Thor – DVD Review
By Odin’s beard, it’s great!
Release date: 26 September 2011
2011 | 12 | 115 minutes | £19.99 (One-disc DVD)/£27.99 (Blu-Ray/DVD combo)/£29.99 (3D Blu-Ray/DVD combo)
Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård
Thor could have been terrible. It could have been an epic fail, with Marvel yanking the film out of cinemas and burning it on a longboat. Gamma giants and Spider-men are one thing; an honest-to-goodness Norse god superhero is something else. And yet, Thor has translated so smoothly to comic-book moviedom that we can look back now and wonder why it took the hammer-flinging one so long. (And no, his TV movie appearance in The Incredible Hulk Returns doesn’t count.)
One of the film’s chief delights is the way that Thor is always Thor, whether he’s smiting giant monsters in a frosty Tolkienish world, or striding into a New Mexico pet shop and demanding a horse. Cannily, director Kenneth Branagh starts on Earth, with a flash-forward into the middle of the story, showing a spectacular close encounter. On a stormy night in the vast desert, a Wizard Of Oz-style twister spits out an exiled Thor on the sands before an impressed Natalie Portman and a sceptical Stellan Skarsgård (who’s unwilling to accept that a character out of his children’s folklore books has just come to life in front of him).
It’s only after this prologue that Branagh takes us up to the cosmic realm of Asgard. Here, we’re filled in on how Thor angered his one-eyed, very Welsh divine dad Odin (Anthony Hopkins) by going on a private and illegal war against the dastardly Frost Giants, who launched a sneak attack on his proud homeland (Hmm, is there a contemporary allegory there?) Odin is like a disciplinarian Uncle Ben from Spider-Man, punishing his son for not respecting the great responsibility that comes with having an army-smashing hammer. “You are a vain, greedy, cruel boy!” Hopkins declares with dreadful Shakespearean authority.
Despite their huge differences, Thor resembles the Iron Man films in the way it points out the flaws and failings of an unworthy hero who must be thoroughly chastened before picking up the Marvel mantle (Several of Thor’s mythic themes and conflicts last appeared in blockbuster form two decades ago, in Disney’s The Lion King.) Also like Iron Man, Thor is blessed by a hugely charismatic lead, though it’s a performance at the other end of the multiverse from Robert Downey Jr. As Thor, Chris Hemsworth is a little boy in a titan’s body, oblivious to the hammerblow impact he has on the ladies each time he removes his shirt. Thor’s utter lack of guile (in contrast to his slippery brother Loki – the excellent Tom Hiddleston) is hilarious and endearing; he’s a one-level character in a film with considerably more than one level.
Granted, some fantasy-flick connoisseurs will gripe at the primary colours and theme-park cleanness of Asgard, with its shiny happy heroes, and mutter about the Hollywoodising of epic Norse tales. On a less snooty note, there are parts of Thor’s story that don’t resonate the way that they should. The revelation, for example, that the film’s two uber-baddies are actually father and son, potentially mirroring Thor and Odin, is pretty much thrown away. Loki’s twisty schemes keep us interested and on our toes, but they’re not really convincing on a dramatic level. And wouldn’t it have been better if Thor’s human squeeze (played adequately if unmemorably by Portman, in a limited role) had managed to get up to Asgard, and take part in the final bridge-breaking showdown?
But enough complaining. Thor is a hugely enjoyable, charming and disarmingly smart injection of Peter Jackson-scale cosmic fantasy into the Marvel film universe, and yet another reason to look forward to The Avengers next year. Let’s hope Joss Whedon’s film has a scene where Hopkins’s Odin and Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury compare eyepatch tips…
Thor is being released in three home editions: a DVD version (rated) and two DVD/Blu-ray combo sets, one in 3D. The feature-length commentary by director Kenneth Branagh is common to all editions. Branagh talks about Thor thoughtfully and articulately, putting an end to snarky sniping that he was slumming it for the money. If you want to understand the drama that Branagh saw in Thor, then his commentary is a perfect guide, but you can’t help thinking how much more fun it would have been with Hemsworth and Hopkins bantering along. We smell an anniversary ensemble commentary somewhere down the line…
DVD purchasers also get four short deleted scenes (with optional commentary), none of them more than mildly interesting. The most notable is a rather sweet fond fraternal moment between Thor and Loki just before Thor’s coronation, but you can see that it would have slowed down the opening too much. As for a lame “preview” (ha!) of the upcoming Avengers movie, it tells and shows you virtually nothing. The Blu-ray combo editions also include a seven-part Making Of documentary (total running time about 42 minutes), covering everything from the casting to the score.