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The powerful but arrogant warrior Thor is cast out of the fantastic realm of Asgard and sent to live amongst humans on Earth, where he soon becomes one of their finest defenders.
For more about Thor and the Thor Blu-ray release, see Thor Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 7, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Don Payne, J. Michael Straczynski, Mark Protosevich, Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings
» See full cast & crew
Thor Blu-ray Review
A true spectacle of sight and sound.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 7, 2011
A wise king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it.
Thor flexes some pretty hefty muscles, but it's can't quite work its way into the upper echelon of Marvel Studios filmed properties. Director Kenneth Branagh's foray into the superhero genre is breathtakingly grand in scope, beautifully constructed from top to bottom, and a blast to watch, but it lacks the all-around greatness of Iron Man and the thematic and emotional heft of Christopher Nolan's Batman films, the latter of which is not a Marvel property of course but certainly the standard by which live-action Superhero films are judged. Nevertheless, Thor is the very definition of Summer movie awesomeness. It's big and loud, newcomer-accessible to the characters and the universe they inhabit, and it manages to blend potent action with genuine humor to a level not often achieved in such big-dollar endeavors. The story is admittedly a little bland and sometimes feels as if it becomes lost underneath the sheer weight and polish of the production design, action, and flash that permeates most every frame of the movie, but it's easy to follow and makes for a strong backdrop for what is nothing less than a fast-moving roller coaster ride through a world where fantasy meets reality and comic book filmmaking seems to have reached today's pinnacle for seamless special effects integration. Truly, is there a better universe than that of Thor to show off just how far moviemaking technology has come?
In the year In 965 A.D., the powerful Frost Giants threatened Earth and pushed her towards a devastating ice age. Mankind valiantly fought the threat and, with the help of the Asgardians -- led by their mighty king Odin (Anthony Hopkins) -- defeated the Frost Giants and restored peace to the universe. With the Frost Giants's source of power safely tucked away deep within Asgard, the threat of war no longer loomed over the universe, and only blatant treachery could once again bring the two sides to the brink of disaster. Years later, with Odin set to elevate his son Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to king of Asgard, the Frost Giants infiltrate Asgard and slaughter several of her finest. Thor, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and a select group of Asgard's most powerful warriors -- without still-king Odin's blessing -- travel to the Frost Giants's home world of Jotunheim to take them out once and for all. Unable to claim total victory and the Frost Giants unwilling to accept a truce from none other than Odin himself, the Asgardians are whisked away before further blood may be spilled. A furious Odin relinquishes Thor of his powers and sends his now-mortal son into exile on Earth. Fortunately, his mighty hammer, Mjolnir, accompanies him, but has been enchanted so only a man worthy of wielding its strength may carry it. As Thor attempts to accustom himself to his new home and limited powers, he's befriended by an astrophysicist named Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) who learns and experiences more than she's ever dreamed of when Thor's true whereabouts and potential powers are revealed. Now, with shady government spooks on their trail, Thor must prove himself worthy of wielding the universe's most powerful weapon, all the while his home planet of Asgard hangs in the balance as a power struggle threatens the stability of the entire universe.
Thor's success stems from two positive factors. The first is its incredible special effects integration that, combined with an awe-inspiring vision for Asgard, Jotunheim, and travel between the stars, gives the movie a grand, polished, and even semi-plausible façade, a wonderful setting against which to build the story and showcase some good old-fashioned hammer-hitting audience-friendly violence. The film thrives on its innate beauty -- both digital and practical -- and the various real-life sets and people mesh seamlessly with the heavy dose of digital assistance that makes the movie complete. None of these locales or special effects overwhelm the movie, however, even if they do sometimes compete with the picture's disappointingly linear and partially generic plot. Fortunately, though, Thor aspires to be little more than a popcorn-munching good time at the movies, and there's nothing really lost to what amounts to bland character arcs and the usual barrage of superhero antics. The outcome of the story is never much in doubt, and the various twists prove unimaginative from a structural perspective. Still, the movie is a great success as cinema-as-spectacle. Rarely is a movie this well put-together and given such attention to detail despite a plot that's hardly noteworthy and recycles any number of ideas -- redemption and the absolute corruption of unchecked power chief amongst them -- but does so without any pretenses or allusions to some importance that's just not there. Branagh smartly uses Thor as a vehicle for big movie fun, and in that light the entire production is nothing less than an absolute success.
