Home Theater Forum and Systems banner

1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)


THOR 2D BLU-RAY (BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO PACK; “EXCLUSIVE” BEST BUY PACKAGING W/DIGITAL COPY ONBOARD DISC) REVIEW BY OSAGE_WINTER

Releasing Studio: Paramount/Marvel Studios
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 1080p High Definition; 2.35:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (played back in a 5.1 configuration)
Rating: PG-13
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Starring Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgard, Rene Russo

OSAGE’S PLOT ANALYSIS:


Some say that Marvel Studios’ (and Paramount’s) Thor and Captain America were merely rushed vessels in order to assemble the team going into the upcoming and world-anticipated Avengers feature film. And to some degree, they were right. Much of the staging and pacing – and character development – in both Thor and Captain America felt hurried and simply too fast for its own good, but to be honest on the other side of that coin, the films were solid origin stories of these iconic Marvel characters as well. As one of the most anticipated Blu-rays (and DVD’s for that matter) of the year, Paramount has released Thor in a plethora of available packages, ranging from a rather plain standard DVD product to a 3D Blu-ray/2D Blu-ray/DVD combo pack as well as a 2D Blu-ray/DVD combo pack; the subject of this review is the version I picked up at Best Buy yesterday on release day, which is the 2D Blu-ray with DVD combo pack, and which also featured so-called “exclusive” Best Buy packaging, which amounted to nothing except for a mock Thor comic rendering on the back of the slipcase (the actual disc case artwork can be seen in the image on top of this review). The outer slipcase was not nearly as cool as the 3D variant, which includes a raised relief cover that’s more visually interesting as the 2D slipcase cover depicting Chris Hemsworth’s face in a crimson red overlay. The last “exclusive” Best Buy packaging that I thought was way cool was the DVD version of the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, which I picked up when it came out and which included a nifty “pack of blood” on the slipcase that actually moved when the cover was moved – very cool.

I reviewed Thor when I saw it theatrically, and after watching some of the featurettes on the Blu-ray last night, it gave me some more insight in terms of the mythology of the character and what the filmmakers were going for – this indeed was a difficult Marvel icon to bring to the screen, in that even Stan Lee admits the subject matter delves and dips into varying Norse legends, Viking mythology and even modern day elements. The decision to place Chris Hemsworth (Captain Kirk’s father in JJ Abrams’ reboot of Star Trek) in the lead as the thunder god himself was a good decision, I felt, as Hemsworth plays the role well and with an arrogant enjoyment that defines Thor as a character. There really weren’t any characterization issues or casting problems as I saw it – the last time hideous, disastrous casting issues for a comic film adaptation took place it was in the horrific Batman and Robin and Batman Forever…I mean, Val Kilmer and George Clooney as Bruce Wayne? Yeah, okay.

No – where the issues of Thor came into play were in the fashion that has him entering modern day Earth from a society galaxies away and yet he begins acting like he’s been here forever…for example, he’s suddenly eating Pop Tarts and drinking coffee, and then later having beers and Boilermakers with one of the characters? Come on. I realize there has to be some suspension of disbelief – something they teach us early on in every history of cinema class – but this was a bridge too far. Aside from that, the plot pretty much kept in line with the other SHIELD subplots throughout the other Marvel film projects thus far, and mixed the mythology of the backstory with the present day elements rather well. Thor opens with the outrageously cute-as-a-button Natalie Portman as an astronomy researcher driving through the New Mexican desert with her fellow researchers, one of which is the always-great Stellan Skarsgard, where they discover an occurrence from the skies that results in them literally running into the muscular Hemsworth who seems to have fallen right out of a mysterious cloud formation. The story then hearkens back to explain the origins of Thor and where he comes from, set to the backdrop of Anthony Hopkins’ narration (he plays Thor’s father) which is seemingly a growing tactic with many films today – a la Clash of the Titans and Priest. In this other world of theirs, Hopkins is king and his sons are aspiring to take the throne one day. Their enemies are humongous, red-eyed creatures known as “Frost Giants” and when Thor is of age to be sworn in as king, this world finds itself suddenly thrown into battle once more with these fiends before the ceremony can be finished. Enraged with the Frost Giants and being as arrogant as he is, Thor decides to engage the enemy himself by leading a band of warriors – along with his untrustworthy brother Loki – across a world-connecting bridge and into the realm of the Frost Giants to fight them to the death, against his father’s wishes. Along with Thor comes his mighty hammer, capable of injecting him with ridiculous powers including incredible strength, the ability to manipulate the weather elements and much more. The resulting fight between the Frost Giants, Thor and his men – and woman – is one of the most exciting setpieces of the entire film, as we witness Hemsworth swinging the magical hammer wildly, smashing and killing nearly every Frost Giant creature in his path. Eventually, Hopkins appears in the Frost Giant realm to attempt to appease the creatures in hopes of peace, but when they refuse, Hopkins takes a few Frost Giants out and escapes with Thor, his other son and the rest of the warriors.

