The Marvel assembly line of comic book movie adventures continues full throttle with Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World. Featuring the regular characters from the first Thor film and with a new enemy and an all-consuming energy force which must be faced and conquered for the sake of the universe, this sequel offers exactly what one expects from one of these mega-million dollar extravaganzas. The action is sound and the acting as good or better than it needs to be, but there’s no new ground struck here: just good old reliable comic book-style entertainment.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Run Time: 1 Hr. 52 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 02/25/2014
At the beginnings of the universe, a race of Dark Elves ruled over all aided by an energy source known as aether. The leader of the elves Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) was finally subdued by the Asgardians and the aether hidden away in one of the nine realms of the universe. Cut to centuries later and who but astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) stumbles on the aether which uses her as its vessel. This brings Thor (Chris Hemsworth) back to London after an absence of two years to help Jane and attempt to use the power she now holds to subdue the escaped Malekith and his fellow dark ones who are now headed to vanquish Asgard before turning their attention to Earth. And Thor realizes that in order to have a chance of defeating the elves, he must band with power-hungry brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) even though their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) forbids it.
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
The screenplay by Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely is ripe with all of the derivative facets of a comic adventure movie centered on a super-villain with designs on conquering the universe while welding a seemingly unbeatable weapon of mass destruction. Where the film rises above its familiar action elements, however, is with the playful sense of sarcasm imbued in many of the characters (supremely in Loki, of course, who, as usual, walks away with the movie once he’s freed from his prison). A shape-shifting sequence with him and Thor as they race to the battlefront adds some delightful and welcome comic relief from the steady darkness that has hung over much of the film. A running gag with Thor’s loved ones threatening Loki with death likewise ups the humor quotient and keeps things comically simmering. The battle scenes are all handled with the expected sure hand (we are played for suckers once near the beginning with an anticipated face-off between Thor and a rock giant quickly dispensed with but the climactic battle features some lively portal shifting that adds variety to the action), and tender moments between several of the characters who meet unexpected fates add some poignancy to the otherwise rough and tumble action. And, as expected, we get a couple of end credit sneak peak teasers just to make sure that fan boys are primed for the upcoming adventures and to give the story a semblance of closure.
Chris Hemsworth’s powerful physique continues to be one of the film’s primary drawing cards while the character of Thor is allowed a small amount of emotional development which the actor certainly handles well enough. Natalie Portman’s Jane isn’t given any truly meaty dramatic moments, but she’s a grounded and appealing heroine. Tom Hiddleston, as he’s done in previous Marvel films, milks every moment of screen time as the calculating Loki, and the writers are smart to keep him enigmatic enough for the viewer to never quite trust anything he says or does and yet be on guard for any switches in his behavior. Christopher Eccleston is a fine if one-note villain, and Stellan Skarsgård has fun as the eccentric scientist running naked around Stonehenge in anticipation of the “convergence” which will temporarily align all nine realms. Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, and especially Rene Russo all do superlative jobs playing Asgardians who take their positions in the realm very seriously.
The film has been framed at 2.40:1 and is presented in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Apart from the earliest sequence which has obviously been composed in slightly soft focus (the commentary reveals that it was a late addition to the movie which was produced apart from a couple of real actors entirely in CGI), the imagery is consistently sharp and clear with pleasing color depth and flesh tones that appear completely natural. Black levels are superb with outstanding details in shadows and marvelous uniformity in the application of contrast. The film has been divided into 17 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix gives the audience its money’s worth in providing a lively variety of ambient sounds filtered through the fronts and rears. There’s impressive panning across and through the soundfield as needed, and Brian Tyler’s mostly driving but sometimes tender music is likewise given the full surround treatment. The use of the LFE channel is especially striking in this mix: the depth and breadth of bass will certainly rattle windows in your viewing environment on several occasions. Dialogue has been well recorded and apart from an occasional instance of directionalized dialogue, it has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 5/5
Audio Commentary: director Alan Taylor, producer Kevin Feige, actor Tom Hiddleston, and director of photography Kramer Morgenthau take turns at the microphone sharing anecdotes about the making of the film. It’s a chatty session with lots of behind the scenes information imparted.
Special Features Rating: 3.5/5
A Brothers’ Journey: Thor & Loki (31:39, HD): a two-part behind-the-scenes look at the film. First, the through story for the two characters from their three film appearances is recalled by director Alan Taylor, producers Kevin Feige, Craig Kyle, and Louis D'Esposito, and actors Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, and Ray Stevenson. Then, we get detailed glimpses as the film is shot in London and on location in Iceland.
Scoring Thor: The Dark World (5:21, HD): composer Brian Tyler discusses his approach to writing themes for various characters and moments in the movie with behind-the-scenes shots of him conducting and recording the score with an orchestra.
Marvel One Shot: All Hail the King (13:51, HD): a brief mostly comic with dark undertones featurette featuring Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin/Trevor Slattery character being interviewed in prison.
Exclusive Look: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (3:35, HD): a combination trailer and behind-the-scenes look at filming the next Marvel comic feature coming in April.
Extended/Deleted Scenes (7:49, HD): six scenes may be watched together or separately and with or without commentary by the above-named individuals.
Gag Reel (3:30, HD)
Promo Trailer: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Trailer for Thor: The Dark World
A generally entertaining and involving follow-up to the original Thor film and The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World doesn’t constitute any advance on the genre, but fans of the character or the comics should be by and large pleased, and the video and audio quality of the Blu-ray 2D version is beyond reproach. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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