'Thor' a mighty movie

It takes three elements to make a great movie based on a comic book superhero: an actor who embraces the role, a director who treats the material with respect and fantastic visual effects.

“Thor” has all three.

The film, based on the Marvel Comics series about Norse mythology, follows Thor to Earth. On the day he is to take over as king of mythical Asgard, there’s an attack. Thor defies his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and goes on a quest for revenge. Odin banishes Thor — stripped of the god-of-thunder powers and powerful hammer — to Earth. There, Thor meets a scientist (Natalie Portman), who helps him on his path to redemption.

From the arrogance he shows through the early scenes to the humility he finds once Thor lands on Earth, hulky/hunky Chris Hemsworth embodies the charm, strength and power of the character. It’s as if he stepped out of the pages of the original comic book created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The last actor to embrace a comic book-inspired character so completely was another Aussie, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine.

Hemsworth gets help from a strong supporting cast that includes the alwaysdependable Hopkins and a wonderful performance by Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s mischief-making brother Loki.

A huge reason Hemsworth’s performance is so commanding is the direction of Kenneth Branagh. His selection as director created a buzz among fans because his past films were based on the works of William Shakespeare. That was the exact quality this film needed.

Unlike other Marvel Comics characters who are firmly planted on Earth, Thor’s origin is in Asgard. Branagh’s always been able to take lofty tales and bring them down to the elements of family, honor and love and make them accessible. Even if you have never read a Thor comic — or don’t know the character of Loki from Lockheed — “Thor” is enjoyable for its story of father-son conflicts, sibling rivalries and budding romance.

As for the visuals, they are stunning. And it’s not just the elaborate creation of Asgard or the stunning presentation of the famous Rainbow Bridge. Everything from Thor’s use of his hammer to the battles in the desert are dead-on.

My lone complaint is the 3-D. It’s not only ineffective, it makes many of the scenes in Asgard dark. That doesn’t allow for a full appreciation of scenery.

It’s a minor flaw in what is a major new entry into the growing world of comicbook based movies. From great performances to superb direction and visual effects, this truly is a mighty “Thor.”