Thor: Tales of Asgard Blu-Ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Thor: Tales of Asgard is the latest original animated film from Marvel Animation and Lionsgate, coinciding with the release of the Thor theatrical film. Tales of Asgard was originally a back-up feature in “Journey into Mystery” and then in the pages of “Thor” in the 1960s, telling stories of other Asgardian heroes and occasionally stories of Thor’s youth. Taking that as its cue, the film tells a tale of Thor and Loki as boys, think teenagers…in Asgardian years. This is a pre-hammer Thor whose weapon of choice is a sword rather than famed Mjolnir. Disturbingly predictable is that Thor begins the film as a brash, arrogant, spoiled prince. Of all things it is Loki who is actually thoughtful and grounded even though he, too, is a prince. Thor revels in defeating more seasoned warriors during his training sessions only to find out that because he is the son of Odin, the warriors are letting him win.
This doesn’t sit will with Thor who desperately wants to prove himself as a warrior and after Odin rebuffs his pleas to take part in actual military campaigns, he decides to stowaway in the vessel of the Warriors Three (Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun) dragging Loki along for the ride. Thor thinks he’s going on a quest to the kingdom of the Frost Giants to find the Sword of Surtur, only to discover that the Three Warriors instead stop at a tavern to party and steal adventure stories from others in over to regale their friends when they return home.
At first it’s irritating to think that these three famous warriors are merely pretending but the tavern sequence is one of the best scenes in the film. What we have here is essentially three buddies who tell their wives their going off hunting and spend their time drinking beer in the cabin and telling their friends about the one that “just got away”. The tavern soon erupts in an all out bar fight between the three, Thor, and Loki, and the barkeeper and other patrons and the five soon find themselves fleeing with their tales between their legs. This rousing scene is light and funny and you soon find yourself wishing there were more just like it.
Unfortunately Thor: Tales of Asgard leaps from bawdy action to Wagnerian drama and its here where the film slows to a crawl. Thor’s first taste of battle finds him using the sword to kill two frost giants resulting in overwhelming feelings of guilt for the young prince and also seek to destroy the truce between the giants and Asgard. Yet this seems in direct contrast to the comic book continuity where the Frost Giants were always an enemy to Asgard and Thor slew them by the hundreds. We get the point that this is supposed to be a coming-of-age film where Thor learns humility but this plot device was weak. Seeing Odin basically beg the Frost Giant king not to attack Asgard hardly seems consistent with the warrior mentality of the Norse mythology.
Marvel Animation has never seemed willing to use well-known actors in their animated features and Thor: Tales of Asgard is no exception. The voice acting is competent, particularly for the Warriors Three but Thor, Loki, and especially Odin are a few dozen notches below regal sounding. But perhaps the biggest question about the film is why? Why a story from Thor’s youth? As one of Marvel’s oldest heroes Thor has a remarkable legacy of great stories and instead of a Lee/Kirby classic we get an arrogant, unlikable teenage Thor. This was the 8th Marvel Animated feature and the last one of an the original deal struck with Lionsgate a few years ago before Marvel was purchased by Disney. We’ll see what the future of Marvel animated projects brings with Disney in charge but the series is not going out on a high note.
There are two audio commentary tracks. One with Supervising producer Craig Kyle and screenwriter Greg Johnson, and the second with Director Sam Liu and character designer Phil Bourassa.
Worthy: The making of Thor: Tales of Asgard (22:04) – This feature looks at the making of the film with the director, producers and writers and addresses the reasons why they decided to tell a story of Thor’s youth. The film was loosely inspired by the “Thor; Son of Asgard” mini-series from 2004.
The Blu-ray also includes an episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes featuring the Thor episode as he battles The Wrecking Crew
Mania Grade: C
Blu-ray: Thor: Tales of Asgard
Starring (Voices): Matthew Wolf, Rick Gomez, Christopher Britton
Written By: Greg Johnson
Directed By: Sam Liu
Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Original Year of Release: 2011
Extras: See Below
Series: Thor: Tales of Asgard