Explore young Thor in 'Tales of Asgard'

Thursday, May 12, 2011

To coincide with the theatrical release of "Thor", Marvel Animation will release "Thor: Tales of Asgard", its eighth direct-to-video, Tuesday through Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

The great thing about "Tales of Asgard" is you don't need to be an expert in Norse mythology or the character of Thor. It's a story that gives nods to future events in Thor's life, but delivers a tale that depicts the God of Thunder before he earns his almighty hammer.

Thor (Matthew Wolf) is a legend in his own mind. He battles the best of his kingdom's guard, winning with ease. In reality, the oldest son of Odin is a pampered prince who is allowed to win battles within the walls of Asgard so the public doesn't see him lose.

He's lived his life safe in Asgard, but he's driven to prove himself after Sif (Tara Strong) bluntly confronts him and brings him down to size. With his brother Loki (Rick Gomez) by his side, the duo stow away on the ship of the Warriors Three, a trio who mesmerize the residents of Asgard with tall tales of their adventures, as they set out on their quest for the lost sword of Surtur.

However, we come to realize the Warriors Three simply go to an outland pub, drink and come back with made up tales. The bar is destroyed after a bar fight ensues, with news quickly making its way back to Odin (Christopher Britton).

Thor and the group travel the nine realms, eventually finding the sword and in the process accidentally killing two Frost Giants of Jotunheim. As they struggled to make their way back to Asgard, the Frost Giants declare war on Thor's home.

Learning of his son's exploits, Odin sends his trusted advisor Algrim (Ron Halder) to find his boys, but the dark elf has more sinister ideas in mind and all he needs is the Sword of Surtur.

As Thor brings war to Asgard, the future God of Thunder is forced to grow up quickly, taking responsibility for his actions, all the while doing his best to prevent a war from breaking out. He never dreams the biggest threat to his kingdom would come from within. An epic battle closes the chapter on this tale of Thor with a bang.

The stylized look of Asgard and Thor perfectly fits the story. If you can stick with the story early, you're rewarded with a tale that picks up steam as it goes and has you sitting on the edge of your seat as it comes to its close.

While it's odd to see Thor traversing the nine realms without his iconic hammer, the Sword is Surtur is an awesome replacement. Also, the action is smooth and has some very cool shots. But the coolest sequence in the entire flick is the opening title animation.

For anyone who doesn't know, brothers Thor and Loki become mortal enemies, so it's nice to see them caring for each other. It only makes their future rift that much more meaningful.

The disc features two commentary tracks, while are pretty standard, but insightful. In regards to the special features, the 20-minute behind the scenes featurette steals the show. It delves into Thor's origins and enlightens the viewer on why the hammer stayed in Asgard for this adventure.

There's also "The Avengers" Earth's Mightiest Heroes" bonus episode to enjoy.

Final Cut: A boring start eventually builds to an intense ending that has action, betrayal and shows that even the most arrogant of warriors must know their place. A very cool companion to the big screen release.

4 out of 5 stars

Thor: Tales of Asgard

Starring: Matthew Wolf, Rick Gomez, Tara Strong, Christopher Britton, Ron Halder

Director: Sam Liu

Writer: Greg Johnson