Of all the Avengers -- Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America -- Thor was the most problematic superhero to bring to the big screen because, unlike the other earthbound fellows, he's an immortal being from a fantastical world far away. Leave it to director Kenneth Branagh to bring real Shakespearean drama and excitement to "Thor," which stars Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth as the titular towhead.
Thor is a cocky, arrogant warrior who is about to ascend to the throne and replace his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), as king of Asgard. The God of Thunder's swank coronation soiree is ruined by fearsome Frost Giants, ancient nemeses that crash the party in an attempt to steal back the source of power taken from them centuries before by Odin. Thor pisses off his father by traveling to the Frost Giants' planet and stirring up war, so Odin strips Thor of his powers and casts him down to Earth as a mortal.
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Fate intervenes as Thor, after falling through a rainbow-colored wormhole, is struck by the RV of astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who is studying the phenomenon with Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and her assistant, Darcy (Kat Dennings). Thor sets out on a mission to recover his magical hammer, Mjolnir, which he cannot wield again until he proves himself worthy. Meanwhile, back on Asgard, Thor's brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has seized the throne and wants his brother to remain in exile forever, but Thor's warrior pals escape to Earth to bring Thor back to his home world so he can clobber some sense into his brother and bring peace back to the nine realms.
Even though the plot of "Thor" seems outlandish, if not silly, when written down, Branagh expertly combines the Norse mythology culled from the comic books with the real family drama of two brothers vying for their father's respect. Hemsworth -- who claims he never lifted weights before preparing for this role -- looks every bit godlike, and Portman can't help but notice along with the audience. The chemistry between the two seems palpable as Portman gets a handle on Thor's hammer... and heart.
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The film is sprinkled with some welcome bits of light humor, too, as Thor, trying to adjust to an unfamiliar Earth, joyously smashes his mug in a restaurant after enjoying some coffee, or gets sedated at a hospital for ranting about his godlike prowess.
You might have enjoyed "Thor" in 3-D in theaters, so Paramount is releasing a limited edition Blu-ray 3-D of "Thor" -- the studio's first real 3-D disc -- that comes with a regular Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy. No matter what dimension you choose to watch "Thor" in, it's one of the more enjoyable superhero films of late, and will whet your appetite for the God of Thunder's return to the big screen in "The Avengers" next year. Be sure to watch the short post-credits scene for a hint of what is to come.
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Extras! The standalone DVD has the short "Road to 'The Avengers'" featurette and deleted scenes, but the Blu-ray contains both of those plus more deleted scenes, seven behind-the-scenes featurettes and "Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant," which takes you deeper inside the Marvel universe and unveils secret plans about "The Avengers."