Back in their home world, Hopkins casts Thor out of their realm for his arrogance and defiance, refusing to make him king and stripping from him his powers and hammer. He is sent to Earth, where he is now a mere mortal, and is found by Portman, Skarsgard and the other researcher in their team in the New Mexico desert. This also ties in to the SHIELD subplot which was hinted at in the conclusion of the credits in Iron Man 2, in which SHIELD operatives find Thor’s hammer in the desert sands of New Mexico. Of course, once Thor arrives on Earth, his hammer follows moments later, sent there by his father but no longer useful to the thunder god due to a spell Hopkins has put on the hammer preventing his son from using it until he – or apparently anyone else – is deemed “worthy.” By now, SHIELD agents have quarantined the area, setting up a perimeter around the hammer to run tests.

Meanwhile, Thor has been taken to a hospital by Portman and her team, but eventually reunites with them and lets them in on what’s going on – at least as much as he wants them to know. The film switches back and forth between what’s going on down on Earth and what’s transpiring on Thor’s home world with his father and brother. It seems his brother Loki isn’t what he appears to be – or what Thor thought he was all these years – and intends on making sure Thor doesn’t return to their world, banished forever on Earth with no mystical powers. At some point, Hemsworth explains to Portman exactly where he comes from and how Earth is merely part of different “realms” within the entire galaxy, sharing this space with other worlds; this is supposed to explain the “Norse” mythology the comic was based on, in addition to various Viking myths and legends intertwined in there, but it was a bit confusing and seemed too jumbled to be believable. Is there a parallel universe coinciding with our own at the exact same time? Or is this more like the situation in Clash of the Titans, where before mankind there were beings that ruled as gods and eventually created man, thereby making man worship them? The whole thing was a bit convoluted, and is even confusing in the semi-opening sequence in which Hopkins narrates and attempts to explain the relationships between humans, their world and the Frost Giants, amongst other things.

Eventually, Thor’s brother Loki – whom I understand may play a role as one of the first villains in The Avengers based on raw rumors – becomes so high on power and rage towards his brother, he enlists the assistance of gigantic, robotic avenger to seek Thor out on Earth and make sure he never returns to their world again. At this point, Thor’s other warriors have found their way to Earth to help him find a way home and to fight the giant creature sent to destroy them and mankind. I am uncertain as to how much of this is taken from the mythology of the comic, but the sequence in which Hopkins, through a coma-like sleep he is in due to ailing health problems, manages to get Thor his hammer back into his hand thus returning his great power to him was truly exciting, setting up one of the final fight scenes between Thor and the metallic menace that is rampaging through the New Mexico town. When Thor returns to his home world to settle things with his turncoat brother, they too enter into combat and Thor ends up destroying the cosmic bridge that connects their world with other realms with his mighty hammer – thus eliminating any chance of Loki getting to Earth to do any further harm. The problem is by doing this, Thor also goes back on the promise he made to Portman about returning to her after his job was over on his home world.

Thor was definitely a lot of fun, and it’s going to be interesting to see how, if at all, a sequel will be introduced either before or after The Avengers (most likely after). Was it a classic like Spider-Man/Spider-Man 2 or as engaging as Iron Man? I don’t think quite as, but it was far from the worst comic adaptation ever made. The CGI goes nuts in certain places, and the otherworldly elements when the sequences involve Thor’s home world get a bit hokey and border on science fiction rather than comic lore, but the scenes depicting fights between Hemsworth as the lead character wielding the mighty hammer and the Frost Giants are nail-biting in terms of excitement, as is the sequence with him and his brother’s robotic avenger towards the end.

