was lucky enough to get a double-dose of 'Thor' in the past few months -- first, with a trip to the set of the movie in April, and then again last Thursday, when we got to watch the brand-new trailer (in 3-D!) on the Paramount lot.

We happily sat through the two-minute teaser four times. Why? It's got everything we were hoping for when we visited the set. How to sum up: It's 'Lord of the Rings' meets 'Superman' with more ass-kicking, a buffer lead and Natalie Portman!

Our set visit gave us glimpses of some of the impressively mammoth sets and a chance to wield Thor's mighty hammer. Sadly, neither stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor) nor Anthony Hopkins (Odin) were working the day of our visit. But we did get to meet with director Kenneth Branagh and several members of the cast. And when the film hits theaters next May, expect to swoon not just over blond hero Thor, but for his clever and darker (in every sense of the word) brother Loki, whose cool costume just may make horned helmets all the rage among Goths. p>

On our visit, we saw sets for the throne room, Heimdall's Observatory (from whence the gods come and go from the planet of Asgard to Earth) and a battle on top of shifting ice floes.

We also spoke with producer Kevin Feige and actors Colm Feore (Ymir, the King of the Frost Giants and Thor's main foe), Tom Hiddleston (God of Mischief, Loki), Jaimie Alexander (Sif, a warrior goddess), and two of the "Warriors Three": Ray Stevenson (hearty Volstagg) and Joshua Dallas (ladiesman Fandral).

What's it like working on these giant sets? We saw the throne room and heard about the 300 extras for the scene in which Thor and his friends make their entrance.
Dallas: It's exhilarating. Amazing.

Stevenson: It really reminds me of the great movies of the '30s and '40s with huge sets and voluminous fireplaces you could walk around in. I was expecting a Busby Berkley dance number. Big fanfare and all the girls coming out. I'd have joined in. It's got that scale, you know?

Dallas: Epic.

Stevenson: Epic with a capital E. It's all very Asgardian. There's lava rocks and a big fireplace. Golden ram's head and all that. It's rich.

Feige: There was almost a year of prep on this movie, more than we've ever had before. If any film could use it, it's 'Thor,' because we're figuring out the world and defining the costumes. This movie isn't just one Batcave or one X-Mansion, it's a half dozen to a dozen Asgardian realms and sets.

Branagh: It's a huge scale. It actually took years of planning. This is my eighteenth, nineteenth month on the project, and I'm enjoying it hugely. It's massive. But I'm excited by epic subjects. It doesn't particularly frighten me. I'm practiced in it, which doesn't make it any easier, but I find it fun. And I like that moment of going into the dark with 2,000 people, that you're ready to accept larger than life things. You're ready to accept a kind of heightened reality with much greater problems than you'll ever face -- unless you're trying to run nine realms across the cosmos.

So, how hot is Chris Hemsworth as Thor?
Feore: Some people say he's very handsome. One of the chief things about him is that he's charming. God knows he looks pretty good in the outfit. And he's funny. That goes a long way. Charm, you know, is an intangible, you know, chutzpah -- charm, charisma, that kind of thing. You can't buy it. You either have it or you don't. He's got it in spades.

Feige: When Chris is Thor, well, let me just say there are certain individuals who begin questioning their sexuality.

Jaimie, you bear a strong resemblance to Natalie Portman, who plays Thor's earthly love interest. Thor seems to have a type!
Alexander: You know, it's funny. The dark hair, the mole, the eyebrows -- she's like a miniature version of me. A more fit version of me! I actually met with her trainer yesterday to start doing a little bit of flexibility training with her and stuff, but it'll be interesting. I've heard great things about her and she's a talented girl, and I've heard that she's a pleasure to be around.

ThorCan you talk about working with Anthony Hopkins?
Stevenson: He's glorious. Just glorious. When they talk about presence and you're in the presence of somebody who has that much presence, it's just ... you don't have to do anything.

Alexander: He is really cool. He's kind of like a little boy in an old man's body. That's the best way I can describe him. He has the best spirit ,and he's just so happy. He wears these funky, bright blue shoes to work, and he always, like, comes in with a scarf, a top hat and bright yellow sunglasses. He's just so much fun. He's so excited to be in this. It's almost like I imagine he would be on his first movie -- that's how excited he is. It's really great to see somebody of that age -- he's had such a career -- like that still be so excited.

Feore: I did a movie for Julie Taymor with him 10 years ago, called 'Titus.' [It was] a big Shakespeare thing, and I was asked to play his little brother, and they said, "You might have to act a little bit like Tony Hopkins." And forgive my teeth, but I can actually act a bit like Tony Hopkins. I can sound like Tony Hopkins. So I said, "Ken, I'll give you Tony Hopkins only, as you say, much cheaper."

I said, "Shoot me first, then Tony will have to think of something else to do." But then he showed up and we were there on the set and I didn't have the heart to take his characterization, his personality away from him. So I said, "What if I do an homage to Tony Hopkins with a whisper of Max Von Sydow filtered through Paul Scofield?" And Ken went, "Yeah, that's about it."

On Loki, Thor's younger brother and the not-quite-villain:
Hiddleston: He's not going to be King. He knows that. he has less responsibility on his shoulders so he's freer to have a bit more fun. Thor and Loki are both going to run Asgard when Odin steps down. Thor has an ability and a physicality and a presence; he's the type of man you follow. You just do. Thor is that guy. And Loki's gifts are different in that he is sharper, he's cleverer, he's more interested in tactics and strategy. He's capable of thinking ahead and he enjoys chaos; he's the God of mischief. He likes stoking the fire of chaos and seeing what happens.

I don't start the film with him immediately gone to the dark side. I think it's good to see that Loki is genuinely Thor's brother and there is a complicated relationship there. He isn't just an out-and-out villain; he isn't all black. I've tried very much to make Loki psychologically plausible. Someone who's damaged and very, very intelligent and is able to sow the seeds of deceit. Like, he's the Oscar-winning liar, you know? You'd buy anything from him.

On 'Thor' being more than a little bit (but not completely) Shakespearean:
Feore: Everything that I've done in the theater, Branagh is using. It's me and Hopkins and Ken standing around talking about, "Well, this is sort of like Lear," and we're using a shorthand for how to communicate effectively and immediately out here when it's costing somebody serious money.

Hiddleston: Because my background is Shakespeare as well, I've done a lot of Shakespeare in London and Iago is kind of a touchstone for me.

Branagh: I don't want [Thor and Odin] sounding like Shakespearean times and sounding in any way non-human, in a strange way, so the goal is always to make them feel at one and the same time, they're gods and they're just like us. So far, I think we've trying to capture that well. It's just a big-hearted kind of account of these incredible characters who have lasted across the several thousand years of Norse mythology and the last 50 years of Marvel, who raided this mythology so brilliantly, and with such imagination.

'Thor' hits theaters on May 6, 2011.

PG-13 2011
Based on 40 critics

After his reckless actions reignite an ancient war, the Norse god is banished to Earth. Read More

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