Marvel hurl Thor to Earthbound Blu-ray with a presentation that is excellent, overall. Encoded via AVC, this transfer is for the 2D version of the film. The 2.35:1 image is suitably grand and, unsurprisingly, it has plenty of modern hi-def pizazz to it.
That said, this isn't the sharpest image around. Although good texture and a consistent level of grain is apparent, some detail seems to be missing from skin and material at times and detail is visibly less well resolved in darker scenes. Skin texture and finite detail in anything other CG elements is lacking during the Frost Giant sequence which is, admittedly, played out against vast green screen. Now I can't comment on how this looks in its 3D Blu counterpart – I saw the film in 3D at the flicks and found that it suffered from blurred peripheral information and wasn't, on the whole, very effective at all – but this lack of depth and detail could be down to the filming, itself. I'm not sure. Huge CG settings and opponents for the characters to run around and fight against can often play havoc with believable depth and detail, and this may be the case here. But I can't help noticing it this time around.
Colours are quite brilliant. We are in three distinct visual environments – the golden, burnished gleam and radiant gemstone setting of Asgard, which looks fantastic; the deep blue shadows of Jutenheim, pierced only by Thor's red cape and the satanic eyes of the Frost Giants; and the sunlit but chilly-looking yellow shimmer of New Mexico. The multiple hues and sheens of the Rainbow Bridge and the swirling celestial wormholes are shining examples of how well conveyed the varied palette is during lots of whooshing action. The shocking blue of Thor's eyes and the Nordic blonde of his whiskers, the piercing red of Laufey's eyes and the bronzed gleam of Heimdal – all vividly reproduced. The transfer copes with most of this with dynamism and vitality, but I have to say that I wasn't too enamoured with its variable depth of the blue shadings. Not only did this look artificial and somewhat bereft of delineation in the Jutenheim sequence, as I've already mentioned, but also during elements of Thor's night-time assault on the S.H.E.I.L.D compound and certainly during his first arrival in the desert. Somehow, the shadows take on a fake-looking processed aspect. They lack a satisfying depth in these moments, whilst at other times (the majority of times, in fact), the image is gorgeously deep and consistently tight and crisp with its background and far-off objectivity. Daylight sojourns in the desert look terrific, as do the scintillating views and vistas in Asgard. The battle with the Destroyer is another marvellous example of the transfer doing everything right – depth, detail, clarity, fidelity and three-dimensionality.
Contrast is good, and the blown-out whites and high-lights in New Mexico and upon some reflections in Asgard are part of the intentional look. I certainly recall this from a couple of viewings at the cinema. And to go alongside this, we have excellent black levels that provide supremely deep and evocative shadows in Asgard and elsewhere. In fact, the blacks look superb in Jutenheim as well – it's just the blues that I don't care for. There is no crushing going on within them either.
Compression errors don't rear their ugly little faces. Edges are smoothly resolved. Noise is not an issue, and I wasn't aware of any banding, unless you count what is always there in the Marvel logo. I did spot some aliasing taking place, but then I was looking for it. Don't look for it and you shouldn't have a problem.
I'm awarding Thor a very strong 8 out of 10, folks. 8.5 actually. You won't be disappointed.
Well, this is what we want from our Asgardian champions – full 7.1 DTS-HD MA!
With the full set-up incorporated, this is an audio track that is pretty much guaranteed to bring the house down. Panning around the environment is seamless, steerage is excellent and directionality often finite. Lots of things are hurled, blasted or shot around the place – front to back, back to front, side to side and both straight up and straight down – and the lossless mix keeps deadly accurate track of all of it. The power it is able to generate is frequently staggering, with some real thunderclap-heavy, foundation-rattling and bowel-loosening .LFE to enhance the cosmic to-ing and fro-ing, all the various skirmishes and swift, pulverising impacts, and the always enjoyable destruction on offer.
Whilst I don't think that the mix is quite as detailed as it could be, there is still ample clarity, refinement and subtlety to savour. There is lots of detail in the cracking of rocks in Jutenheim and the forming of the Frost Giants' ice-weapons. We can accurately place the distant impacts of crashing cliffs, or of thumping earthbound landings that are seen and heard miles away. Mjolnir's mystical momentum makes beautifully crafted buh-yoings as it hurtles from its master's hand and goes smashing through ranks of Frost Giants. The whizzing thundercloud voyaging through time and space whirls a sonic vortex around you, cocooning you in organic ether-bending audio. The gathering storm that the God of Thunder orders boasts some mighty rolling swells, and the burning heat-ray that issues forth from the Destroyer scorches through the track with alacrity. We can clearly discern the tilting, shifting transformation of the thing's golden armour, with lots of intricate manoeuvring going on. And, as you would expect, the sub plays a regular part in all of this, solidifying each bout of aggression with authentic low level reverberations that fill the soundscape with very satisfying clout.