And, like everyone else, I can’t wait for The Avengers, which, if done correctly, should be a kick-butt ride.

VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:

While sharp and clean for the most part, Paramount’s 2D Blu-ray release of Thor didn’t wow me as reference material – that’s not to say it was not good looking or engaging. Some of the sequences dipped into softness, which I didn’t care for with a BD transfer, and the opening scene with Portman and her team as they drive into the New Mexico desert and run into Thor was particularly poor-looking on my display, exhibiting that softness again that obscured details and gave the image a very DVD-like look. Some digital noise entered that opening sequence as well on my display, making the whole part look twitchy and dithered a bit, and it was almost as if tons of DNR was applied, rendering that scene waxy and lifeless.

Closeups of Hemsworth’s face were exceptional in 1080p, if not absolutely bursting with detail I’ve seen on some other transfers, but you could make out his individual beard hairs; the shots of Thor’s home world were explosive with bright contrast, making some of the buildings and structures of the CGI work almost shimmer in response. The sequences involving the New Mexico town as Thor gets “acquainted” with Earth and its ways was ripe with detail, color and brightness – in particular, when Hemsworth is walking around the town after saying goodbye to Portman and Skarsgard, the 1080p encode really shines and struts its stuff like an appealing 20—something on the Vegas Strip decked out in a little black dress and high stilettos. The image during this sequence is deep, full of detail and punch and simply looks crisp and bright.

Many people that have viewed Thor already on Blu have talked about the sequence involving the fight between Thor and his brother’s metallic assassin he has sent to Earth to kill him, and how this was a “mind blowing experience” in terms of the video quality – it may just be my rear projection display’s “limited capabilities,” but I didn’t find this scene as dramatic. It was great, yes – but it didn’t warrant “the defacto Blu-ray standard” moniker many are placing on it if you read the countless online articles, editorials, rants, reviews and tweets.

AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:

Again, also depending on who you talk to or who’s blog you read, Paramount’s Thor Blu-ray is either equipped with a house-destroying 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, or the track comes off a bit shy on bass and impact – for my case, running the track in an English 5.1 arrangement, I found it to be a mixed bag. The dialogue was definitely mixed a bit lower than the other channel stems, forcing me to raise my master volume level up very early on in the film to catch what Portman and others were saying in that New Mexico desert scene. When the action heats up, the track gets ridiculously aggressive – but there was something “off” about the LFE track on my system. While not lacking per se, there was a bit of a “hollowness” to it that left me wanting a bit more during thudding sequences that should have had wall rattling bass. In comparison – and oddly enough what I have been finding in a lot of Blu-ray releases – the trailers for the film in the extra features section of the disc, rendered in Dolby Digital, were much more aggressive in tactile punch and audio delivery than the film’s Master Audio soundtrack itself. I don’t understand that.

Action setpieces like the Frost Giants fight towards the beginning and the New Mexico sequence involving Thor and his brother’s avenger exhibited staggering amounts of aggressive surround activity, throwing items, wooshes, screams and more into the back channels and all around the room; the sequence in New Mexico in particular when the “fire bolts” are thrown at cars, buildings and Thor himself were wildly effective, forcing me to ultimately lower my system’s main volume for comfort. However, I found the overall track to be not as engaging or tactile in aggressiveness as, say, the DTS mix on The War of the Worlds DVD – and that’s comparing a lossless codec to a lossy variant on the DVD format. That track almost brought my walls crumbling down when I played it – I didn’t have the same experience with Thor’s Master Audio mix.

SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS:

No doubt, this is a purchase. Please tell me what you thought of Thor on Blu from your own experiences; I’d like to hear your input!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
402 Posts
Great Review, Osage!

Put me in the "House Destroying Audio Mix" camp. I am bitstreaming from a Sony 5000ES BD player to a Denon 2311CI AVR (7.1 setup). The last time I literally feared for the books on the shelves (and drywall integrity) was on the "War of the Worlds" DVD (DTS track). Next to the LFE in "Thor," WotW looks like "kiddie-time with the little boom-boom box," IMHO of course ;) I have trouble imagining "Thor" being "bass-shy," but I suppose it is possible on some setups...??? Me, I would like to shake the soundmixer's hand on this one (I had an ear-to-ear grin on my face from the beginning to the end credits). And all of this at 15dB below reference...:D
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Great Review, Osage!

