Thor Blu-Ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, September 11, 2011
Thor is perhaps my favorite Marvel Comics superhero so I admit to drinking deep from the well of geekdom when it comes to him. Thor arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD Tuesday as the anticipation grows for next year’s Avengers film. Thor is helmed by veteran Shakespearean actor and director Kenneth Branagh who uses that background for mostly good and a little bad. Thor certainly boasts the most superlative cast of any previous Marvel film including Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins Natalie Portman.
We meet Thor (Hemsworth) as an egotistical and reckless young God and heir to the throne of Asgard. As he is about to be named Asgard’s next King by his father Odin (Hopkins) the ceremony is interrupted when Frost Giants try to steal the Casket of Ancient Winters. Thor insists the Frost Giants have broken the peace agreement between Asgard and Jotumheim and urges his father to let him lead an attack on the Giants. Odin refuses to go to war but Thor ignores Odin’s command and gathers Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three to journey to Jotunheim to confront their King, Laufey. For his disobedience Thor is stripped of his powers and banished to Earth along with his hammer. Of course we know from Iron Man 2 that Mjolnir is found by agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in New Mexico and a research facility is assembled around the hammer (since it can’t be moved) so it can be studied.
Meanwhile Thor is found by astrophysicist Jane Foster (Portman), her assistant Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) and mentor Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). While Thor copes with the loss of his powers on Earth, things on Asgard are little better. Odin has fallen into the “Odinsleep”, a kind of hibernation that allows him to re-charge his life force. Loki uses Thor’s banishment to seize the throne of Asgard and eliminate Thor once and for all by sending the indestructible Destroyer to Earth to kill Thor.
The five-star cast doesn’t disappoint. Hopkins’ Odin may not be as physically imposing as he is in the comics but he still manages to be a commanding presence. When he strips Thor of his powers and hammer Thor is like a little boy sent to his bedroom without dinner. Marvel continues to make the right choices for their lead characters. Just as Robert Downey Jr. IS Iron Man and Tony Stark, the relatively unknown Hemsworth seems to have been a gift from the Norse Gods themselves. He looks the part and more importantly, he feels the part. He brings the right amount of ego and humility to Thor and helps the young King-in-waiting to come of age. Hiddleston played the tragic villain to the hilt and despite his machinations against Thor you couldn’t help but have empathy for his character.
The design of Asgard is like a Jack Kirby comic come to life…Asgard’s majesty is striking with its gold-spired towers and majestic palaces. Branagh has made sure that Asgard and its residents look every bit as regal as you’d expect. And wow…Heimdall, guardian of the Rainbow Bridge was one bad-ass Asgardian. Branagh, however, spent too much time on the soap opera elements of Asgard to the detriment of the main character. There’s simply not enough Thor but this is somewhat understandable. Thor’s background is far more complex than the average superhero and so you can look past the lengthy exposition of Thor’s home life.
Without a doubt Thor was the most ambitious Marvel film to date and Branagh has set the bar very high and hopefully Avengers Director, Joss Whedon can continue along the same path.
Audio Commentary with Kenneth Branagh
Marvel one-shot: The Consultant (3:57) this is a mini-movie featuring S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) discussing with another agent what to do about Emil Blonsky aka The Abomination as they decide to send in “Consultant” to speak to General Ross. This scene ties into the after the credits scene in The Incredible Hulk film.
From Asgard to Earth (19:42) The longest featurette looks at the design of Asgard and how most of it was created with actual physical sets as opposed to green screen effects and much is discussed about Jack Kirby’s influence.
Our Fearless Leader (3:18) – Short featurette where the cast basically gushes about working with Director Kenneth Branagh
Assembling the Troupe (4:44) – A short look at each of the main cast members including Hemsworth, Portman, Hopkins, and Hiddleston
Hammer Time (6:14) – Creating Thor’s magic hammer. Numerous designs were created for the hammer and the featurette also examines the many powers of Mjolnir.
Creating Laufey (5:33) A look at Colm Feore and his outstanding performance as the Frost Giant King Laufey
Music of the Gods (2:05) – A discussion with the film’s composer Patrick Doyle
A Conversation (2:23) - J. Michael Straczynski, who wrote the story, and Stan Lee visit the set
Road to the Avengers (2:57) – A promotional bit hyping next year’s Avengers film
Deleted Scenes with Commentary (24:34) – a mix of deleted and extended scenes. There are a few really nice bits here. One features Thor speaking with his mother Frigga before his planned coronation. In another, Frigga confronts Odin after he banishes Thor. This was a great soon and should have been left in as it shows how much the decision hurt Odin. There’s also a scene with a drunken Thor and Dr. Selving stumbling down the streets of town singing a song.
Mania Grade: B+
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, Tom Hiddleston
Written By: J. Michael Straczynski
Directed By: Kenneth Branagh
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Original Year of Release: 2011
Extras: See Below