It takes a certain level of command and charisma to portray a god, let alone the heavily-muscled, hammer-swinging Norse thunder god Thor.
Luckily, Australian actor Chris Hemsworth has that kind of presence and power, and he brings it to bear quite winningly in Thor, the big-screen debut of the Marvel Comics character.
As for the rest of the movie…well, unfortunately, it’s not quite up to the standard set by Hemsworth. It’s no disaster – in fact, it’s an enjoyable and surprisingly funny romp – but it is a little uneven and listless on occasion.
And that’s probably not something audiences would want from an allegedly epic tale of mythical warriors from mystical realms getting into scrapes with fire-breathing monsters and giants wielding swords of ice.
If the finger of blame is going to be pointed at anyone, it’s director Kenneth Branagh on the receiving end.
Best known for his big-screen Shakespeare adaptations (such as the terrific Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing), Branagh may seem like an odd choice to helm a comic-book movie.
But he’s proven himself a strong storyteller with a robust, energetic style in the past, and the themes evident throughout Thor – armies clashing, conflict within a royal family, a headstrong prince undergoing a trial by fire – would seem to be right up his alley.
While there are many aspects that he gets right, however, there’s also a feeling that there are elements of the story that are being given short shrift or even being ignored in favour of getting to the more spectacular stuff.
That’s too bad, because Thor has a rich, fascinating mythology, one that it would be great fun to explore in depth.
Still, even this somewhat rushed interpretation of the tale has its pleasures, telling as it does the familiar but usually fun story of a hero finding his true purpose in life.
Far across the universe, in the fabled kingdom of Asgard, Hemsworth’s Thor is on the verge of succeeding his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins, very regal) as ruler.
But when Thor’s quick temper and love of a good stoush sees him reignite an old feud with a powerful enemy, Odin strips his son of his powers (and his favourite weapon, a very cool hammer) and banishes him to Earth.
Odin hopes that exile will teach Thor the humility he needs to be a great king. But neither of them anticipated the devious plan hatched by Thor’s brother, the cunning Loki (Tom Hiddleston), to claim Asgard’s throne for himself.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Thor is struggling to adapt to life as a mortal while falling for Jane Foster (a lively, frisky Natalie Portman), the woman who found him when he crash-landed in the desert.
Of course, the two worlds are bound to collide violently, with Thor smack in the middle. And the result is a stirring adventure that may not change your world but will certainly enliven your Saturday night.