Put me in the "House Destroying Audio Mix" camp. I am bitstreaming from a Sony 5000ES BD player to a Denon 2311CI AVR (7.1 setup). The last time I literally feared for the books on the shelves (and drywall integrity) was on the "War of the Worlds" DVD (DTS track). Next to the LFE in "Thor," WotW looks like "kiddie-time with the little boom-boom box," IMHO of course ;) I have trouble imagining "Thor" being "bass-shy," but I suppose it is possible on some setups...??? Me, I would like to shake the soundmixer's hand on this one (I had an ear-to-ear grin on my face from the beginning to the end credits). And all of this at 15dB below reference...:D
Hey, Vader!

Thanks so much for your reply and feedback, man!

I too am bitstreaming from an Oppo BDP-83 to an Onkyo 605, albeit a 5.1 setup, but I found quite the opposite in terms of the War of the Worlds vs. Thor issue -- NOTHING shakes my house, walls and things on the shelves like the DTS track on WOTW. Thor just didn't do that -- nor does any Master Audio track, save for maybe Iron Man 2.

I totally hear you though about the "bass shy" differences you found with the mix -- it could very well be (and most likely is) my substandard subwoofer, which I will be replacing as soon as I have funds...

The thing that bothers me, though, is that trailers for films on DVD's or Blu-rays which carry Dolby Digital audio are MUCH stronger in impact and dynamics than the actual lossless surround tracks for the films themselves. I pointed this out in the audio portion of the review -- when I watched the Thor trailers on the Blu-ray, equipped with Dolby Digital audio, they shook my room much better and aggressively than the Master Audio soundtrack of the feature film did. Perhaps this is an issue with the DTS-HD decoder of my receiver, but it's what I find with nearly every title I view or review; this leads me to wonder if it's really my sub after all...

Anyway -- thanks for reading and for your feedback; I appreciate it, and no matter what, I'm keeping Thor on the Blu-ray shelf! :T
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
402 Posts
Osage,

Now that you mention trailers, the teaser for Iron Man tacked onto the end of "Transformers" tended to be a whole lot hotter than the film itself... it even out-did the Ironhide flip (I remember having to turn it down, else risk bottoming the subs I had then... ah... good times :) You do bring up some good points, and I might just have to watch Thor again with your comments in mind...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
4,127 Posts
Add me to the house destruction as well. The 7.1 DTS-HD was pretty hard to beat. I'll have to check out the trailer thing, I haven't really noticed as I don't really watch the trailers at my normal reference volume.

As for the video, I didn't notice any of the issues you mentioned except for some occasional softening, but my experience with that was more related to the CGI. The desert scenes and the scene involving the Odin's metal guardian were pretty much flawless.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter #6
Osage,

Now that you mention trailers, the teaser for Iron Man tacked onto the end of "Transformers" tended to be a whole lot hotter than the film itself... it even out-did the Ironhide flip (I remember having to turn it down, else risk bottoming the subs I had then... ah... good times :) You do bring up some good points, and I might just have to watch Thor again with your comments in mind...
Good to know someone else found these "issues" with trailers -- indeed, I'm telling you, the trailers seem to be mixed at a hotter level (sometimes overcooked) than the features with lossless audio.

If you watch Thor again, please check back in here as I'd like to hear your thoughts about it...:T
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Add me to the house destruction as well. The 7.1 DTS-HD was pretty hard to beat. I'll have to check out the trailer thing, I haven't really noticed as I don't really watch the trailers at my normal reference volume.
I don't even have to watch the trailers at reference to experience this difference in output -- it's staggering, at any level, and leads me to believe the trailers are merely mixed much hotter than the features for some reason (what I discussed with Vader above); by no means am I saying the 7.1 track on Thor was weak or ineffective. Not at all. But Vader too found that difference between the trailer and feature issue on Transformers too, so something must not be fresh in Denmark...

As for the video, I didn't notice any of the issues you mentioned except for some occasional softening, but my experience with that was more related to the CGI. The desert scenes and the scene involving the Odin's metal guardian were pretty much flawless.
CGI often wreaks havoc with video encodes, rendering them soft and fuzzy in certain places, but my issues weren't with the CGI coated sequences -- the opening scene with Portman, Skarsgard and the chick from 40 Year Old Virgin (I can't think of her name off the top of my head) as they're driving through the desert was horrifically soft on my display, looking like a waxy DVD transfer in fact.

