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May 6, 2011 by · 3 Comments 

Critics are almost equally divided over Thor, the latest from superhero factory Marvel Entertainment. Joe Morgenstern’s review in the Wall Street Journal is typical of those that scorn it. “Like Thor’s hammer,” he writes, “this ersatz epic bludgeons its victims into submission. What’s more, it requires them to stare at the source of their punishment through 3D glasses.” Another critic who felt victimized is the New York Times‘s A.O. Scott, who writes that coming out of the movie he thought first of seeking shelter in a nearby bar or some such place. He acknowledges that Thor has its merits (Natalie Portman, he notes plays an astrophysicist and “as far as I could tell, does all her own astrophysics without the aid of a double.”) Director Kenneth Branagh, he says, “has not failed to make an interesting, lively, emotionally satisfying superhero movie, because there is no evidence that he … ever intended to make any such thing. On the contrary, the absolute and unbroken mediocrity of Thor is evidence of its success. This movie is not distinctively bad, it is axiomatically bad.” The Los Angeles Times‘s Kenneth Turan had a similar reaction: “What we have here,” he writes, “is an aesthetic standoff between predictable elements and unexpected ones. Thor has its strengths, but it is finally something of a mishmash with designs on being more interesting than it manages to be.” On the other hand, Peter Howell in the Toronto Star is quite satisfied with the outcome. “Thor has enough pounding to satisfy the hormonal and enough kissy-face to keep dates happy. What more could you ask of summer movie fare?” he remarks. Michael O’Sullivan in the Washington Post suggests that those who go to the movie with few expectations will be the ones who will enjoy it the most. (Thor was never one of Marvel’s most successful characters.) “If you have a fondness for loud, silly, eye-popping action adventure films based on beloved superhero characters — or even superhero characters who are appreciated with the cool, clinical detachment of a student of pop culture — then Thor delivers,” he comments.