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'Thor' review: Hammer goes thud

** (out of four)

Forget being grounded; when a god insults his parents, he’s banished from his twinkly space kingdom. That renders rebellious hothead Thor (Chris Hemsworth) powerless among the mortals on Earth, who are well-represented by an unusually pretty astrophysicist (Natalie Portman). Naturally, the government’s all paranoid about this mysterious mountain of a man—built like a wrestler and fights like Van Damme—who longs to return home and resume battling the Frost Giants, blue meanies whose look is as corny as their name.

The buzz: Director Kenneth Branagh (“Hamlet”) doesn’t exactly bring to mind terms like “3D” or “fun,” but the Norse mythology-based Marvel Comics superhero “Thor” is both in 3D and positioned as the blockbuster kickoff to the summer movie season. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of relative newcomer Hemsworth, who, for what it’s worth, has absolutely gigantic shoulders.

The verdict: The only impressive thing about “Thor” is his wingspan. Does Branagh want us to take the movie seriously or not? The tone volleys from the humorlessness of “Wolverine” to the wink-wink silliness of “Paul” as uptight grandiosity in the gods' realm gives way on Earth to Kat Dennings' (as an assistant astrophysicist) annoying comic relief in scenes that try clumsily for lighthearted entertainment. Hemsworth wields his mighty hammer with authority and “Thor” has a few laughs, but this isn’t the exhilarating story of a great love, or even an interesting hero. It’s a movie that wastes two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner in a two-line role and features an extremely worn-out subplot involving Thor’s traitorous brother (Tom Hiddleston). Translation: Not awesome.

Did you know? Thor flips over a table when he’s mad, fights a hospital staff when he feels trapped and thunders into a pet store demanding, “I need a horse!” If only anger management classes could be held on horseback.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Fridays at 7 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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