Thor [Blu-Ray] Kenneth Branagh

Thor [Blu-Ray] Kenneth Branagh
Shocker of the year: Thor is really damn good, maybe even excellent. Marvel's take on the Norse god of thunder works as an epic superhero action piece, a cosmic melodrama and a fish-out-of-water comedy. Briefly establishing an earthly connection before shifting the action to the realm of the gods, Asgard, the next half-hour is spent immersed in the fantastic mythology of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), witnessing visually dynamic historical battles with elemental creatures known as frost giants and being introduced to his sons, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddelson), and their struggles to dominate his fatherly affections. Set to inherit the throne, Thor's ascension is interrupted by a minor frost giant incursion, which prompts the arrogant and cocky young god to defy Odin and lead an assault on the giants' home world. Backed by Loki and his classic comic companions, the Warriors Four, Thor implores Heimdall (Idris Elba), the imposing gatekeeper of the cosmic highway known as the Bifrost, to grant them access to Yodenheim. Here, we're treated to one of the most spectacular fantasy battles I've witnessed. Not much of a diplomat, Thor uses a feeble jab at his ego as an excuse to let his hammer finish his conversation with the king of the frost giants (Colm Feore), thus ending centuries of relative peace. For his brash imperilment of the Asgardian people, Odin strips Thor of his hammer and banishes him to Earth to learn some humility. Scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her team of Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings, on incredulous comic relief) run into Thor, literally, while investigating the phenomenon that brought him to their world. Their research is confiscated by S.H.I.E.L.D., connecting to the greater Avengers story in an organic way that doesn't detract from Thor's appeal as a stand-alone film. With pitch-perfect performances rendering the cosmic scale relatable, award-worthy art and costume design, top-notch CGI, angular shot framing and soaring cinematography, Thor is a shinning example of what tent-pole cinema can offer at peak artistry. Much of this is thanks to Kenneth Branagh's assured direction, the thoughtfulness of which comes across strongly in his feature commentary, and a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes that make up the bulk of Thor's extra content. Suitable to the level of quality, much attention is paid to art design, costuming and casting. A great deal of the CGI work is inadvertently covered in the unfinished deleted scenes, which are rendered more interesting by optional commentary courtesy of Branagh. Fans are surely expecting a tease from The Avengers and it comes in the form of a Marvel "One-Shot" called The Consultant, featuring Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson adding context to events from The Incredible Hulk and recycling footage from that movie. Additionally, "Road to The Avengers" reflects on assorted scenes from the previous Marvel films that tie into The Avengers, with that upcoming franchise crossover's geek-hero director, Joss Whedon. As both a chapter in the larger Marvel universe and as a relentlessly entertaining summer blockbuster, Thor is a beautiful achievement. (Paramount)