Thor: The Dark World [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (4th March 2014).
The Film

There's no denying that Marvel Studios has built a cinematic empire, using their rich and plentiful story lines crafted over decades for their collection of superheroes to craft their movies. Hit after hit, the Marvel cinematic universe has managed to take these beloved characters and give them a voice, fight memorable villains and save the world countless times in a series of "Phase One" films. All their efforts culminated with 2012's "The Avengers" which was a monster hit for the studio. Now that the first phase has been completed, we're onto "Phase Two" which will again culminate with "Avengers: The Age of Ultron" (2015), the second phase kicked off with "Iron Man 3" (2013), followed by "Thor: The Dark World" and will also include "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014), and "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014). This second Thor film continued the trend of mega hits, earning an impressive worldwide total of $638 million, pretty much guaranteeing a third outing in the future and yet another cinematic franchise for the studio.

The first "Thor" (2011) was a curious effort, the character is a well established member of the Avengers and his fan-base is present and passionate, the choice of director raised a few eyebrows - Kenneth Branagh, who hadn't directed a film in four years prior to this, most importantly never directed a big budget comic book film, and he's primarily known for his adaptations of William Shakespeare plays. All surface issues really, if any of the Marvel characters are considered Shakespearian, it's Thor. The gamble paid off, "Thor" was not only a terrific comic book film, it was thrilling, grand and kept both critics (77% on Rotten Tomatoes) and fans happy. The film was a hit and "Thor: The Dark World" was quickly put into production. This is where the problems started.

Kenneth Branagh turned down directing the sequel fairly early on, siting the film's tight turnaround time as the primary reason. There simply wasn't enough time allocated for pre-production and Branagh was doubtful he could turn in a decent film. Keeping the tradition of unconventional directors for this franchise, "Monster" (2003) director Patty Jenkins was hired, marking the second female director hired to helm a Marvel movie (Lexi Alexander directed "Punisher: War Zone" in 2008) in a largly male-dominated circus. The choice was also backed by co-star Natalie Portman who was eager to work with Jenkins. However, Jenkins was fired from production siting "creative differences", a move that reportedly upset Portman, refusing to take part in the sequel, Portman bowed to her contractual obligation and was essentially forced to return regardless of who would direct the film. Alan Taylor was eventually hired, having cut his teeth on television with shows such as "The Sopranos" (1999-2007), "Mad Men" (2007-Present) and "Game of Thrones" (2011-Present) among others made for a safe choice that Marvel could "mould" to craft their vision for the film. The director wasn't the only key crew member to be let go, composer Carter Burwell left the film also over creative differences and was replaced by Brian Tyler. So a bumpy start for "Thor: The Dark World", but ones that were weathered by the studio and managed to maintain the pre-set release date and judging by the enormous box office, it paid off.

Eons ago, Dark Elves attempted to shroud the universe in darkness with the Aether, a deadly weapon. To stop this Asgard sent its mightiest warriors and they defeated the Dark Elves and their relentless leader, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who escaped punishment waiting for a moment to strike again. Meanwhile, the all-powerful Aether could not be destroyed so the Asguardians hid it in an alternate dimension. In present day, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) discovers a strange anomaly which opens a wormhole, on her trans-dimensional journey Jane encounters the Aether and eventually is reunited with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who takes her to Asgard. The Aether, finds its way in Jane, Malakith senses this and after waiting for eons, strikes and attacks Asgard. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) plans to use Jane as bait to finally bring down Malakith, but Thor doesn't take kindly to this plan and frees his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to help him find another way to defeat the Dark Elves, but as always, Loki's motives are suspect.

After the surprisingly good "Thor" and the Earth-shatteringly fun "The Avengers" expectations for "Thor: The Dark World" couldn't have been higher. Thankfully, despite early production hiccups and press surrounding Portman's issues with how it was handled, the film managed to exceed most expectations. At its very core, the film is an entertaining ride through Asgard and the nine realms. Chris Hemsworth has managed to fit into this character about as well as Robert Downey Jr. has playing Tony Stark. Hemsworth is now synonymous with Thor and I can't imagine anyone else playing the role. Playing opposite the always devious Tom Hiddleston, these two offer up excellent chemistry and together deliver scenes that are a joy to watch, all with Hiddleston's postscript smirk teasing the audience of his devilish ways. The cast are all fairly solid, however weaknesses are present, I was never a fan of Natalie Portman's character, frankly Jane is, for lack of a better word, plain. Nor am I a fan of Jane's comic sidekick Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), together, they are annoying and the humor attempted by Dennings feels forced and is rarely funny.

Thor's comic book history is rich with stories, and I was pleased that Marvel didn't use this film as an extension of "The Avengers", although taking place after the events of that film, "Thor: The Dark World" is truly an individual story that helps develop his world and opens the door for many more cinematic adventures. Screenwriters Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely delivered a solid script that lives within the continuity of the Marvel Universe and offering fans plenty of geek moments throughout with Easter Eggs scattered all over the film. The most important thing is that it never felt boring, the story moved along at decent pace and was littered with breathtaking over-the-top action as well as cool new characters and villains, Christopher Eccleston's Malakith was particularly a great antagonist and his character design impressively intimidating. There are a few story elements that felt rushed but it was a good effort overall.

