This could have been a simple popcorn movie. Show a bit about Thor's family, some sweeping scenes of Asgard, throw in a little something about earthly Norse mythology, make Loki a typical monologing Evil Villain (tm), Thor does some flashy superstuff to make the fanboys and fangirls squeal for about half the screen time, roll credits.
This was not a simple popcorn movie. Somehow this script, with masterful storytelling by J. Michael Straczynski and equally masterful direction by Kenneth Branagh, manages to balance the depths of space with the inside of a cramped travel trailer, balance wars between worlds with one human woman's struggles and needs, balance the grandeur of Asgard against a breakfast of scrambled eggs, while also tying Thor's story into Iron Man, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rest of the Avengers, including Hawkeye who does make an un-costumed appearance.
What could easily have been a confusing mess is anything but. The intricate dance back and forth between Asgard and Earth, the large and the small, works beautifully and never distracts from the complex story being told. There were only a couple of times that I felt a character suspended his or her own disbelief slightly more than was believable, and there were moments very obviously created to maximize the 3D effects (the weapon swinging into the viewer's face syndrome abounded), but they're minor flaws in the greater gem.
Thor is the hero's journey, with all the high notes of nobility, lessons learned, transformation, betrayal, love, honor and friendship rolled into one epic tale that does not disappoint in any way. Marvel films in general seem to have hit their stride after a few previous missteps (yes, I'm thinking Hulk too), and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of Thor.
Is it a perfect film? Of course not, but I'm not going to pick it apart either. It's an enjoyable movie that's well worth the ticket price, with superb acting (Anthony Hopkins in particular was brilliant), juicy visual effects, interesting production design, exciting fight scenes (the Destroyer is badass), and a story that hits all the right beats and leaves us wanting more at the end.
Speaking of more at the end, be sure to stay through the end of the credits for a bonus scene featuring Nick Fury as the franchise builds toward the Avengers, currently in production.