I consider myself a comic book nerd, but admittedly I haven't read any of the comic books featuring heroes from the Avengers team. Iron Man, Captain America, the Incredible Hulk...none of them every really appealed to me the way Marvel's X-Men or DC's Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman did.
Considering that superpowered god-like characters populate much of the DC universe, it's hard to figure out why I had such low interest in the son of Odin. Maybe it was the winged helmet, the girly locks of golden hair, the red cape that made him look fabulous is a way that really wasn't that flattering.
The movie version, however, distills the origin tale down to a palatable hero's journey. Branagh does an excellent job of presenting Thor to the audience in a perfect two-hour package that will lead into the Avengers movie quite smoothly.
Briefly: Thor is the heir to the throne of Asgard, another world ruled by viking-type people with crazy magic and science. His father, Odin, played by the venerable Anthony Hopkins, deems him unworthy and casts him out to exile on Earth. There, he meets scientist Jane, played by a charming-as-ever Natalie Portman, whose research into the phenomena that brought Thor to Earth has been confiscated by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.
Some stuff happens, and there's lots of big fist fights, explosions, shiny teleportation, etc. It's not particularly complex, and you can pretty much tell who the bad guy is within the first five minutes. Like most superhero movies now, you can count on lots of action and a little melodrama. Actually, in Thor's case, there was lots of it, including the fall-to-your-knees, roar-at-the-sky bit that's a prerequisite of all dramatic comic book moments.
But that's half the beauty of this film. Chris Hemsworth does an excellent job of not taking himself too seriously in this role as the really unbelievable God of Thunder. I mean, seriously. He's a really, really, REALLY hot guy who swings a hammer and uses it to fly. Any minute now, you think he's going to turn to the camera and wink. If Branagh had tried to do this any other way, the movie would have been dull and stilted.
Overall, Thor was fun and worth the two hours it took. It will be interesting to see Hemsworth on screen with his fellow Avengers, and the franchise is sure to take off with all the effort they've put into the characters. If, of course, you don't like superhero movies... well, then, there's only one real reason to go see this film: