Comic book fans, I doubt that I have to remind you that we are but a few short weeks away from seeing Marvel’s adaptation of Thor hit theaters, helping to kick off the 2011 Summer Movie Season.

Right about now, Marvel Studios and Paramount are sparing little expense to promote Thor to the masses – in fact, if you look around any metropolis nowadays you’re likely to see Thor banners and posters popping up left and right in addition to clips from the film and many new TV spots. To kick the promotional campaign up to the next level, Marvel screened a final cut of the movie for a handful of movie sites, and those lucky enough to have seen it are letting their thoughts be known.

While I’m tempted to air my grievance that we here at Screen Rant are unable to give you a first-hand review of Thor (looking at you with an arched eyebrow, Marvel/Paramount), I am happy to report that our good friends Peter Sciretta from /Film and Steve ‘Frosty’ Weintraub from Collider were granted access to this coveted pre-screening, and went so far as to share their thoughts on the film in a vide review.

In addition to the video critique, you can check out some traditional print reviews of Thor from the likes of of our pals over at Moviehole and, er, ‘those guys and gals’ over at Variety.

For you fans anxious about preserving the Thor experience for when you are in the theater (in costume?) on opening day/night, fear thee not mortals:

These reviews are 100% SPOILER-FREE.

We’ll start with the video review from Pete and Steve, which basically dubs Thor as another solid (if not great) offering from Marvel Studios:

THOR Video Blog from ColliderVideos on Vimeo.

Moviehole echoes the sentiment that Thor basically follows the Marvel Studios movie formula, albeit in some distinctly better ways, thanks to the presences of Kenneth Branagh at the helm:

Don’t head into ‘’Thor’’ expecting something that doesn’t even resemble one of the previous Marvel studios movies though because, for the most part, the written flick is indeed discharge from the same passageway…. Only with smarter dialogue than most, lavish production values that wouldn’t be out of place in ‘’Gosford Park’’ or ‘’Remains of the Day’’…And admittedly, who wants a comic book movie to stray too far from well, the look and feel of a comic book? (Christopher Nolan haters, shut it!)

Still, as much of an A to B job as these films are, they’re all very solid commercial blockbusters and ‘’Thor’’ is no exception – in fact visually it might just be the most impressive. As I mentioned, those production values wouldn’t be out of place in a lavish period drama or royal biopic, and they add so much to ‘’Thor’’ – the world of Asgard will take your breath away in a way no Los Angeles backstreet can. The film’s many scenes ‘above’ will have you in awe – they’re just splendidly shot and scrumptiously staged but mainly, the city and landscape looks dreamy.

In order to deflate the notion that these early reactions are the biased praise of “fanboys” (now a dirty word, it seems) and “movie bloggers” (always been a dirty word, it seems), “official trades” like Variety also keep in step with the assertion that Thor is some solid B(+) summer entertainment:

As the living actor and director most closely associated with Shakespeare, Branagh may seem a surprise choice for such material. A childhood reader of the comics, he brings a fan’s enthusiasm and his skill as an actor’s director to the table here. Fitting Hemsworth out with a classical but never pompous British accent and shooting emotionally charged sequences with elegant simplicity, Branagh succeeds in rendering his mythological characters deeply human.

While no fatal missteps are taken along Thor’s path to redemption, pic has a slightly choppy feel, as if it’s trying to squeeze an origin tale and at least part of its sequel into a single entity. Most of the material motors along just fine, though the editing occasionally seems a bit too hurried in moving from one dimension to the next. An extra reel of Earth-bound story might not have gone astray.

Click the links to any of the aforementioned sites to read the full reviews. As stated, they are all SPOILER-FREE.

Having done some more extensive digging myself, I have identified a few points of consensus between all the reviewers that I’m sure fans are wondering about:

  • There is nothing but praise for actor Chris Hemsworth. The consensus is that he nails the role of Thor and comes off as a likeable and versatile leading man who is able to balance equal parts gravitas, action and comedy. Predictions are the actor will have a bright career and will be a perfect fit against Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers movie.
  • As far as the supporting actors: Kat Dennings (thankfully) isn’t too annoying as the comic relief. Natalie Portman is average as Jane Foster – though she doesn’t have much of a character arch to work with. Anthony Hopkins isn’t nearly as hammy as he could’ve been (see: The Wolfman or The Rite). Finally, Tom Hiddleston shows strong-yet-subtle theatrical skill playing Loki.
  • The Asgard scenes are gorgeous and vividly rendered, and speak to the level of visual effects work in the film.
  • Reviewers were split about the Earth-bound second act of the film. Some said the middle dragged, others thought the more interesting story/character development took place on Earth and could’ve been developed at a slower pace.
  • The action scenes are pretty cool – though Marvel still has an issue with third-act final battles that feel somewhat rushed and unsatisfying as a payoff.

So, there you have it – the early word on Thor. Of course none of this REALLY matters until we deliver our own official Screen Rant review, so stay tuned for that in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, what do you think of these early reviews? Does the film sound like what you expected it to be? Better? Worse?

Thor thunders into theaters (sorry, bad pun) on May 6th.

Sources: /Film, Collider, Moviehole, Variety