Thor Blu-ray/DVD (Empire review)

ThorSquareAs the son and heir apparent of Odin, king of Asgard, Thor has never been accustomed to being the underdog. But with Marvel stable mates such as Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men stealing his, uh, thunder, Thor suddenly seemed like afterthought, an also-ran – in short, someone fairly far down Hollywood’s A-list. Brit director Kenneth Branagh – whose nearest thing to a blockbuster was the uneven, Dracula-warmed-over Frankenstein – was therefore, in retrospect, a natural choice to direct his big-screen debut. Branagh attacked the mythic and comic source – a rare example of one of the Marvel pantheon being an actual god, rather than just godlike – with the enthusiasm of a starving peasant invited to an all-you-can-eat Asgard smorgasbord. Sure, Our was expected to take the mythic, Shakespearean grandeur and Gotterdammerung in his stride; what’s more surprising is his lightness of touch and sense of fun, despite the film’s Olympian scale. For make no mistake, this is no lesser Marvel adaptation. Thor is big. Really BIG. The astonishing Jack Kirby-esque architecture of Asgard looks a little more digital on the small screen, but there’s no denying its godlike epic-ness, even in the more down-to-earth scenes. On the human level, Chris Hemsworth makes an impressive god-who-fell-to-Earth, and it’s a testament to Branagh’s casting prowess that Oscar winner Natalie Portman is the weakest member of the supporting cast (Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston are especially golden). Overall, it’s a thrilling entry into the Marvel canon, which not only grossed nearly half a billion dollars worldwide, but successfully established Thor as a force to be reckoned with – just in time for his appearance alongside the household name heroes in The Avengers. ★★★★
ThorwideEXTRAS: If Kenneth Branagh seems to have had fun making Thor, he isn’t done yet: he clearly has a blast narrating it for his commentary, explaining how he distilled fifty years (and a few centuries) of source material into less than two hours, and offering such gems as describing Anthony Hopkins as “luxury casting,” (“If you’re going to cast someone to run the universe, he’s the guy you want”). Despite the yuks in the yack track, the few deleted scenes (with optional Branagh commentary), are perfunctory, while the Road to the Avengers featurette could more accurately be called the staircase to Comic-Con as, that’s about all it has to offer. The Blu-rays boast more (unseen at press time), including 7 behind-the-scenes featurettes, an Agent Coulson short, and a digital copy. ★★★★

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