The second factor working in the film's favor is the performance of Actor Chris Hemsworth. The relatively little-known musclebound blonde actor proves his worth in every scene. He's capable of playing each area of his multifaceted role with stunning clarity and ease, whether the cocky war-hungry would-be king, the mortal who's lost his power and struggling to rediscover himself in an alien world, or the powerful revitalized and, in a way, reborn superhero who fights to save the day on no less than two worlds. Helmsworth demonstrates throughout that he more than looks the part; certainly the long blonde hair, the beard, and the muscular physique are necessary to any interpretation of the character, but Helmsworth proves capable of expanding beyond the look and providing to Thor a soul that evolves and not merely goes through the motions. And that's in spite of the above-referenced thin plot. Nevertheless, the character is given a life beyond the generalities called for in the script, a life that Helmsworth briefly demonstrated capable of achieving in Star Trek and is able to expand upon in a full feature film, not five mostly forgotten minutes in a movie that doesn't exactly focus his efforts. The remainder of the cast is strong, but not up to Helmsworth's level. Anthony Hopkins proves a good but safe choice to play Odin. Hopkins offers little more to the part than a recognizable name and a commanding screen presence. He's overshadowed -- and rightly so -- by Helmsworth, but carries enough gravitas to convincingly play a character of such great stature simply by dressing up in the costume and delivering his lines with the precision and command expected of him. Tom Hiddleston seems to channel Alan Cumming in both look and style throughout and to the point that viewers will be doing double-takes and checking the billing a second and maybe even third time to verify the identity of the actor portraying Loki. The remainder of the cast -- even names like Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgård -- feel more like filler than anything else. Certainly their characters are somewhat integral to the plot, but none of them break free from the shadow of Chris Helmsworth or make much of an impression thanks to a script that seems to have put them into the movie more for the sake of having them rather than because the story couldn't work without them.
Lastly, there's the problem of a readily-identifiable unoriginality that runs through the movie. Thor works best in a vacuum, and one that dictates audiences enjoy the ride -- in this case, the special effects and action -- and not worry about the relatively weak story, overwhelmed secondary characters, and similarities to other Fantasy stories. On that note, Thor sometimes feels like a grand re-imagining of the 1987 Dolph Lundgren vehicle Masters of the Universe. The similarities between the two are striking, really, and not just the whole "musclebound blonde alpha male from another world arrives on Earth" angle. No, Thor so often looks like Masters of the Universe -- a much bigger budget Masters of the Universe to be sure -- that one can't help but wonder if Branagh and company didn't actually use the relatively obscure picture as a source of inspiration for the design of Asgard, that locale's color scheme, and various odds and ends props and costumes that pop up from time to time. Certainly Thor is a far more serious picture than the hammy-but-fun Masters, but make no mistake that the two share more in common than the filmmakers behind Thor probably care to admit. Second, and far more readily evident, is Thor's allusions to Arthurian legend, particularly the "sword in the stone" fable about the inability of anyone but the most worthy to pull a powerful and prized mystical weapon from its resting place. It just so happens that Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, is subject to an identical ritual that defines much of Thor's second act. Lastly, the "Destroyer" fire-breathing metallic whateveritis bears an uncanny resemblance to Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still with the whole metallic body and blast from the eyes thing. Of course, how much of this goes back to the original comic series is best left for debate amongst those who more closely follow such things, but for the casual moviegoer there's no mistaking the film's resemblance to and nods towards other properties that don't necessarily lessen Thor, but only reinforce that notion that the movie's plot takes a backseat to its admittedly spectacular action, sets, and special effects.
