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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Thor: Tales of Asgard

July 21st, 2011

Thor: Tales of Asgard - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Thor: Tales of Asgard made its DVD debut just a couple weeks after Thor hit theaters, which was great timing. On the other hand, I had to wait almost two months before the Blu-ray finally arrived on my desk. Was it worth the wait?

The Movie

This is an origins story and it starts with Thor as a teenager, maybe. He's a god with an extended lifespan, so I have no idea how old he actually is. But the story starts with him being a brash kid in need of a good whooping. Unfortunately, while there are those in Asgard that can defeat him in combat, almost none are willing, as he is the prince. Sif is one of the few willing to stand up to him and treat him like an equal. After getting his ass kicked, and learning Sif was right about his trainers going easy on him, he decides that maybe he does need real combat experience against people not worried about hurting Odin's son. He decides upon the warrior's initiation right, which involves looking for the Dark Elf sword, Surtur, which is somewhere in the Jotunheim, the land of the Frost Giants. As Algrim points out, the peace between the Frost Giants and Asgard is fragile, and if Thor goes looking for The Sword of Surtur and is found in the land of the Frost Giants, war will almost assuredly happen as a result. But he won't be dissuaded, so with the help of his brother, Loki, they sneak aboard a vessel that will take them to Jotunheim.

Unfortunately, they have chosen the vessel of his friends, the Warrior's Three: Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg, who have a similar problem as Thor has. They have a healthy opinion of their combat abilities, so much so that they've never felt the need to actually get into combat in order to tell a good story about it. Instead of arriving in Jotunheim, the ship docks at a small tavern where the Warrior's Three spend their time stealing stories from real adventurers. A little bit of blackmail, and a barroom brawl, is enough to convince Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg to join Thor and Loki on their quest.

As you can probably guess, their quest takes them right to the heart of spoiler territory, so we will end the plot there.

This is the eighth animated movie from Marvel Comics I've reviewed, I think. Let's just go with at least the eighth. Thor: Tales of Asgard is not the best of the group, but it is close. I still think Planet Hulk is the best with Hulk vs. being a close second. Thor: Tales of Asgard is better than the previous teenage / coming of age story, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow, which I thought was a solid purchase. (I'm not counting the motion comics or any of the TV series' in this list, and I may have forgotten a movie or two. But it is a good point of comparison.)

The origin story plays out well with characters that are recognizable, but not too familiar. (In fact, it is Loki who plays the voice of reason through much of the adventure.) This gives the opportunity for character growth without interfering with established canon. On the other hand, the general story itself is a little familiar. A coming of age story with the main protagonist seen at a younger age than normal is not unique, not even for this line of direct-to-DVD movies. (Although technically Next Avengers was the next generation, but their powers were similar enough.) A son trying to prove to his powerful father that he's a man is also a very common device, but it is handled well in this movie. There's a good balance of humor, adventure, and dramatic elements, and even if it drags a bit early on. While the voice acting is solid throughout.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD start with two audio commentary tracks. The first is with the writer, Greg Johnson, and the producer, Craig Kyle. I've listened to a lot of audio commentary tracks with these two and they are always entertaining. My only complaint is Christopher Yost wasn't there with them, as the three of them have a lot of chemistry together. The second track features the supervising director Gary Hartle; the director, Sam Liu; and the character designer, Phil Bourassa. It's not technically oriented, but still fun to listen to. The first of the two featurettes is called Worthy: The Making of Thor: Tales of Asgard, which is a 22-minute making of featurette comprised of talking heads, clips from the movie, early concept designs, etc. There is also a bonus episode from Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, which I have previously reviewed.

As for the Blu-ray, there are no exclusive extras, outside the ability to create bookmarks. The video looks great, for the most part. The colors are excellent, the detail is good, blacks are deep, there are no compression issues to deal with, etc. That said, this is not a theatrical release and its production budget was much more modest as a result, so the level of detail is not as high as it could be. The audio is a 7.1 track, but despite the extra couple speakers, its rather average. The dialogue is clear and there are some battle scenes where the side and rear speakers get some action, but for the most part it's front and center with just the score coming from any other speaker.

Finally, the price of the Blu-ray is $4 more, or about 30% extra, plus it comes with the DVD, so it is clearly the better deal.

The Verdict

Thor: Tales of Asgard is aimed at a little younger audience than the best of the Marvel Comics Animated movie series, but it should still entertain adults. The extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray are worth checking out, while the latter is the better deal over the former. Add it up and its a solid purchase.

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