Release Date(s)2011 (August 13, 2019)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios (Paramount Pictures/Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B-
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: B-
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are brothers, raised to one day succeed the great Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and lead Asgard as king of the Nine Realms. But when Thor acts rashly, starting a war with the ancient Frost Giants, Odin strips him of his power and banishes him to Earth. Landing in New Mexico, he’s found by scientists Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård). But SHIELD agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) finds Mjolnir, the legendary hammer which Thor is now unable to wield. Meanwhile, Loki has discovered a secret about his identity—a secret Odin has kept hidden from him—and decides to exact revenge by taking the throne for himself. So with the help of his new human friends, Thor must once again prove his worthiness to reclaim Mjolnir, return to Asgard, and save his people from disaster.
Right off the top, it should be noted that Thor is a damn solid movie. As only the fourth entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, its importance lies in the fact that it greatly expanded the MCU’s scope. This was the first film in the series really to touch upon the mythological and cosmic aspects of the Marvel canon. It added a number of characters that both enriched the MCU and became critical to its success, particularly Thor and Loki, but also some of the supporting players. It also marks the first appearance of a Tesseract, which eventually ties into the Infinity Stones so important later in the series. The story is a bit esoteric for the Marvel uninitiated, but it’s also thematically rich and Shakespearean in dimension. Once you get past a bit of mythological set-up early on, the performances are all good, director Kenneth Branagh keeps the action moving along nicely, and there’s plenty of humor, spectacle, and eye-candy to keep you engaged.
Thor was shot photochemically in 35 mm using Arriflex and Panavision cameras with Panavision anamorphic lenses. It was finished as a 2K digital intermediate and upsampled for Ultra HD in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For this release, the image has been graded for high dynamic range in HDR10 (Dolby Vision is available only on the Digital presentation). As with the original Iron Man in 4K (reviewed here), it’s readily apparent that the original camera negative hasn’t been rescanned in native 4K for this release. However, it’s also apparent that this is a more even and pleasing image, one less plagued by the use of Digital Noise Reduction. It’s a clean-looking presentation to be sure, with light grain levels, modest fine detail, and soft texturing—particularly apparent in stone and metal. Blacks are a little bit crushed and gray, as is apparent in the opening scenes. There’s just not a lot of detail in the shadows here. There’s also a bit of anamorphic optical softness and the odd shot with contrast haloing. However, shots without visual effects exhibit greater detailing and refinement. And the wider color gamut and high dynamic range really enhances this film’s rich Asgardian environments. When Thor and his party ride for the Bifröst, with the whole of the cosmos shining above and Asgard gleaming behind them, the image has a luster that’s impressive. It’s also a modest improvement in detail over regular Blu-ray, but a big one with regard to HDR. And, again, this is a step up from Iron Man in 4K. So that’s something.
Audio-wise, the 4K release of Thor offers a very nice new Dolby Atmos mix that takes the previous and thrilling Blu-ray audio (in DTS-HD MA format) and elevates it with vertical extension and slightly smoother movement and panning. The soundstage incredibly dynamic and immersive, engrossing in moments both quiet and bombastic. From soft atmospheric cues to thunderous battle space effects, the stage is big, wide, and well-integrated. Bass is robust, dialogue is clear and centered, and the score is woven nicely throughout. The Blu-ray sound mix was a standout for its day. The new Atmos carries that forward nicely, and the louder you listen the better. It’s not quite a reference mix, but it’s boisterous and pleasing indeed. Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, 5.1 Dolby Digital in Quebec French, and 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Japanese. Optional subtitles include those languages along with Norwegian and Swedish.
There are no special features on the 4K disc itself, but the package includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray. That disc carries over the following extras (all in HD):
- Audio Commentary with director Kenneth Branagh
- Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant (3:57)
- From Asgard to Earth (19:42)
- Our Fearless Leader (3:18)
- Assembling the Troupe (4:44)
- Hammer Time (6:14)
- Creating Laufey (5:33)
- Music of the Gods (2:05)
- A Conversation (2:23)
- Road to the Avengers (2:57)
- Deleted Scenes (11 scenes with optional commentary – 24:34 in all)
- Teaser Trailer (2:34)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:32)
- Avengers Animated Trailer (1:19)
The audio commentary is the real stand-out here. Branagh offers a wealth of information on the story and its themes, the characters, his directorial approach, the production, and much more. He really covers a tremendous amount of ground and it’s a fun and thoughtful listen. The featurettes cover various aspects of the production, the best of them being From Asgard to Earth, which looks at the film’s design. The deleted scenes are substantial and interesting too. Obviously, the package does not include the Blu-ray 3D version of the film, but you do get a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert.
Fans of both 4K and the Marvel Cinematic Universe will almost certainly want to upgrade their copies of Thor on Blu-ray to Ultra HD. The good news is, it’s actually a decent upgrade. Be sure to get a decent sale price on it, but I don’t think you’ll regret spending the money.
- Bill Hunt