THE Marvel universe moves into the cosmic realm with Thor, a burly slab of bombastic superhero entertainment that provides an introduction befitting the mighty god of thunder.

THE Marvel universe moves into the cosmic realm with Thor, a burly slab of bombastic superhero entertainment that provides an introduction befitting the mighty god of thunder.

It's a noisy, universe-rattling spectacle, full of sound and fury, with a suitably epic design, solid digital effects and a healthy respect for the comic-book lore that turned a mythological Norse god into a founding member of the superhero team known as The Avengers.

The arrogant warrior Thor's great conversion, central to the plot, is unrealistically lightning-quick and the movie's dramatic arc falters amid the constant shifts between earthly and celestial realms.

But execs at Marvel Studios, gambling heavily on the success of Thor and the upcoming Captain America: The First Avenger to set up next summer's blockbusters The Avengers, can rest easy - you have a hit on your hands.

The ultimate accessibility of Thor's fantastical world is due to good-humoured direction of Kenneth Branagh, a man with a highbrow history who knows his way around an epic tale, and Chris Hemsworth who plays the hammer-wielding hero who learns humility among the humans.

Branagh may convey a lofty intellect, and co-stars Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman may provide the actorly gravitas, but the 6 ft 3ins Hemsworth adds the winning ingredients, bringing a Viking charm to his rumbling ye olde English line readings.

There are some stunning designs, in particular Heimdall's Observatory, the celestial portal that connects the various realms. Full-throttle fight scenes and the stunt work overall feel organic, although Branagh's over-reliance on slanted angles and an unusual slow-motion sequence are merely distracting.

Star rating 3