So I watched Thor today, and I have to say, it was quite good. It even approached the quality of the first Iron Man movie. And as fair warning, this whole post will be chockful of spoilers.

Going into Thor, I was hopeful about it, but also a little wary. Iron Man was a great movie, but Iron Man 2 was something of a mess. An entertaining mess, but it was hard to ignore the handwaving at times. And the Incredible Hulk remake may have been a great improvement on Ang Lee’s movie (which isn’t a terrible movie, but its Hulk just isn’t that Hulk-like for my taste), but Liv Tyler dragged it down like a lead balloon. So I saw a lot of potential for things to go wrong here.

Fortunately, the movie nails the most important things. The three principal characters-Thor, Odin, and Loki-both have capable actors and excellent writing. Rather than feeling like “This is how the plot has to go,” their actions seem natural to their characters, and all of them can sell the emotion when necessary. Loki in particular is well served by Tom Hiddleston’s fine work. I’ll admit that Loki was the character I had the most questions about-the trailers made it clear that Odin was angry at Thor, and Thor at Odin, but Loki wasn’t featured much. But he’s very well acted by Hiddleston, especially when Loki confronts Odin about his secret heritage. In the comics, Loki has always known he was the son of frost giants. But in the movie, it’s a secret he discovers in the first action scene, and Hiddleston sells the rage about being forced to live a lie, and finding out that he’s the bogeyman he was told about as a child.

The battle scenes are fairly successful. There’s a bit too much cutting away from things, but fortunately we don’t get a lot of shakey-cam fighting. Even more important, things look like they hurt. Hell, Fandral gets stabbed in the shoulder in the first fight scene, and has to be taken off the spike by Hogun and Volstagg. Unfortunately, the final climactic fight doesn’t match that first battle scene, at least in pure action. It does work well in other respects, such as a particularly clever use of Mjolnir by Thor, but it’s not as impressive as seeing Thor take out 3 frost giants with one swing, or 10 with one throw.

Probably the best thing about the movie, though, are the visuals for Asgard. My particular favorite is the Rainbow Bridge, which isn’t just a horizontal rainbow, but still merits its name. If there’s nothing else to admire about the movie, its version of Asgard is pretty breathtaking.

Having already mentioned the Warriors 3, I think all of the supporting characters do a good job. I’m more partial to the Asgardians than the human supporting characters, but I’ll admit that even they are entertaining, just not as much as Volstagg or Heimdall. Speaking of whom, Heimdall is easily the best of all the supporting characters, and I’m glad he shows up as much as he does. I know that Thor is going to show up in the Avengers next, but I hope there’s another Thor movie, just to see more of Ildris Elba. The only real issue I had with the movie was that Natalie Portman as Jane Foster just doesn’t get much to do. Sif doesn’t take up as much screen time, but she gets into several fights, and is involved with palace intrigue. Portman mostly leers at Thor and gets angry at Shield for taking her stuff. Portman herself is a good enough performer that she’s still entertaining to watch, and you can see some chemistry between her and Hemsworth. But it made me wish they were either spending less time on Earth, or letting Foster do more that didn’t involve Thor.

Overall, I’d heartily recommend the movie to almost anyone. You don’t have to be a comic book fan to enjoy it by any means. It’s not quite as good as the first Iron Man movie, but it’s damn close in my book.

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