Thor is a character torn between two worlds.  Thor is also a movie torn between two ideas.

Based on the Marvel Comics series, Thor is the soon-to-be king of Asgard, a realm of outer space Vikings that once saved Earth from the
evil Frost Giants.

After a team of Giants tries to steal back their ultimate power thing, Thor recklessly attacks the Frost Giants home planet and is stripped of
his power and banished to Earth by his father in order to keep the peace.

This first act on Asgard doesn’t inspire much confidence.  The characters are dull and the Asgardian politics regarding succession of the
throne and their truce with Frost Giants doesn’t make for a particularly thrilling experience.

The battle on the Frost Giants planet isn’t particularly well-choreographed either.  Director Kenneth Branagh’s large scale wide shots have
no spatial consistency to each other.  Thor seemingly destroys the surface of the planet in one-shot, but enemies somehow surround our
heroes in the next.  This kind of rapid, inconsistent editing does not increase the intensity as intended, but reduces the sequence to a
collage of wild tracking shots and nearly incomprehensible visual effects.

After Thor crash lands on Earth, however, the film takes a wild left turn into a completely different genre.

Thor is found by a team of scientists led by Natalie Portman, and the somber drama on Asgard is soon replaced by lighthearted fish-out-of-
water comedy and some general goofiness.

Branagh seems more at home here, and indeed the film improves quite a bit.  Natalie Portman is really the heart of this film, and although
she may not be the most believable geeky scientist, she has a lot of fun here and gives a performance that I believe rescues this movie
from a much worse fate.

Chris Hemsworth is also good as Thor, especially in this segment of the film.  There is a good chemistry between him and Portman at work.

I’ll also give some credit to Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings for earning some laughs as Portman’s awkward partners.

The section of the film on Earth is an enjoyable, funny romp.  But it doesn’t last.  The final act reverts to its earlier self and sends us back to
the dullness of Asgard, all but tossing out the only part of the film that really works.  More over-the-top action and head-splittingly loud
sound effects ensue.

It’s disappointing that the writers didn’t seem to be aware of what was working and what wasn’t.  But then again, if you dropped too much of
Asgard, maybe you would have to question why you are even making a Thor film in the first place.

So while Thor isn’t a bad film, it really suffers a case of split-personality.  It can’t decide whether it’s serious drama or family fun.  The
problem is that the serious drama is generic and robotic.

Like its title character’s own journey, Thor tries to be everything and ends up not much of anything.

* *
(out of four)
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh

Written by: Ashley Miller & Zack Stentz and Don Payne

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom
Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard

Cinematography by: Haris Zambarloukos

Music by: Patrick Doyle

Released: May 6, 2011; 114 Minutes