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I Am Thor
Directed by Ryan Wise, I Am Thor starts in the early days of one Jon Mikl, later to become better known as Thor, the real life Canadian heavy metal superhero. We learn how Jon was obsessed with comic books and superheroes as a kid, even going to class dressed as Superman. From there, through his older brother, he got into bodybuilding and weight lifting and soon after became a competitive bodybuilder. This led to a career in show business, with Jon soon working in a nude review among other things. This, in turn, segued into a career in rock n roll. We learn how Jon had always been interested in music, starting a band at a young age called The Ticks, but with his bodybuilding past it was time to try something new, something different… it was time for Muscle Rock wherein he'd combine his love of hard driving music with his not inconsiderable physique to really put on a show. Feats of strength were brought into the act: bending steel bars in his teeth, letting people jackhammer cinder blocks off of his chest and, most famously, blowing up hot water bottles using only the power of his lungs!
RCA signed him in Canada, the debut album Keep The Dogs Away full length was released, and from there… things got rocky to say the least. We won't spoil the movie but it paints a pretty fascinating picture of what can happen on the perceived road to stardom. Jon, as Thor, had it all. It seemed like the stars were aligned but forces conspired against him. A few years later, he tried again and, with help from Steve Price on guitar, Keith Zazzi on bass, Mike Favata on drums and of course, the lovely Pantera (the woman who would become his wife for many years) Thor (the band) independently recorded some of their classic material. They made it bigger in England than in the United States but they were building toward something huge. They kept at it, and then kept at it some more, but never hit the heights that some of their contemporaries did. Shortly after, Jon had a breakdown and he walked away from it all. But you can't teach an old dog new tricks and you can't keep a good man down. It took a few years but he got the fever again and, for the last decade plus, he's been back at it. Sometimes he's playing for six people, sometimes he's playing festivals attended by tens of thousands of people but as anyone who has seen Thor live knows, he always gives one hundred percent.
As the movie progresses, we get a feel for Jon's personality, his outlook, his persona. If you've ever met him, the first thing you pick up on is the guy's friendliness. This is a man who appreciates his fans in ways that few other rock stars would ever care to. And you can't help but love him for it. We see him during the good times (surrounded by beautiful scantily clad women and living the dream) and in bad times (alone in an airport fumbling for his medicine), we learn about his health problems, his divorce and his breakdown but more importantly we see him get back up and try again time after time after time. It's inspiring, it's funny, it's honest and while it isn't the comprehensive bio-pic documentary you might expect it to be, it's also very revealing and a fascinating snapshot of a unique rock n roll story.
While Jon is definitely the ‘star' of the documentary Wise followed him around for roughly fifteen years to make this picture happen. Along the way he interviews Price, Favata and, yes, even Pantera about their affiliation with him but so too does he interview some of the people who worked with him at RCA, who promoted him in his early years and plenty of others. The whole thing is often very funny (any time Favata opens his mouth something hysterical seems to happen) but you can't help but be moved by it all. The movie is well edited, nicely put together and quickly paced, never overstaying its welcome. And of course, it features tons of great music from throughout Thor's recording career.The Blu-ray:
I Am Thor debuts on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.78.1 widescreen. The quality of the transfer is fine, but it's at the mercy of the source materials used. Some of the archival clips are older, softer, less detailed while most of the more recently shot material looks nice and crisp. SD sources used throughout the movie can only look so good but honestly, the picture quality is just fine. There are no problems with any compression artifacts and this is a perfectly serviceable presentation of some less than perfect source material.Sound:
Audio chores are handled by way of a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track or an LPCM 2.0 Stereo mix, both in English. The audio quality is similar to the video in that it's a bit all over the place. There are bits that sound crystal clear and perfectly balanced and other clips, sometimes shot outside or in a small club under less than ideal circumstances, where things are a bit muddy. Overall though, things shape up nicely enough. The music used throughout the movie is reproduced nicely and all in all, the audio is fine. Optional subtitles are provided in English only.Extras:
The only extra on the disc, aside from menus and chapter selection, is the inclusion of the documentary's theatrical trailer.Final Thoughts:
I Am Thor is a documentary that is as genuinely inspiring as it is often times quite funny. It skips over Thor's history pretty quickly, there's enough there to fill a second film, but that was never really the point. By focusing on the eternal, perpetual comeback that Jon has been embarking on, we wind up with an intimate look into one of metal's most enduring figures. It's fascinating stuff, very personal and even if the disc is light on extras, it still comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.