I am an unabashed comic book geek, but growing up Thor was one of my least favorite characters. I didn't hate him, I just never cared much for his stories. Even as a kid I thought the faux-Shakespeare-speak was overdone.
I never thought the god of thunder as depicted in Marvel Comics could ever reach mainstream popularity as a live-action hero. There was a nice reference to him in Adventures in Babysitting with Vincent D'Onofrio playing a Thor-like mechanic. There was a depiction of him, not very faithful to the comics, played by Eric Allan Kramer, in The Incredible Hulk Returns -- what could have been a great tale about the clash of the goliaths instead turned into a silly story that was played more for goofy laughs.
In the new Thor movie, director Kenneth Branagh delivers a fine and at times epic adventure. The 3D effects were unnecessary and distracting, but otherwise the visuals were spectacular. The scenes in Asgard were glorious and the battle with the Frost Giants in Jotenheim was fantastic. The scenes on Earth (Midgard) are probably the weakest but still had their strong moments, especially when the gargantuan Destroyer appears.
Luckily, Branagh gives the movie a great sense of spectacle and drama, some of the finest qualities from his better movies such as Henry V, and avoids the pretentiousness of his lesser flicks (William Shakespeare's Hamlet and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein). He really does an outstanding job drawing out terrific performances from his cast -- Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Idris Elba as Heimdall, and the rest. Chris Hemsworth is perfect in the lead, an endearing performance that instantly turns him into an A-list star. The female castmembers are especially noteworthy -- Natalie Portman as the emotionally sensitive love interest Jane Foster, Kate Dennings as the lovely, goofy but likable Darcy Lewis, and Jaimie Alexander who commands the screen every moment she appeared as the stunning Sif.
Over half a dozen writers are credited for the screenplay, but the story works well, managing the Norse mythology with a bunch of references to Marvel Comics lore. It's a great standalone action fantasy motion picture that also adequately sets up the upcoming Avengers movie that will bring some of the different Marvel superheroes into a single film. In the past, skeptics wondered if Thor, based on myth and magic, could fit in with the other science-based heroes like the Hulk, Captain America, or Ironman. It worked for many in the comics, but could it work in live action? The tone and execution of this film should put those questions to rest.
I may not have always been a fan of The Mighty Thor comics, but I certainly enjoyed and appreciated this mighty adaptation. As Stan Lee (who has a cameo) would say, "Excelsior!"