Blu-Ray Review: Superhero Hit ‘Thor’ Serves as Nifty ‘Avengers’ Prequel

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CHICAGO – This summer saw the release of two movies that were basically just appetizers for next year’s full meal in Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” — “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Both were surprisingly well-received although both fall short of being considered among the best Marvel movies (“Iron Man,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Spider-Man 2”) in part by virtue of so obviously being set-ups for something yet to come. “Thor” works best when one considers where this franchise will go in “Thor 2” and “The Avengers” but is merely average when judged on its own. It’s a decent movie with a decent Blu-ray release that promises more-than-just-decent material to come. Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 3.0/5.0

Hiring Kenneth Branagh to handle the Shakespearian elements of the legend of the Marvel hero with the big hammer was the studio’s smartest move in years. Branagh adds a level of gravity to the proceedings that it wouldn’t have had with other directors. He somehow makes what other filmmakers would have turned silly into something with weight. He’s clearly more inspired by the political machinations going on back at Asgard than he is by the fish-out-of-water tale that takes place when Thor gets to Earth, but he handles even that with a level of accomplishment often missing from superhero movies. He takes his subject seriously but not overly so, recognizing that fun can be had at the same time. The direction (and the breakthrough performance by Chris Hemsworth) is the best thing about “Thor.”

Thor was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 13th, 2011
Thor was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 13th, 2011
Photo credit: Fox

Hemsworth plays the title character, a God from the world of Asgard who has been banished to Earth after a power struggle with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, who had a hell of a breakthrough summer with this and “Midnight in Paris”) and drama involving his beloved parents (Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo). After crash-landing on Earth, Thor gets involved with a group of scientists including Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, and a love interest in Natalie Portman. The love story is a bit underdeveloped, but, then again, so is every element of “Thor,” a film that is reasonably entertaining as it unfolds but dissipates from memory almost immediately and doesn’t really hold up well to repeat viewing. And yet I think interested fans should definitely see it once, if just to prepare for “The Avengers.”

Thor was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 13th, 2011
Thor was released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 13th, 2011
Photo credit: Fox

It doesn’t help my overall opinion
of “Thor” that the Blu-ray release is a bit lackluster. The best thing about it is the audio commentary track by the great Branagh, who also drops some knowledge on why the deleted scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. Those are an interesting lot in that they’re almost entirely scenes that deepen the power struggle on Asgard and might have added depth to a film that could have used more of it but also would have drained the pace a bit. I’m sure whether or not to cut them was a tough call.

What annoys me about the “Thor” Blu-ray is yet another collection of mini-featurettes without a Play All option. Come on. No one wanted to watch 3-minute featurettes. Fold them into a greater documentary about the production or don’t present them. Two pieces — “Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant” and “Road to The Avengers” — makes the film’s prequel status even more clear. They’re both entertaining, but are essentially commercials for a film that’s not even done yet.

Special Features:
o Commentary by Director Kenneth Branagh
o Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant
o 7 Featurettes
o Road to The Avengers
o 11 Deleted Scenes
o Digital Copy
o DVD Version

“Thor” stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo, Colm Feore, and Ray Stevenson. It was directed by Kenneth Branagh and released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 13th, 2011. content director Brian Tallerico

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