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Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 2/25/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/22/2014
For those who haven't been keeping up, we are now in Phase 2 of Marvel's onslaught of theatrical films. Phase 1 introduced the various heroes and then culminated in 2012's The Avengers. Now, we are getting the second set of movies with the familiar characters, having been kicked off by the impressiveIron Man 3. It can easily be argued that the first films were not only geared towards fans, but towards general audiences as well, who needed to be introduced to the characters. As the films progress, Marvel Studios could get more comfortable with presenting stories and ideas which more accurately reflect the tales from the comic books. This is proven by Thor: The Dark World, a film which moves away from much of what made the first film a mainstream success.
Thor: The Dark World opens centuries ago when Asgard went to war with The Dark Elves, who were led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Malekith was after something called Aether, a dark power which would have made him invincible. However, Asgard won, Malekith was banished and the Aether was locked away. The story then leaps ahead to a post-The Avengers present. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is in Asgard assisting his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), in sentencing his half-brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), for the destruction he caused on Earth. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is in London, along with her intern, Darcy (Kat Dennings), looking into strange portals which have appeared. Jane falls through one of these, and finds herself face-to-face with the Aether, which she absorbs. This awakens Malekith, who attacks Asgard in order to gain his prize. Thor must now defy Odin if he wants to save his home and the woman that he loves. He must also turn to the last person he can trust.
2011'sThor wisely used a "fish out of water" approach to introduce the titular character to audiences, many of whom weren't familiar with The God of Thunder. While there were a number of scenes set in Asgard, the bulk of the film took place on Earth, showcasing how Thor was learning about our culture and vice-versa. (The movie completely threw out the notion of Thor having a secret identity on Earth.) These scenes also contained a nice amount of violence, which when blended with the comic-book action, made for a surprisingly well-balanced film. In The Avengers, Thor was simply Thor and the film had no time to flesh out his story or speak much to activities in Asgard.
Thor: The Dark World has opted to stick closer to the character's comic book roots, thus a great deal of the film takes place in Asgard or other regions of "The Nine Worlds". These scenes feel less like a super-hero movie and closer to something like Star Trek. Clearly the movie is taking the chance of turning off audiences who embraced the first film, and this is nowhere more obvious than in the opening, which doesn't exactly draw in the viewer. While the movie should be applauded for trying something different, anytime there is an opening narration which contains words like "Dark Elves", you know that what you are about to hear is going to be convoluted.
Things pick up once Thor and the characters from the first film are revealed. And the movie really seems to get back on track once Thor and Loki come fact-to-face, but this doesn't occur until half-way through the film. Despite this, Thor: The Dark World is still missing something, mostly the confident direction of Kenneth Branagh. As with many, when Branagh was named for the first film, I did a double-take, but he handled the humor and action very well. This second film, directed by Alan Taylor, sees itself as darker, but it really isn't. However, this is certainly a lack of laughs and charm here. The movie picks up in the second half when Thor is once again faced with the unfamiliar life on Earth, where we get a glimmer of what the movie could have been.
Thor was one of the few Marvel Comics characters I used to avoid, as I had no interest in his adventures due to the fact that they didn't feel like they were part of the Marvel Universe. Therefore, I was very surprised by how engaging the first movie was. Thor: The Dark World doesn't exactly drop the ball, but it follows the old adage of being "bigger instead of better". There is action aplenty here, but it becomes numbing and redundant. Once again, Hemsworth is very good as Thor, and Hiddleston still revels in his role of Loki. I look forward to seeing Thor in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I'm not sure about Thor 3.
Thor: The Dark World demonstrates the versatility of a coat rack on Blu-ray disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studio Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, most notably reds and gold. However, a fight scene on a dark plane in the film’s second half is too dark and I had difficulty telling what was happening. The image is detailed and never goes soft, and the depth looks fine. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is an active track which provides an effective audio experience. The stereo effects are detailed and portray sounds coming from off-screen. The surround sound action is nearly constant and we get some individual sounds coming from the rear. The action scenes deliver booming bass which never drowns out the dialogue or score.
The Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Alan Taylor, Producer Kevin Feige, Tom Hiddleston, and Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau. "Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King" (14 minutes) is a short film which features The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley) fromIron Man 3, and shows his life in prison. "A Brother's Journey: Thor & Loki" (32 minutes) is a two-part featurette how the two characters have been portrayed in the two Thor films and The Avengers. This gets pretty in-depth, as it starts with Hemsworth and Hiddleston's casting and moves on from there. We get comments from the actors and the creative teams behind the films. "Scoring Thor: The Dark World with Brian Tyler" (5 minutes) profiles the composer and shows him at work. The Disc contains six DELETED AND EXTENDED SCENES which run about 8 minutes and can be viewed with AUDIO COMMENTARY. There are some mildly interesting moments, but most were clearly cut for time. The final extra is a 4-minute GAG REEL.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long