Of course, these issues could all be differences in our gear, setup and so forth. It's interesting to point them out and discuss. :T
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
531 Posts
I enjoyed your review Osage. I agree with your assessment of the previews volume difference, I would guess they do it on purpose to grab your attention - much like commercials on TV.

As far as Thor's bass sounding 'different' that may have to do with it having no content lower than 20hz. With WotW there is a lot of sub 20hz material which may make the difference you described.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
I enjoyed your review Osage. I agree with your assessment of the previews volume difference, I would guess they do it on purpose to grab your attention - much like commercials on TV.
Interesting analysis, Infra -- makes sense. And thanks so much for reading and your kind feedback on the review! Much appreciated.

As far as Thor's bass sounding 'different' that may have to do with it having no content lower than 20hz. With WotW there is a lot of sub 20hz material which may make the difference you described.
Ahhh...indeed. I have been researching this phenomenon after I wrote the review, to see if others found this or if there was some kind of explanation regarding the "hollow" kind of LFE I experienced. The track was by far not weak or ineffective -- at all. I just experienced moments of LFE that weren't mesmerizingly walloping. :bigsmile:
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
Some additional information not included in the initial Thor review:

I neglected to mention that there is a small "cameo" by the "Hawkeye" character who is supposed to be a part of The Avengers as well -- the sequence in which the SHIELD guys are chasing Thor as he beats them up in his quest to get to his hammer in that rainstorm is a prelude to the moment we see "Hawkeye," who is a SHIELD operative that utilizes a specialized bow weapon in order to take Thor down. He doesn't actually get the chance to use his bow, instead Thor gives up chase after he realizes he cannot use his hammer, but it was an interesting little cameo that I forgot to mention.

From all accounts thus far, Hawkeye won't be getting his own feature film from what I understand, and there has been speculation regarding what part this character actually played in The Avengers and the SHIELD initiative.

Also -- there is a sequence following the credits, as all the Marvel films have been doing as of late, which depicts Skarsgard's character meeting Nick Fury of SHIELD (Sam Jackson) and learning about some kind of special power supply. At that moment, we see Loki, Thor's brother, appear in a reflection, suggesting this may set up Loki as the first Avengers adversary after all (which has been speculated); I didn't understand the reference to this "unlimited power" in this scene, but the appearance of Loki suggests to me that he may be a major factor in The Avengers project.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter #12
Spoiler
The "unlimited power" thing in the box appears to be the cube that the Captain America movie revolves around.
Ahhhhh.....that's interesting; it didn't look like that to me...

Are you referring to, though, the "technology" that HYDRA and Red Skull are dealing with in Captain America?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
531 Posts
Spoiler
Exactly, at the beginning of Captain America they discover it and Red Skull uses it for all their high tech weapons then at the end when it jumps to present day Shield finds it in the ocean.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
85 Posts
That scene got me wondering also. Is this "power source" a fragment from the Ice Giants weapon? It seems plausible and would be interesting to see! Also, did anyone else notice that Loki had some sort of control over the doctor?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
402 Posts
I didn't understand the reference to this "unlimited power" in this scene, but the appearance of Loki suggests to me that he may be a major factor in The Avengers project.
I was wondering the same thing when I saw Thor in the theater. The only speculation I had heard was that the "unlimited power" thing was a piece of the bridge that Thor smashed (which would explain Loki's interest). I have not seen Captain America yet, so this is the first I had heard about that connection. "Veddy Insidesting"....
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
2,264 Posts
Discussion Starter #16
Very interesting viewpoints, gentlemen...

From what I have read online, there are rumors that Loki is supposed to be the first Avengers adversary (and some are speculating that Mark Ruffalo's Hulk may start out as one as well, before he gets folded into the SHIELD conglamorate -- apparently, one of the Avengers books went that way, with Hulk being an enemy first...) and that as they are transporting him on a SHIELD vehicle of some sort, Robert Downey Jr. (Stark) walks past him and he says to Stark "You think you can stop me? I have an army behind me..." and Stark is supposed to say to him "Yeah...but WE have a Hulk..."

That is a speculated rumor of how some of the dialogue is supposed to go in The Avengers; if so, it's gonna be one of a ride! :T
 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
Top