Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård and Kat Dennings
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence.
Runtime: 1 hour, 54 minutes
Bottom line: Recommended in 2D only.
For those of us who hate the 3D trend, Marvel Entertainment and Paramount Pictures have given us the perfect gift. No movie demonstrates the problems with 3D better than "Thor."
The movie features a CGI landscape that is sprawling, totally unique and stunning — when we can actually see it.
Digital 3D is too dark, plain and simple. That's the main reason we have all left a 3D movie with a headache. Because it's so dark, much of the image is lost and the rest seems blurry. The illusion of three dimensions occasionally dazzles us, but mostly we just struggle to see.
The industry knows it's a problem but will ignore it until audiences vote with their dollars.
"Thor" is now exhibit A in the argument against the format, because it ruins an otherwise solid blockbuster with a story reminiscent of a Shakespearean court drama.
The aging god Odin (Anthony Hopkins) has two sons, the brave warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the cunning trickster Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Just as Odin is about to crown Thor king of Asgard, three Ice Giants, arch enemies of Asgard, break into the city.
Those Ice Giants are dispatched quickly, but the coronation is postponed. Thor views this as an act of war and wants to retaliate. Odin prefers diplomacy. Thor, wielding his thunderous hammer, ignores his father's command and leads a small band of warriors into the Ice Giants' realm.
A battle breaks out, and Odin soon arrives to put a halt to the melee. Turns out Loki tipped off his father to Thor's plan. Odin declares Thor unfit to be king and a traitor.
Thor is exiled from Asgard, sent to Earth to live among humans without his powers or his hammer.
Scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her assistants, Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), take in Thor and protect him. Meanwhile, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and S.H.I.E.L.D. take custody of the hammer.
On Earth, Thor strives to retrieve his hammer and return home, makes eyes with Jane, and struts around shirtless. On Asgard, Loki schemes his way onto the throne while Odin is in one of his periodic, catatonic sleeps.
Humanity, the Asgardian realm, and filial love are all in peril, but for Marvel and Paramount something else is at stake.
"Thor" is designed to set up a series of movies that will bring nearly the entire Marvel Multiverse to the big screen.
It's a "multiverse" because Marvel's characters run the gamut from costumed vigilantes who fight evil with technology, like Iron Man, to heroes born with supernatural powers, like Thor, to characters mutated by science, like the Hulk.
The rule has always been to keep those "universes" separate.
But Marvel plans to break that rule on an unprecedented scale. They're going to create continuity among all their movies from now on - with the exception of the Marvel properties for which other studios already own the screen rights (Fox owns the movie rights to the X-Men, for example).
In 2012, Marvel/Paramount's highly anticipated "The Avengers" will bring together Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk and all the S.H.I.E.L.D. characters into the same movie.
"Thor" establishes the threads connecting the whole multiverse. So if this movie fails, it could effect the future of Marvel's master movie plan.
Don't get me wrong: there is a lot to like about "Thor."
Kenneth Branagh was an unexpected choice to direct, but the Shakespearean elements make it a good match. Watching Thor's towering, god-like figure stumble his way through mortality for the first time is very funny at times. And numerous cameos spark excitement for "The Avengers."
But it doesn't matter how good everything else might be, we should not have to squint our way through a movie. Nor should we have to pay extra for the privilege of squinting.
"Thor" is an enjoyable, effects-laden, comic book yarn that skews toward younger teen audiences. Send a message by seeing it in glorious 2D. Your eyes will thank you.
Jeff Marker is a media studies professor at Gainesville State College.