Thor also gets right its diverse casting, particularly when it comes down to the all-important Thor himself. Chris Hemsworth certainly wasn't the obvious choice for the role and I was dubious about him taking the role on even after being somewhat reassured by the trailers. But as it turns out Hemsworth (whom most geek fans will remember as Captain Kirk's father at the start of J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot) is the perfect casting choice for Thor – he looks the part, both in pure resemblance to the comic book character and by being physically dominating. He handles the fight sequences very well and adds to the believability of it all. He also has a cheeky, cocky side to him that's almost like the tough-guy version of Robert Downey Jr's Tony Stark/Iron Man.
Supporting Hemsworth is an eclectic cast of famous and not-so-famous faces: the incomparable Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Idris Elba as Heimdall (he who guards the means of travel between realms), and Rene Russo as Thor's mother. And that's just those found in Asgard; on earth we have Natalie Portman as Jane, the head of a scientific research team which also includes Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings (also look out for a cameo by Jeremy Renner, hinting at a future character who will appear in the forthcoming The Avengers).
The special effects are fantastic here, everything from the creation of the Asgard city and other linked realms, including all the magical elements that go with them, to the obligatory explosions that you always find (and admittedly need to have) in these kinds of movies. However, as a director well versed in grandness, Branagh manages to keep all of this mayhem under control, reining in this potentially muddled story.
As Marvel has been doing up until this point, Thor does a great job of tying things into the whole superhero universe that they have created. It might have felt a bit heavy-handed with their last film, Iron Man 2, but here they manage to strike the perfect balance of this being a film in its own right but also one which is part of something larger.