full of action sequences, I never felt like there was anything that truly shined besides what we get in the opening battle set in the Frost Giants realm. Seeing THOR at his finest beating the living crap out of a ton of frost giants and creatures was a sight to behold. The action was intense, fun, and something fresh and new. We got a true sense of Thor’s power right off the bat. The problem with that is we never really get to see anything cooler than what we get in the beginning. The action in Thor definitely felt like dessert before dinner because we were shown to the coolest stuff first. After the awesome war in the frost realm, we are treated to a handful of cool, yet underwhelming, fights between some of the main characters and that huge robotic creature that shoots fire out of its face that I’m sure you saw in the trailer. I was expecting that fight scene to be the ultimate one, but instead it was all a bit underwhelming. Nonetheless, the action was frequent and never dull.

While THOR is indeed a fun summer blockbuster well worth your dollars, it just seemed like a bit of a missed opportunity as a true fantasy epic. It makes me wonder what the film would have been like if it was a stand-alone project instead of a lead in to THE AVENGERS. It is obvious that THOR is a movie that is just one in a handful to set up THE AVENGERS and I think that gives it a bit of an identity crisis. THOR is not a bad movie by any means, it’s just not mind-blowing or overly fantastic like I had hoped. I had an absolute blast with the action in the frost giant’s realm (worth the price of admission alone), the characters are fun and well cast, and the pacing and overall story is smooth. Overall, THOR is yet another awesome movie to kick start this summer blockbuster season (the other being FAST FIVE) and I can’t wait to see where the character goes in next year’s THE AVENGERS.

Final Score: 8 out of 10