… and it was quite good. Not the unqualified blast of fun that the first “Iron Man” was, but more enjoyable than its unfocused sequel. Director Kenneth Branagh (unsurprisingly) gets good performances out of the entire cast and (surprisingly) shows that he has a good hand on big-budget effects-driven film-making. We get several great shots of Asgard itself that effectively show off its majesty and splendor while the action scenes remain perfectly comprehensible and satisfyingly kinetic. This all helps to offset the dullness of the core plot -- it’s an origin story that we already know the ending to and most of the beats in between -- as do the genuinely funny parts, usually involving Thor getting acquainted with our world. It was also interesting to note that while the scenes on Earth felt like they were directly inspired by J. Michael Straczynski’s run, the whole “Asgardians are really aliens with technology indistinguishable from magic” bit is taken from Warren Ellis’ “Worldengine” arc. So if any of you were wondering how they were going to fit these characters derived from Norse mythology into a sci-fi world, well, now you know.
Of course, this film isn’t just about bringing the comic book character to life on the silver screen. It’s also another prong in the build-up to the launch of “The Avengers” next year. Based on what I saw here, I’m more optimistic about its prospects. S.H.I.E.L.D. was integrated into the plot in a perfectly logical and less “deus-ex-machinaey” way than in “Iron Man 2.” We also got some okay fanservice in the form of a cameo from one of the other Avengers who shows up, but doesn’t really do anything. The best part is the post-credits sequence which doesn’t lead into “Captain America,” but gives us a look at what will likely be the key MacGuffin of “The Avengers.” It’s going to center around a device that should be quite familiar to anyone with a decent running knowledge of the Marvel Universe and building a film around it is certainly plausible at the very least. Overall, “Thor” is another win for Marvel Studios and a good indication that they’ll be able to survive the upcoming onslaught of superhero films.