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Thor’ more Marvel mediocrity

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Remember the end credits of “Iron Man 2” where they discovered Thor’s hammer?

Even after the full-length theatrical version of “Thor,” that moment likely remains the hero’s most exciting cinematic moment to date.

Director Kenneth Branagh tells the tale of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who is about to ascend to the throne of Asgard, replacing his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). After being provoked by rivals from Jotunheim, Thor and his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), go to Jotunheim to fight. Odin intervenes, and, displeased with his son, exiles Thor and his famous hammer to Earth.

Landing in New Mexico, Thor encounters a team of scientists, led by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). When the hammer is found, it’s taken control of by S.H.I.E.L.D., which also confiscates all of Foster’s science equipment. Later, Thor realizes things are not as they seem, and must fight to return to Asgard to restore order.

The problem with “Thor” is it’s a huge tease. Fifteen or so minutes in, Thor heads a super-cool action piece, fighting “Avatar”-like blue people on Jotunheim. Sadly, it gives the impression there’s going to be plenty more fun in store, but the reality is the film’s momentum stops there and heads off on a one-way trip to Boringville.

If you can praise “Thor” for anything, it’s the visuals. Apart from Portman, Asgard, Jotunheim and the rest of the outer space visuals are beautifully rendered. “Thor” also has a surprising amount of chuckle-worthy moments, but unfortunately, once the film shifts focus to dreary and boring New Mexico, Hemsworth and Portman stretch out 90 minutes of woefully slow character development that bogs the film down, mostly because it doesn’t really lead anywhere.

I must say “Thor” is a “shame on me” situation. I’ve never been particularly fond of Marvel’s cinematic products, chiefly because they just aren’t as gratifying as a film like “The Dark Knight.” The Christopher Nolan Batman films have proven a successful comic book film can be crafted without it being all fluff and filler, which is sadly what most of Marvel’s output is. “Thor” is no exception.

Could “Thor” have been an extremely fun summer popcorn flick? Yes. If it could have kept up the momentum gathered by its first set piece, I’m sure I could have forgiven it for being shallow, as long as it kept me entertained. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

Oh, and don’t pay to see this in 3-D. “Thor” wasn’t filmed in 3-D, so it’s one of those crappy post-converted “3-D” films. If you still want to see “Thor,” save some dime by skipping 3-D, unless you want to be truly immersed in Natalie Portman, which is never a bad thing.

“Thor” hits theaters Friday.

 

2.5 stars (out of five).

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