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How does 'Thor' stack up against other heroes?

Batman's just a billionaire with toys, but new movie star is a god

Image: Thor
Chris Hemsworth plays "Thor" in the new film, but the hero isn't as well-known as Superman or Batman. Here's a primer.
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It’s hammer time.

“Thor,” the newest costumed do-gooder with designs on movie stardom, debuts in theaters May 6. Chris Hemsworth, he of the memorable cameo as Captain Kirk’s dad in “Star Trek,” stars as the title player in the latest Marvel movie spectacle. He’s a hero unlike any other that’s visited the multiplex during the superhero movie boom.

For one thing, he’s not a household name like Batman, Spider-Man, Superman or another of this summer’s superpowered movie stars, Captain America.

“Normally, I'd say it's a problem to not have that mainstream name recognition,” said Rick Marshall, editor of MTV’s Splash Page blog. “But the fact that the film is being packaged with 'Iron Man' and the rest of the Marvel movies helps make 'Thor' feel like one chapter in a bigger story.”

Here's a look at who Thor is and how he matches up with other cineplex superheroes.

Video
  Hemsworth brings down 'Thor's' hammer
March 30, 2011: Chris Hemsworth chats about his new "Thor" action figure, and how he got in shape to play the Norse God.

Where did he come from?
What also sets Thor apart from other super types is his origin story.

Superman may have a bit of a God complex, but Thor really is a god, heir to the throne of the cosmic realm of Asgard. Unlike Batman, Spider-Man or the Hulk, there is no life-changing event that makes Thor put on his cape and armor. His powers aren’t created in a lab, like Captain America’s Super-Soldier serum; he isn’t handed a magic ring by a dying alien as Hal Jordan is in “Green Lantern.”

“His powers don't come from science or some sort of traumatic experience,” said Marshall. “[Thor] is a magical being, not a mutant or an alien or a guy with lots of guns or gadgets.”

“The character is already a god when we meet him,” notes film and television producer F.J. DeSanto. “A very cocky god, mind you, but one with very special powers that he is born with but doesn’t necessarily have the maturity to use properly.”

A cocky Thor's rash actions have his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) at his wit’s end. To teach his spoiled son a lesson in humility, Odin exiles Thor to Earth to live among mere mortals.

“Thor is really no different than the average rebellious teenager with daddy issues,” according to DeSanto. “His being banished to Earth is no different than a parent sending their kid off to military school.”
Origin story grade: B

Mighty Mjolnir
Tony Stark has his armor, Batman his utility belt, Green Lantern his magic ring, Captain America his shield. Thor? He has an enchanted hammer that allows him to control thunder and lightning. The guy can make it rain whenever and wherever he wants.

What other superhero has a weapon cool enough to warrant its own name — Mjolnir (pronounced Myol-neer)?

But Thor isn’t beholden to his hammer to save the day. He’s a gifted warrior and the strongest dude in the Marvel Universe, although the Hulk could give him a run for his money on a really angry day.
Weapon grade: A+

Video
  'Thor' could conquer the universe
Sept. 15, 2010: Access' Scott "Movie" Mantz geeks out when he chats with Anthony Hopkins about his movie, "Thor," but what is it like to work with director Kenneth Branagh and co-star Chris Hemsworth? Also: Anthony tells Access how Chris bulked up for his role.

He is who he is
Despite the fact that alter egos, be it playboy Bruce Wayne, mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent or test pilot Hal Jordan, are staples of the superhero genre, “Thor” is skipping the "hero in disguise" shtick.

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When you’re a card-carrying immortal, a secret identity seems rather silly, doesn’t it?

Besides, it’s kind of hard to disguise yourself when you have a physique straight out of the WWE and hair like an Allman Brother.
Identity grade: C

Comrades in arms
Batman and Robin, Green Arrow and Speedy (don’t ask), Iron Man and Rhodey; superheroes love sidekicks.

Thor’s band of brothers on Asgard are the Warriors Three: Fandral the Dashing, Hogun the Grim and Volstagg the Valiant. Think of the Three Musketeers and you get a good idea of the makeup of this power trio. Ray Stevenson, who put on a fat suit to portray the portly Volstagg, played the brutal but entertaining Titus Pullo on HBO's short-runned series "Rome." He also stars in the latest version of the ‘Musketeers’ legend, due out in October.

The Warriors Three will soon have competition for Thor’s attention. The Thunder God will be a key player in next summer’s big superhero onscreen convention “The Avengers.”
Comrades grade: B+

She blinded me with science
Like another superpowered alien with a red cape, Thor is a stranger in a strange land. And like Superman, the Son of Odin meets a woman who helps him find his way in his new world.

Jane Foster (newly-minted Oscar winner Natalie Portman) is the scientist who discovers Thor in the desert after his father sent him packing. As sure as the sun is bright, expect her to need to be rescued by Thor at some point in the film.

Video
  Thor: God of lame
May 5, 2011: In “Thor: God of Thunder: The Video Game” your powers are lightning, thunder, and apparently mediocre game play. In-Game's Todd Kenreck gives the game a 4 out of 10.

But Foster isn’t just a damsel in distress. She’s the latest in a string of strong-willed superhero love interests who happen to have a fondness for formulas. The Hulk’s crush, Betty Ross, is another lab rat. So was Sue Richards in the “Fantastic Four” films. There’s something about a lab coat…
Love interest grade: B-

Oh brother
The best superhero films have villains as memorable as the heroes. Think of the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” or Doc Octopus in “Spider-Man 2” and Magneto in the “X-Men” trilogy. Thor has himself a doozy: His own brother.

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Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wants to rule Asgard and he’s perfectly happy to lie, cheat and scheme his way to the throne, blood ties be damned. Loki has tons of issues, most of them being of the "father always liked you best" variety, and the combination of rage, jealousy and maliciousness makes him a threat not just to Thor but to Asgard and Earth.

In other words, an opponent worthy of the God of Thunder.
Villain grade: A

Will all of that help “Thor” break through the crowd of capes in theaters this summer? It can’t hurt.

“A few years ago, “Iron Man” wasn’t a known commodity outside of the comics world, either,” said DeSanto. “Don’t discount people who are interested or knowledgeable in Norse mythology. There’s some value there. Of course, it would really help [Marvel’s cause] if the movie is good."

Michael Avila, who lives in New York, is a regular contributor to TODAY.com.

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