There is no problem with the dialogue, which comes across clearly at all times despite the cacophony that often surrounds it. However, I think that it could have done with being mixed perhaps a little bit more prominently. This is just me, though. But I thought that Thor's voice, as well as those of a few others, sort of lacked the appropriate power. No such problems with Idris Elba, of course, whose volcanic purr simmers away with a consistent low brogue. Or Colm Feore's scary Frost Giant, for that matter. And, being a fan of Patrick Doyle, I can happily report that his gloriously uplifting score is treated with enormous respect. It is featured prominently in the design, and its warmth and jubilant energy is a joy to hear being delivered with such vigour. That fantastic moment when Thor is finally reunited with Mjolnir and he ascends to the clouds to do battle with the Destroyer is a definite highlight, devoutly rousing and chest-beating, and the music rides high across the set-up.
A real treat, folks, and a well-deserved 9 out of 10 from me.
For a new release of a big modern superhero movie, the extras for Thor are typical and welcome, though hardly groundbreaking. Something that I was really looking forward to hearing was Ken Branagh's commentary track. I'm a big fan of the filmmaker/actor and can usually listen to his astounding eloquence all day long. And, man, after this chat-track, it feels like I've done just that! I'm afraid that I'm currently eating my words about looking forward to this …
I will now endeavour to illustrate my thoughts on his commentary in the style with which he, himself, delivers it. Take a deep breath.
Hardly oblivious to the fact that Thor was something of an unusual project for such a lauded and, indeed, Lorded, thespic luminary as himself, Branagh comes across as completely at home with his creative decisions on Marvel's behalf and his intoxication with the classical nature of the central characters and their colossal cultural and mythical impact upon the worlds of literature, comics,films and iconic popular consciousness, and is at total ease and harmony with the inner workings of their craft that his cast are delivering in terms of heart, soul, emotion, grand passion, heroism, sacrifice and empathetic humanity, fully appreciating the depth of their commitment to the moment, to one another, to the bigger, cosmic canvas that swirls around them, and beyond exhaustive in his scene-by-scene, shot-by-shot adherence to the onscreen action, ever mindful that he must impart occasional frisson of a technical nature to unfurl for us the magical trickery residing in the heart of the domain of the visual effects he was able to harness in the splendid depiction of amazing superpowers, galactic majesty, sparkling, crystal-hued chaos and the rich tapestry of Asgardian godliness, and yet despite concluding that the apparent Shakespearean similarities between Thor and his own best-known affectations and obsessions with the Bard are purely coincidental manages to imbue practically every second of his epic monologue with precisely the sort of dialogue, vernacular and pentameter that would denote him, even to a deaf, dumb and blind person, as being a radiant example of the most supreme and innately articulate, excessively garrulous, colourful evocative, creatively smitten luvvie-darling that Tinseltown has ever clasped to its neon-smothered bosom.
Honestly, as informative as Branagh is, this commentary is a true endurance test. I collapsed in need of oxygen on several occasions throughout it ... and I'm hardly known for being short of words, myself! He even compounds all this by then climaxing with a big farewell and thank you for listening … and then returns for another quick session during the credits! And then comes back again for the post-credits teaser!!!
Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant
This last for almost four minutes and acts as weird sort of sideline teaser along the lines of the post-credits codas. Here, two of the S.H.E.I.L.D agents discuss how to get around the tricky prospect of recruiting the Abomination to the ranks of the Avengers, and how, with the aid of one Tony Stark (with Downy Jnr. actually appearing too), they can curtail such madness.
From Asgard to Earth
This is a 20-minute featurette that looks at the film's amazing production design and set-creation, as well as the costumes and the contrast between the Earthbound locations and the celestial radiance of Odin's cosmic kingdom.
Our Fearless Leader
Lasting just over three minutes, the cast are happy are to big-up the Branagh! Pure back-slapping pop-jazz.
Assembling the Troupe
Nearly five minutes that looks at the casting of the three main performers, Hemsworth, Portman and Hopkins. More pop-jazz that gets a little bit more excruciating as it goes on.