Thor Blu-ray, Video Quality
Thor's 1080p Blu-ray transfer never quite excels to the level of absolute visual perfection, but it comes awfully close despite some style-induced bumps in the road. The picture shifts between three very distinct locales -- the golden and very warm interiors of Asgard, the bleak and frigid landscape of Jotunheim, and the bright and clear New Mexican landscape. The transfer is most often challenged in its darkest corners; here, fine detail is often flat and lacking but not because the transfer proves incapable. Rather, the picture can be so dark that shades of black simply dominate the screen, but not quite to the point of crush. There's still plenty of definition and separation, but the image never quite delivers stunning low-light details. In Asgard, the warm color scheme tends to run slightly together; flesh tones take on a golden hue, but detail improves dramatically as evidenced in faces, clothing, and the like. The transfer enjoys the most balance and crispness on Earth. It's practically flawless and borders on the breathtaking; skin textures excel, clarity proves unbeatable, and colors appear perfectly balanced and natural. Still, the image never demonstrates much of a natural depth. It can go soft in a few places, but never to any real detriment to the overall look and feel the movie offers. A light layer of natural grain accentuates all of the positives, but a few minor instances of banding detract from a handful of shots. Generally, however, this is a strong 1080p transfer. It doesn't push boundaries or even rank amongst the elite, but this is nevertheless another in an ever-growing list of very high quality transfers from Paramount.
Thor Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Paramount's Blu-ray release of Thor delivers a thunderous DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack. This is an exceptionally well-engineered track. It's dynamic and incredibly immersive in nearly every moment, whether the most intense action scenes or the quietest dialogue exchanges. The picture opens with soft music that flows so subtly and naturally through the soundstage that one can only wonder just how far the track may go given the innate quality of such a relatively inconsequential yet so perfectly balanced and presented bit of score. It doesn't take long for the track to demonstrate its full range. Every scene is a sonic event as warriors battle on the frigid Norwegian battlefields early in the film. Clanking swords, screaming combatants, and the general chaos of war spill through all seven channels with a clarity and effortlessness that's second-to-none. The track proves incredibly dynamic here and elsewhere as sound effects of all ranges, volumes, and styles are seamlessly inserted into the track. That chaotic action is countered by wonderfully implemented ambience that transports listeners to the deserts of New Mexico, the frosty plains of Jotunheim, and the golden halls of Asgard. Indeed, the track handles delicate vocal echoes, dripping water, and light winds as well as it does intense rock 'em sock 'em combat sequences between Thor and the giant metallic fire-breathing foe known as "Destroyer." Bass proves to be a touch unkempt at the very bottom, but it's nevertheless both efficient and potent in supporting the heaviest sound effects and adding that critical heft that gives the track its body and strength. Of course, dialogue reproduction is center-grounded, crisp, accurate, and never forced to compete with surrounding music or effects. Soundtracks don't get much juicier and flat-out entertaining as this one; it's the perfect accompaniment to a flashy summer extravaganza.
Thor Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Thor arrives on Blu-ray wielding a good number of extras, chief amongst them an audio commentary track and several featurettes.
Thor Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Thor makes for fine entertainment, but the pinnacle of Superhero moviemaking it is not. Director Kenneth Branagh has chosen spectacle over plot, and in this case that choice isn't without merit. The story of Thor is one of recycled plot standards and thematic indifference, but the picture still works as an extraordinarily fun ride and a showcase of digital movie magic. The film is superficially defined by its breathtaking backdrops -- most of which aren't real -- and the exemplary performance of lead Actor Chris Hemsworth, who manages to give shape to a relatively flat character. Thor is a blast to watch; it moves fast and the action hits hard. It won't win any awards for originality, but it's a comfortable summer movie that does a fine job of setting part of the stage for the coming Avengers picture. Paramount's 2D Blu-ray release of Thor delivers steady 1080p video, a first-class DTS-HD MA 7.1 lossless soundtrack, and a better-than-average assortment of extra content. Easily recommended.
Thor: Other Editions
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Star Wars keeps making news for the Blu-ray format as its successful release, along with the smashing debut of Thor, have led to a new weekly Blu-ray revenue share record. For week ending 9/17/11, Blu-ray's market share of total package media sales was an all time ...
• Blu-ray Sales, Sept. 12-18: The Force is With Thor - September 21, 2011
For the week ending 09/18/11, Thor had a thunderous debut on the home video market as it became the No. 1 unit seller on both the Blu-ray and the overall sales charts. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Paramount Pictures, the film became the number ...
• Amazon Discount for Selected Marvel Blu-rays (Expired) - September 8, 2011
As a promotion for Marvel and Paramount Home Entertainment's September 13th Blu-ray release of Thor, Amazon is offering a special discount with the purchase of selected Thor and Iron Man Blu-rays. Buyers who order either the 2D or 3D version of Thor as well as ...
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