Monday, October 24, 2011

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers DVD Review

The great halls of Asgard have fallen silent since a new king has overtaken the throne. His name is Loki, son of almighty Odin, brother to the Thunder God, Thor.  Once a powerful trickster - the God of Mischief - Loki now rules the grand kingdom with little regard for its subjects.  His only thoughts are focused inward, toward the origins of his own pain and suffering.  To quell his torment and to gain the respect he feels he so rightfully deserves, Loki must now execute the prisoner chained deep within the dungeons of Asgard, the one man who has ever shown him love. His own brother.  Inspired by the acclaimed graphic novel from Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic, Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers takes a look at Thor and of Loki, two adversarial brothers in the mystical land of Asgard and seemingly forever enemies.  But just why does Loki hate his brother Thor?  And could it be that this master of mischief isn’t really the villain he’s been branded?  Loki’s insatiable lust for power and his feud with Thor take on new meaning in this tale for mature audiences.

Film (3 out of 5 stars)

In 2004, a comic miniseries called Loki was created by Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic and it covers the never-ending conflict between Thor and his brother Loki only this time it’s told from Loki’s point of view.   That comic series has now been turned into what Marvel Comics describes as an animated series, but in reality this is a motion comic which takes the panels from the comic and animates them slightly to allow movement.  In all honesty, I would much rather see them actually animate it for real.  I know some people like the idea of keeping the original artwork that the material is based on, but it can still be true to the original source and not be limited to motion comics.  This year at Comic-Con, I had the opportunity to see Batman: Year One which is based on Frank Miller’s legendary series which managed to capture the artwork and color design from the series and still provided an exciting animated experience.  Now, I’m not bashing Marvel or even Thor & Loki, but I wanted to make clear my feelings on motion comics in general before diving into this review.

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers was originally released individually in four parts before being collected on this DVD as a whole.  Even collected as a whole, they remain separated and broken into four parts which really doesn’t make sense.  Despite the title, Thor is barely present during this movie as he’s already been defeated by Loki and he spends his time chained to a wall being angry.  Loki has finally beaten Thor and everyone else and achieved his dream of running Asgard.  This outcome has dominated his thoughts for decades and he quickly learns that it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.  The idea of ruling Asgard is a lot better than the actual reality, and Loki quickly realizes that he hates it.

It doesn’t help that all of his allies that helped him seize power are constantly demanding what he promised them in exchange for their support.  Loki had agreed to kill Thor as part of his deal to take the throne, but suddenly finds that it’s not as easy as he always imagined it would be.  Loki has long blamed Odin and his mother and everyone else for how he turned out as he believes that Odin took him in just to serve as a counterpoint for Thor.  Seeing past flashbacks seem to support Loki’s opinion, but then again, we are hearing this from the God of Mischief.  In any case, the more Loki contemplates killing Thor, the more he realizes that he doesn’t want to.  Can Loki truly change and accept the life that Fate itself seems to have in mind for him?  Is it too late to make amends with Thor?  If his fate is fixed as he’s been told, is there anything at all that Loki can do?

First off, let’s go over the good parts.  I’m always glad to see animated material from Marvel or DC that is intended for mature audiences, even if it really isn’t animated.  This is an excellent character study of Loki and fans of the character should be pleased since he’s the star of the show.  Fans of Thor however, may be less pleased since he’s barely even in the movie and his final actions seem somewhat out of character to me.  The voice work is also very good and supposedly the actors used for this are Broadway actors with fake names to avoid angering their union.  The film’s drawbacks are simply that this is not a true animated film and I didn’t really care for the artwork either.

Video (3 out of 5 stars)

The 1.78:1 anamorphic wide-screen transfer is decent but rarely gets a chance to shine as this is a dark movie with very little opportunity to show off a range of colors.  All of the colors are muted which is most likely an artistic decision since (Loki is in charge after all).  Black levels are also acceptable although not as inky as I would have liked.  This is a fairly average transfer that works ok for DVD but if this is released on Blu-ray, I hope they put some more work into it.

Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The Dolby Digital English stereo audio track fares a little better than the video quality.   The dialogue comes through clearly and each line is well delivered.  The film’s effects and music have also been balanced well and never overwhelm the other.  All in all, this is a good track for a DVD and it works well even without all of the extra channels.

Special Features (2 out of 5 stars)

This disc provides a couple of short mini featurettes that cover the basics of the movie.

  • An exclusive look back with writer Robert Rodi and artist Esad RibicThe duo talk about the transfer of their work to the screen and how they feel about it, with Rodi being the most excited about it.
  • Behind the scenes of Thor and Loki: Blood Brothers – The team behind Blood Brothers talk about the challenges of making it and what they’ve learned since Iron Man: Extremis.
  • Trailer

Final Thoughts (3 out of 5 stars)

Since I haven’t read the miniseries, I can’t say if  the artwork was  accurately ported over from that or not, but it didn’t appeal to me and I don’t think that this represents the traditional look of the characters either.  I do hope that Marvel continues to make movies for adults but I hope they do it with traditional animation whether it’s CG or hand drawn since they look a lot better than these motion comics.

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