A few notes before we get into the meat of the thing:
First, the trailers were of course all genre films, and some looked okay -- but man, the Captain America trailer rocks. It manages to blend the vibe of the older comics with just the right touch of Indiana Jones, and if the movie's anywhere near as good as this looks, it may be the summer's hit. Fingers crossed.
Second, after Your Highness and now Thor, I am coming to the conclusion that somewhere out there, at the side of some set, there is a chair inscribed, "Whosoever sits in this seat, should they be worthy, shall possess the power of Patrick Stewart!" Because really, Natalie Portman does seem to be moving into his ecological niche of the Real Actor who appears in genre films to give them that sheen of respectability.
Third, Monday is a really good time to go to the movies if you like a quiet time of it. Despite this being the current smash hit, the cinema was deserted.
And fourth, while I had known that Stan Lee had a cameo in the film, I hadn't realized who the *other* cameo was until he showed up on film. It's much funnier when you're not expecting it. (I recognized him, said "Wait -- what?" and wasn't certain until he showed up in the credits.)
Overall, my rating is Not Half Bad. It's not a work of high art, but it's really not trying to be: instead, it's trying to go for the mythological side of comics in a big way, and it pretty much succeeds. It's big and loud, but *not* an entirely brainless action flick -- the characters really are the center of the movie, and it has a good deal more quiet humor than one usually expects from these things.
The usual caveat applies as for any good comic-book film: do *not* expect a faithful adaptation of the comic. The details are all wrong, and if you are expecting otherwise, you're in for a disappointment.
That said, the important question for any comic-book film is: did they get it? And in this case, I think they did. In particular, the movie is all about (IMO) the two most important parts of the Thor mythos. First, this is Thor's origin, and it gets the spirit of that origin right. (Irresponsible cosmic frat boy gets exiled to Earth to teach him a lesson.) And second, that the heart of the story has always been the relationship between Thor and Loki. Honestly, I think Loki steals the movie: this is his origin story as well, and I think this is the best I've ever seen it handled. This is a Loki who isn't cackling evil -- he's rather complex (at least by Asgardian standards), and broken in some terribly human ways. I get the distinct impression that Branagh signed up on this film to tell Loki's story, because he is much more *directed* than Thor is.
There are the usual thousand-and-one nods to miscellaneous Marvel continuity, but more importantly they get most of the right characters in. Heimdall and Odin are significant players, and Sif and the Warriors Three get quite a bit of screen time. Jane Foster has been completely rewritten, but I'm willing to forgive that: she was never the most interesting character in the comic, I'm afraid. The only major character missing is Balder, and he's just less *fun* than most of the rest.
And of course, the special effects are quite grand, but with an eye towards the originals. Jack Kirby would have been proud of this interpretation of Asgard, and Charley observed that the armor all greatly evokes Simonson. We saw it in 3D, and I didn't find it annoying -- they're getting better at it -- but I don't think you'd be missing a huge amount (and you'd certainly save a bundle) if you watch it in good old 2D.
So: if you are looking for an action flick with just a bit of intelligence, this is worth seeing; if you like comic-book movies, and *especially* if you're enjoying the current Marvel run, it's a must-see. Don't go in with high expectations, but it's a good time.