Review: ‘Thor: Tales of Asgard’
Produced in 2009 but held until this week to capitalize on the live-action adaptation of Marvel’s Thor, Lionsgate releases [[[Thor: Tales of Asgard]]], a 77-minute animated feature that harkens back to the Thunder God’s youth. The title harkens back to the beloved back-up feature that ran behind the main story in Journey Into Mystery for several years as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby explored the earlier days of the Asgardians or told stories adapted from the Norse myths. This approach is a clever one for an animated feature and certainly freed the writers and designers from aping whatever the current look of the hero was.
Still, watching this largely entertaining film still feels like it was inspired by some other universe’s Thor comic. Everything is familiar but just off a shade from personality to the look. It’s certainly not an Asgard Jack designed nor does it really take its visual cues from the Norsemen of days gone by. Instead, the architecture and costume design seem taken from your generic high fantasy book. There’s even one sequence that feels lifted whole from The Two Towers film, which takes away from the overall strength of the story.
The story, by animation veteran Greg Johnson, is an original story exploring the prideful Thor’s first steps into manhood. After realizing he has been sheltered far too long by Odin, Thor convinces Loki to join him as they stowaway aboard a vessel the Warriors Three take away from Asgard. They reveal themselves and the group wind up entering Jotunehim, land of the Frost Giants. The group manages to obtain the revered Sword of Surtur, which brings the Giants and Asgardians to the brink of war.
Thor, Sif, Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg are entirely familiar in terms of personality and act according to character, albeit far younger versions of themselves. Interestingly, Loki, the lord of mischief, is actually the least recognizable as he is a loving brother who is struggling to master magic (with a nice cameo from the Enchantress). There are some nice hints to the fans that Loki’s Frost Giant origins remain intact but he remains ignorant of it here. (And as usual, Balder the Brave is absent which is a damn shame.)
The Frost Giants look generic and their leader is merely an albino version of the Maestro from Hulk: Future Imperfect. The Giants and their land are unimpressive as is Algrim the Dark Elf who has a sympathetic but inexplicable role in the overall story.
The action sequences are better than usual as are the vocal performances (even though the English not Norse accents are off-putting). High marks go to Guy Michelmore for a far more memorable score than the feature.
The film comes in a DVD combo-pack in both Blu-ray and Standard DVD. The former comes with a breezy 22-minute making of feature along with a Thor-centric episode of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. You can listen to two audio commentaries from either Supervising Producer Craig Kyle and Screenwriter Greg Johnson or Supervising Director Gary Hartle, Animation Director Sam Liu and Character Designer Phil Bourassa. The standard disc has just the featurette. After many near-misses from Marvel’s animated feature division, this is a strong, entertaining offering that will help sate your desire for more godly goodness.