This is a bit better simply because it shows us a lot of comic book imagery of the mighty Mjolnir, but at only 6 minutes we don't really get to know too much about the creation of Thor's formidable side-arm. The cast and crew get to say how much they love the theme of the hammer and the impressive abilities it reveals in the finished film.
Here we meet Colm Feore who plays the king of the Frost Giants and we see how the design for Asgard's satanic looking adversary took shape and was crafted for the movie. But the best thing is seeing the performer, a good old stage acquaintance of Branagh's become the demon-lord and listen to that incredible voice as the cameras begin to roll. It is also amusing to see how much the suit construction supervisor, Shane P. Mahan, actually resembles a more round-faced Kenneth Branagh, himself!
Music of the Gods
Well, at only a couple of minutes, this is disappointing. Here we meet the great Patrick Doyle, long-time collaborator of Branagh's as we receive an appreciation for his scoring talents, see him in action conducting the esteemed London Symphony Orchestra and hear his enthusiastic outlook on the power of music in the movies. One of the best, yet most underrated composers around. When it comes to actual “spotting” an action cue, he's pretty much at the top of the game. An awesome job on this and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.
At only two-and-a-half minutes what can we expect from a scant, on-location chat with Thor comics creator, Stan Lee, and comic writer J. Michael Straczynski and the film's co-producer, Craig Kyle? Answer – not a lot. For such a formidable, long-standing character as the mighty Thor, this is drivel. There's nothing to be gleaned here that you, yourself, can't already imagine the trio might say. Pointless waste of people who have a vast store of valuable knowledge about the subject.
Road to The Avengers
This is just a couple of minutes of promo material waving the flag for the new tag-team event movie. We meet all the main cast-members as they take the stage at ComicCon and have a group hug to rapturous applause, and see some footage from all of their previous exploits as their alter-egos. We get nothing more. I love these characters and these actors, I love the idea of all these films happening … and I even love myself (!) … but, dammit, this sort of cheesy love-in stuff is quite stomach-churning by now. Can't we have something with a bit of substance to it, please?
Ah, here we go ...
There's actually quite a few of these, and they all come with an optional commentary from Sir Ken, which is more like an introduction. With a Play All option this reasonable and interesting selection of asides and extended character moments comes to 24 minutes. These are worth your time, and although it is hard to imagine that they would have added much to the finished film, we do get more of an understanding of Thor's buddies, and the familial aspects of the Odin clan. Nice moment with Ray Stevenson getting some assistance to lift up a car!
Finally, besides a Teaser and a full Trailer for Thor, we get a DVD copy of the movie and a Digital Copy too.
The more I see Thor, the more I love it.
As an action film, it is no great shakes. The best of the heavy-metal comes in the first act, and the set-pieces from that point on get progressively more lacklustre in pure adrenaline terms. But Branagh's interpretation of Marvel's Thor is about much more than mere derring-do and elemental body-slamming. It is about the character, himself, and his epic journey from self-centred and arrogant heir to a godly throne to a man capable of humility and heroic self-sacrifice. Yet as noble as Branagh's themes are, they would account for nothing if it weren't for the immensely strong, wonderfully charismatic and thoroughly gripping performance of Chris Hemsworth. Each time I have watched the film, I have seen more in his portrayal. More heart, more soul, more genuine magnetism … and more splendid comedy value. In the arc of a movie-bound superhero who must undergo the typical voyage of self-discovery and also learn to love another – and do it all convincingly – he brings so much warmth and energy to what is, essentially, a heftily clichéd path. We see all of these transitions in his eyes and we truly feel the emotional trajectory that he is being swept along. Portman is good too, but it is a typically measured performance that simply hits the right notes – though it hits them well. Hiddleston is excellent as the deceitful and aggrieved Loki and Hopkins, after his hammy panto villainy in The Wolfman manages to invest some finely regal pride into the proceedings. And even if I am in the minority, I thought the cameo from Renner's Hawkeye was really cool.
The biggest surprise though, I feel, is how assured Branagh is with the material. And the best test of all is whether or not we want to see more of this Asgardian super-warrior with Branagh at the helm. For me, personally, this is an undisputed yes. Depsite the lob-sided action, Thor remains one of the most enjoyable films of the year and certainly one of Marvel's best efforts.
Their Blu-ray is no slouch in AV terms, but the apparent raft of extras is made up, primarily, of promotional dross. Sir Ken's commentary is a breathless riot of flowery soliloquies, but it is well worth experiencing though, and the deleted scenes are also very rewarding.
So, with such a great movie looking and sounding so good, by Odin, it's hammer-time!!!!
Thor comes very highly recommended.
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