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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thor: Tales of Asgard (2011) direct-to-DVD animation review

Overall verdict: 5.5/10

The Good: Excellent voice acting, snappy well written dialogue, believable "sibling" dynamic between Thor and Loki, emotionally charged finale

The Bad: sub-standard animation and art for a direct to DVD feature, boring action sequences, obvious art errors, frivolous humor, predictable plot,

Current Availability Status: On code 1 DVD at selected DVD stores only or online. Code 3 release pending

Behold the innocence of youth. Before he became champion of Asgard, wielder of the mighty Mijolnir, Thor was the epitomy of dopey, pig headed, rich kid.

Likewise, before his brother Loki became Thor's archrival, God of Mischief and master of magic, he was apparently quite the genki fanboy

Before their fateful destinies could be realised, Thor and Loki were best buds, one craving adventure and the other content with a good book and magic lessons. Here was to be the coming of age tale of Asgard's greatest legends; a tale of hope, brotherly love and of innocence lost in the fog of war.

Instead, Thor Tales of Asgard comes across as typical kid friendly fantasy fare which, aside from the emotionally charged finale, would sit well as a disney channel afternoon special. Think Disney's "Young Hercules" or "Tarzan II" or perhaps "Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning". Unsophisticated, child friendly prequels intended for a cheap laugh and netting a little extra cash.

Delayed for almost a year in order to coincide with the release of the blockbuster live action THOR film, Thor Tales of Asgard, originally named "Son of Asgard" is neither a prequel to that film nor is it an adaptation of the stylish "Tales of Asgard" stories by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Instead of chronicling a pivotal event in the life of Thor, like his quest to prove himself worthy of wielding his enchanted hammer, or some important bit of unseen Asgardian history, Tales of Asgard feels like "just another day of adventure"; almost like a premiere episode of a TV cartoon.

Eager to prove himself to his (girl)friend Sif, Thor drags the unwitting Loki to stow away on a vessel belonging to Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg, better known as the Warriors Three.

Thor intends to follow the Warriors Three to the frost giants realm of Jottenheim and find the legendary Sword of Surtur. Soon they discover that tales of the Warriors' adventures have been greatly exaggerated and after a laughable turn of events, convince the three bozos to to join Thor's quest. But Frost Giants do not take kindly to trespassers and a brash act by Thor threatens to plunge the realms into war once more. The only hope for this motley crew of males to return to Asgard is to seek help from the men hating Valkyries. Meanwhile, Odin and his dark Elf court official try to delay the war through diplomacy and deal with a hidden threat from within their own ranks.

Any one who has even the slightest knowledge of the fantasy genre would tell you that something called a "Dark Elf" is never good news. As if the elf's extremely helpful attitude, "smooth talking" british accent and overly humble demeanor did not already scream "I am hiding something and trying my best to look like a good guy". It is so obvious at first glance that it fails to be any sort of spoiler. The same goes for the rest of the plot. If you have seen a typical fantasy themed disney movie, you can spell out the plot here with no problem.

At least the writer, Greg Johnson, manages to pepper the otherwise boring narrative with sharp quippy dialogue. Particular mention goes to the way the brotherly dynamic between Thor and Loki is written, accentuated by the professional voice acting. Only Loki goes through significant character development however which climaxes at the finale and believably leads the boy down his dark future. The development is written as gradual and nuanced, a bright spot of maturity in the otherwise juvenile story.

Thor Tales of Asgard further enhances its "weekend afternoon disney show" feel through its visuals. The japanese "AnswerStudio" is the company behind the animation work and although their stuff is not as stellar as GONZO or Madhouse, their past work on direct to DVD animation like Doctor Strange and The Invincible Iron Man maintained a better that normal standard for a direct to DVD animation. This movie however showcases animation that is no better than an episode of Ben 10 crossed with a cheap imitation of 2002's He-Man animated series artwork. Backgrounds lack detail, sometimes looking no better than a Kindergarten picture book as seen in the picture below.

THe level of detail on characters is no more intricate than saturday morning cartoons and the colors are bright, shiny but at times flat. Even more shocking is the number of obvious animation errors. At some points, the background moves out of sync with the characters feet giving the impression that they are sliding and not walking. Then you have scenes such as the picture below. Look at it and try convincing yourself that the sword blade is not bent at the wrong angle.

Scenes like these are disappointing, showing a lack of quality control on the part of Marvel and stagnant directing on the part of the director Sam Liu. After awesome action heavy shows like "Hulk Vs" and "Planet Hulk", this movie is possibly Director Liu's least inspired piece of work.

With the success of the live action blockbuster THOR, no doubt Thor Tales of Asgard would net in some cash, preying on uninformed kids and their parents who would not know better. It might be worth a download just out of curiosity though. Lacking the thunder of a blockbuster, the quality of a direct to DVD animation and the epic spectacle of the comic books, Thor Tales of Asgard is a tale best left untold.

*****************************Review End******************
Entertainment: C+
Story: B-
Characters: B+
Animation: C
Art: C-
Voice work (english): A-
Music: B-
Replay Value: C+
"Brains": C-

Hammer FAIL


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