Review: Thor Blu-ray

Thor Blu-ray boxSTUDIO: Paramount | DIRECTOR: Kenneth Branagh | CAST: Chris Hemsworth, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, Idris Elba, Tom Hiddleston
RELEASE DATE: 9/13/2011 | PRICE: DVD $29.99, Blu-ray $44.99, Blu-ray 3D $54.99
BONUSES: commentary, featuettes, 11 deleted scenes with optional commentary, more
SPECS: PG13 | 112 min. |Action adventure fantasy | 2.35:1 widescreen | DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1/Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, French, Portuguese and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

Thor movie scene

Chris Hemsworth is the God of Thunder in Thor.

Grandly produced, solidly directed by Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet) and adequately acted, Thor still plays like a second-tier Marvel Comics film. It fulfills the requirements of its mission statement, but not with the pizzazz, originality, enthusiasm and, well, sense of fun that made movies like the first two Spider-Man films and Iron Man such audience favorites.

Maybe it’s the story, which tells of the somber origins of the costumed superhero Thor (Chris Hemsworth, A Perfect Getaway), the swaggering, hammer-wielding Norse God of Thunder from distant Asgard and the favorite son to Norse mythology head honcho Odin (Anthony Hopkins, The Rite). Dad is forced to banish the muscle-bound Thor to Earth after his son defies his orders and wrangles up a few gods (including his scheming brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston of Midnight in Paris) to attack the Frost Giants of Jotunheim on the other side of the kingdom, creating a state of near-war between the two races.

Landing in the mid-West and stripped of his powers, the man who would be Thor meets astrophysicist Jane Foster (a low-key Natalie Portman of Black Swan), who’s so intrigued by the possibilities that come along with the blond-tressed he-man that she helps him retrieve his mystical hammer and get back up to speed. Meanwhile, things back on Asgard take a turn for the worse when Loki continues his evil-doing and wangles his way onto the throne.

Thor bites off quite a lot in its under-two-hour running time, but for all that’s happening on Earth and the CGI-drenched Asgard and Jotunheim, the story is strangely slow-moving and too coolly delivered to draw you in deeply. Even when Thor arrives on Earth and meets up with the humans who will eventually be his salvation, the emotional power just isn’t there. And on a more physical level, while the action and effects all look great, the CGI and visual F/X are also on the cold side. A little more hand-to-hand action minus the computer enhancements might have added some humanistic oomph to the proceedings.

The video quality of Thor on Blu-ray is rich but not flawless. With the fantasy film moving through so many different environment — the icy mountainscapes of Jotunheim; the blue-sky-topped, desert-covered lands of New Mexico; and the shimmering palaces and exteriors of Asgard — I guess the images can’t all be perfect. Again, everything looks acceptably distinct and beautiful, but the darker-than-dark blacks of Jotunheim’s gorges and Asgard’s low-lit chambers are just a little too enveloping.

My minor quips with the image quality are wholly made up for with the audio track, the power of which is well-suited to an epic film about the God of Thunder. It’s a booming, bass-heavy track and very well-calibrated to the demands of such strange sounds as Thor’s whooshing hammer, the chilling crunch of Frost Giants in battle and, of course, the unending barrage of explosions that are de riguer for superhero comic book adaptations.

Leading off the lengthy roster of supplements is director Branagh’s commentary track, a well-directed — and well-acted — affair if ever we’ve heard one. There’s nary a lost moment in the track, as Branagh covers everything from the casting and subsequent acting of the players to his philosophy on large-scale, effects-filled movies such as this one to his ideas on camera placement and movement. And Branagh’s familiar voice makes it all the more tasty. For me, the commentary is as engaging as the movie.

Five featurettes clocking in at 45 minutes do an adequate job covering the action adventure film’s origins and production, with particular detail placed on the visualization of Thor’s hammer, Asgard and the glittering rainbow bridge that connects it to Earth. Other bits look at the movie’s music and actors, and there’s also a brief piece that finds the cast singing the praises of their director.

The majority of the 11 deleted and extended scenes (which run a hefty 25 minutes) are sequences that further develop the characters of such supporting players as Frigga (Rene Russo, The Thomas Crown Affair), Sif (Jaimie Alexander, The Other Side), Fandral (Josh Dallas, The Boxer), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson, Kill the Irishman) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano, Ichi the Killer). The best of the bunch is a scene between Thor and Loki that adds some emotional weight to their tricky love/hate relationship.

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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.