By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 17, 2011 at 8:06AM
Paramount screened the first summer movie, Kenneth Branagh's Thor (May 6), for junket press and critics. Here's a sampling of early reviews, which largely agree that this is a good, not great comic-to-screen adaptation, Chris Hemsworth breaks out in the title role, and the film's earth-bound sections are its weakest:
Neither the star pupil nor the dunce of the Marvel superhero-to-screen class, "Thor" delivers the goods so long as butt is being kicked and family conflict is playing out in celestial dimensions, but is less thrilling during the Norse warrior god's rather brief banishment on Earth. With Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth impressive in the lead and helmer Kenneth Branagh investing the dramatic passages with a weighty yet never overbearing Shakespearean dimension, pic looks sure to reap big B.O. on the strength of its ready-made audience, but faces a tougher time attracting viewers for whom this type of fare is the exception rather than the rule.
The Hollywood Reporter reviewed from Sydney, Australia:
The Marvel universe moves into the cosmic realm with Thor, a burly slab of bombastic superhero entertainment that skitters just this side of kitschy to provide an introduction befitting the mighty god of thunder. It’s a noisy, universe-rattling spectacle full of sound and fury with a suitably epic design, solid digital effects and a healthy respect for the comic-book lore that turned a mythological Norse god into a founding member of the superhero team known as The Avengers.
Drew McWeeney of HitFix likes both the tone and world created by the film:
Chris Hemsworth, best known to audiences as Kirk's father in that powerful opening scene to "Star Trek," is just as good a fit for the character of Thor as Robert Downey Jr. is for Tony Stark, and that one thing goes a long way to making the film a pleasure to watch. Finding the right way to introduce the character and his mythology is the big task this movie has, and there were some very interesting choices made in deciding how to bring Thor to life. First, they dumped the notion of him changing into a human being, something that was part of the earliest version of the character that Marvel published. Originally, Dr. Donald Blake had no idea he was Thor until a chance encounter with a cane he found in a cave revealed his true nature to himself. In that version of the story, he had been sent to Earth by Odin to learn humility, and living his life as a human being in an infirm body was an important way of guaranteeing that he could not rely on his considerable physical power or his godly powers.
Outside of these occasional moments of comic relief, director Kenneth Branagh keeps the focus squarely on Thor's dramatic arc. The movie's strongest moments aren't necessarily the comic booky ones (although they are pretty cool), but rather the familial ones in Asgard. Thor's scenes with Loki and Odin crackle with an intensity and emotion sometimes lacking in the earthly scenes. These moments feel like the ones that Branagh and his leads were the most emotionally invested in, and that sincerity helps you buy into this otherwise fantastical world, one which we see far more of than the marketing has heretofore revealed...Thor may not be a game-changer for comic book movies, but it's a solidly entertaining one most noteworthy for taking what could have been utterly campy material and making it dramatic and relatable. There's action and otherworldly elements to appease the core fans and possibly even win over some skeptics, and enough humor and humanity to engage general audiences.
Simon Miraudo of QuickFix:
Thor fails to be either epic or intimate. Still, it’s far from a failure, and a bold experiment that still manages to be mostly successful deserves plenty of respect. We need to reward the projects that truly roll the die, unless we want to return to the chilling days of soulless franchise features churned out without any consideration of the fans.
Thomas Caldwell's CinemaAutopsy:
Chris Hemsworth is well cast as Thor, not just for his looks and almost comically perfect physique, but for the charisma he brings to the character. His transition from hot-headedness to humility is convincing and he’s able to play both the hero and the bewildered (and bewildering) oddity from another world. In fact, the inherent ridiculousness of the film’s whole premise is often incorporated to provide some fun chuckles without becoming full-blown parody.