"Thor: The Dark World" ups the ante established by the first film, the scale is much grander and feels like Marvel's first true epic. The majority of the film takes place on Asgard, which hasn't looked better on film, the team at Double Negative (with the help of other effects houses handling some shots) have taken the foundation set out by Digital Domain from the first film and expanded on it. The results are cityscapes and environments being beautifully rendered, breathing life into a fantasy world that feels real and long established. In short, the visual effects used to realize Asgard are astounding. So hats off to the production team in this respect and a shame that it was nominated for an Academy Award in this category (the film made the shortlist for the category).

It's not a perfect film and I wish Portman and Dennings could one day be lost in an alternate dimension and never seen or heard from again (maybe in the third film?), but there's no denying that "Thor: The Dark World" was a fun time, I enjoyed it very much in theaters and will continue to enjoy it many times over on home video. If you're a fan of the Marvel cinematic universe then this one is a no brainer.

Video

Presented in the film's original theatrical ratio of 2.40:1 mastered in high definition 1080p 24/fps using AVC MPEG-4 compression. Striking is a good word to describe this transfer, Buena Vista does an excellent job with this recent release. The image is beautifully detailed, the costumes looks great right down to minute aspects, sets, backgrounds and effects shots truly shine here. The image displays incredible sharpness, colors look rich and bold, and black details are inky. Skin tones appear natural and overall the print is clean and blemish free. This film's image constitutes everything that's right about HD, it's a big, bold, broad epic and the transfer does all of that justice. You can consider this one to be reference quality.

Audio

Three separate audio tracks are included here, in English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, French Dolby Digital 5.1 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its DTS-HD audio and if you thought the picture looked good, wait until you hear the audio track. If you don't have a surround sound system, there's no better time than now. This film is the epitome of a rollicking good time, action and adventure, lighting bolts galore, hammers of gods bashing into evil creatures, fantasy worlds all with their own soundscapes and environments. All these elements come together in a robust, rich and complex sound mix that puts every speaker to good use. The soundtrack is immersive and displays clarity and range that can compete among the best sound mixes of all time. This is a top tier effort and will put a smile on your face. Optional subtitles are included in English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

Disney has packed this release with a decent collection of supplements that include an audio commentary, three featurettes, a short film, a series of deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel and a collection of bonus trailers. Below is a closer look at these extras.

First up is a feature-length audio commentary with director Alan Taylor, producer Kevin Feige, actor Tom Hiddleston, and director of photography Kramer Morgenthau. The film's director and DP are recorded separately to to Feige and Hiddleston who pair up. The commentators cover a broad range of topics taking viewers through an extensive and thorough examination of the making of the film, they cover various aspects of the production from development, on working with the cast and the fun they had making the film as well as various challenges. It's a decent track, although not as entertaining as it could have been.

Next up is "A Brothers’ Journey: Thor & Loki" (1080p), which is a featurette that runs for 31 minutes 39 seconds. This clip takes a look at the evolution of Thor and Loki's journey spanning from the first "Thor" film to the events covered in "The Avengers" and finally looking at where there journey ends up in this film. The clip features some interviews with the key players and covers the characters, their arcs and on the casting.

Following that is "Scoring Thor: The Dark World" (1080p), a featurette which runs for 5 minutes 21 seconds and takes a closer look at the creation of the film's score with composer Brian Tyler as he comments on the musical themes of the film. Would have been interesting to have delved into the events that caused original composer Carter Burwell to leave the production.

One of the most anticipated extras on this release is the Marvel One Shot short film (1080p) entitled "All Hail the King" which runs for 13 minutes 51 seconds, these shorts are becoming a tradition on Marvel home video releases. This film focuses on Sir Ben Kingsley's Trevor Slattery character from "Iron Man 3" in an entertaining film that also features a cool twist. These One Shots are quickly becoming fan favorites and it's easy to see why.

The final featurette has nothing to do with Thor, it's an "Exclusive Look: Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (1080p) which runs for 3 minutes 35 seconds, this is a promotional look at the new Captain America film, advertising fluff but with enough footage for fans to salivate over.

The disc also features a series of six extended & deleted scenes (1080p) these scenes can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option that runs for a collective 7 minutes 49 seconds and can also be viewed with optional audio commentary with director Alan Taylor, producer Kevin Feige, actor Tom Hiddleston, and director of photography Kramer Morgenthau, the commentators discuss the scenes and on why they were omitted, the scenes included are:

- “Extended Celebration Scene”
- “Jane Learns About the Aether”
- “Loki: The First Avenger”
- “Thor and Frigga Discuss Loki”
- “Dark Elves Prepare for Battle”
- “Extended Vanaheim Scene”

A fairly standard gag reel is also included (1080p) and runs for 3 minutes 30 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are a series of bonus trailers (1080p) for:

- "Captain America: The Winter Soldier"
- "Avengers Assemble"
- "Ultimate Spider-Man"
- "Need for Speed"
- "Hulk and the Agents of SMASH"

Packaging

This release comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray case. Disney has released this film with two platter options, a single disc 2D release and a 2-disc set which includes the 2D and 3D versions as well as a digital copy version of the film. This edition is the single disc release only.

Overall

The Film: B+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: B+ Overall: B

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, and amazon.de.