Thor does so much right. In a nutshell, it’s about a Space Viking and his magic hammer exiled to earth after arguing with God. How do you sell that to adult audiences? Employ Kenneth Branagh. He performs an amazing balancing act between action, comedy and drama, with a strong vision of the world he creates.
Visually, this film is perfect; the aesthetic of the city of Asgard and of the costumes are stunning, with a brilliant colour palette (check out Thor’s vivid red cloak). The style borrows heavily from the original comics of Jack Kirby, as well as The Lord of the Rings, and this is evident particularly in the monsters’ designs and the narration of the first act, helping the audience believe the film’s mythology. Once the story gains momentum, Branagh’s Shakespearean background influences the dramatic scenes between Thor and Loki and their father Odin. These scenes could have been hammy and underwhelming, but the direction and powerful acting from Hiddleston and Hopkins makes these the best parts of the film.
The rest of the story is serviceable. Once Thor is on Earth, the tone shifts to comedy, and the humour is brilliant but it hides problems. Hemsworth plays Thor well: he’s charismatic and brave, providing great beefcake for the ladies, but it’s hardly demanding. Portman phones in her performance as Jane Foster, a scientist doing generic, undefined “science.” The dilemma driving the film is Thor’s personal growth, as he must change from arrogant warrior to humble leader. We see the before and after, but the actual process is not clear. It's very dodgy pacing, and I honestly feel this is the least complex and most "kid-friendly" of the Marvel movies so far.
Despite these gripes, what was important for this film was to get things RIGHT. It could have been ridiculous and silly. Instead, we have story and action that is good, not great, but is RIGHT for this film and this franchise.