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Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray Review

Thor: The Dark World (2013) movie poster Thor: The Dark World

Theatrical Release: November 8, 2013 / Running Time: 112 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Alan Taylor / Writers: Christopher L. Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (screenplay); Don Payne, Robert Rodat (story); Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby (comic books)

Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Thor Odinson), Natalie Portman (Jane Foster), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Christopher Eccleston (Malekith), Jaimie Alexander (Sif), Zachary Levi (Fandral), Ray Stevenson (Volstagg), Tadanobu Asano (Hogun), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Rene Russo (Frigga), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Algrim/Kurse), Kat Dennings (Darcy Lewis), Stellan Skarsgεrd (Erik Selvig), Alice Krige (Eir), Clive Russell (Tyr), Jonathan Howard (Ian Boothby), Chris O'Dowd (Richard) / Uncredited: Chris Evans (Captain America), Benicio Del Toro (The Collector), Ophelia Lovibond (The Collector's Assistant)

Buy Thor: The Dark World from Amazon.com: Blu-ray • DVD • Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital Copy • Instant Video

Assuming Avengers: Age of Ultron makes its scheduled May 2015 release date, Thor will have opened four films in just under four years. 2014 gives the superhero his first and only year off in a half-decade stretch.
The most recent outing, Thor: The Dark World, obviously represents a sequel to the character's solo series as opposed to 2012's behemothic The Avengers, which his universe most heavily influenced. With their grand New York adventure behind them, it's back to regular old life for the almighty Norse god (Chris Hemsworth) and his devious adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

For his actions against the Avengers, Loki is imprisoned in Asgard's highest security prison. Meanwhile, Thor and his powerful hammer are needed to bring peace to various alien worlds, like Vanaheim, the locale for the film's first big set piece. Though Thor is revered by all and believed to be a worthy king in the making, his heart longs for his mortal love interest, scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), whom he has not seen in a couple of years. Back on the dating market in London, Jane is joined by her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) and Darcy's new intern Ian (Jonathan Howard).

There, the three of them discover a parking garage housing inexplicable phenomena. Objects dropped disappear and then reappear higher, having visited some other unknown world. While exploring the site, Jane goes missing for a moment she later learns is five hours. In that time, she has awakened an old feud between Asgard and Dark Elves. Jane is infected with Aether, a potent long-hidden energy source that awakens the captive banished Elves and protects her from anyone accosting her.

At Vanaheim, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) gives a giant rock monster the chance to surrender in "Thor: The Dark World."

A concerned Thor shows up and whisks Jane back to his home, where she meets his parents and is subjected to some advanced observation. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is adamant that a human being doesn't belong on Thor's home planet. But that human being is a key piece in the rekindled war between Elves and Asgardians.

While the first movie sent Thor to our planet as an outsider, The Dark World unfolds primarily on Asgard, with Jane out of her element. This sequel journeys between the two worlds, but its fantastical war action could use a little more humanity. Of course, Thor's royal family is as human as aliens come. Even without Kenneth Branagh in the helm (he is succeeded by the HBO-seasoned Alan Taylor), the drama has Shakespearean overtones to it and rich intrigue.

Such content is not at odds with the successful Marvel Studios model, one that serves up fairly light-hearted entertainment fit for all ages. Though virtually every commercially ambitious live-action movie these days receives a PG-13 rating, the Marvel ones seem to resonate with the most demographics while raising the fewest objections. Sure, there's some violence, death, and dismemberment. But there's also some great sarcasm and Jane's gifted mentor (Stellan Skarsgεrd) who's lost his mind and seen working in his underwear and less. The Dark World may not be the laugh riot that Iron Man's films are, but humor is one of its greatest tools and one that serves it well, as evidenced from the responsive crowd at my packed theatrical screening.

Imprisoned for his crimes in New York, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is released to assist Thor. Millennia later, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and the Dark Elves are back and still searching for the Aether.

With its cameos (Stan Lee and a fellow Avenger), teasing end credits scenes,
references to New York, and promise of a return, this second Thor feels very much like one relatively minor piece in modern cinema's biggest commercial puzzle. Marvel films have been so successful for so long that one wonders how long the studio can remain in tune with moviegoer tastes. If anything, they're still growing in popularity, as evidenced by Iron Man's threequel dominating the box office last year and handily outpacing its two predecessors.

The Dark World did not reach such lofty heights, but it did outperform the original Thor's $181 million domestic gross in 2011 by $25 M while experiencing growth of almost $200 M worldwide. The next project to put the Avengers bump to test is Captain America: The Winter Soldier, opening in early April, a month ahead of Marvel's customary debut. Captain may be Marvel's surest bet, but they've also got buzz-building Guardians of the Galaxy in August and the unpredictable Disney-animated Big Hero 6 claiming the Dark World's early November window.

The Dark World does not get the kind of combo pack that has come to be extended to virtually all major movies. Instead, it's available in single-disc Blu-ray and DVD editions plus a two-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital HD digital copy (which still lacks a DVD and the downloadable music Marvel consumers have come to expect). It does seem to be a title ringing in change over at Disney, the studio that introduced the combo pack back in 2008 with the release of Sleeping Beauty. The next live-action films distributed by the studio -- Saving Mr. Banks and DreamWorks' Delivery Man -- will similarly lack a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy edition, with customers only able to get one or two of those components in a single purchase.

It's a strange strategy change at a time when even small studios like Anchor Bay, Cinedigm and Sony Pictures Classics see the value in bundling standard and high definition discs together. It remains to be seen how this move will affect sales and whether it persuades customers to opt for the cheaper DVD-only edition. We probably won't know plans until, at the very soonest, home video plans are announced for DreamWorks' Need for Speed and Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Thor: The Dark World Blu-ray cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
7.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese),
Dolby Surround 2.0 (Descriptive Service)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Suggested Retail Price: $32.99
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Also available on DVD ($29.99 SRP), Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital Copy ($39.99 SRP)
and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The feature presentation of Thor: The Dark World's Blu-ray is as good as they get. The 2.40:1 picture is flawless, remaining sharp, detailed, vibrant and clean at all times. The dynamic 7.1 DTS-HD master audio impresses even more, with its house-rattling bass and ample directionality.

Ben Kingsley reprises his role of Trevor Slattery in the Marvel One-Shot short "All Hail the King." The hunks of "Thor" act friendly with one another on the red carpet of Hollywood's "Dark World" premiere.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with "All Hail the King" (13:51), a Marvel One-Shot short. It catches up with -- huge Iron Man 3 spoilers! -- Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley), the imprisoned British actor who posed as The Mandarin.
Argo's Scoot McNairy plays a documentary filmmaker interviewing the figurehead turned prison celebrity. Written and directed by Shane Black, this entertaining, expectation-subverting work (which includes a fun cameo I won't spoil) does seem better suited to Iron Man 3's disc, but then Marvel's assumption that their fans take in all of their efforts seem safe, and it's a smart way to earn Thor 2 some additional sales and rentals.

A featurettes section begins with the two-part "A Brothers' Journey: Thor & Loki" (31:39). Big on clips from Thor's two previous films, it's a fine if slightly routine piece that contemplates Thor and Loki's places in the Marvel canon. The second half focuses more on this sequel, at whose El Capitan Theatre premiere it concludes.

Composer Brian Tyler discusses his "Dark World" score in front of a freeze frame from the film and many computer screens. The deleted and extended scenes section offers a rare Rene Russo sighting.

Here, we also find the obligatory exclusive look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier (3:35), which adds some behind-the-scenes footage and cast/crew talking heads to what feels like an extended trailer.

The subject of "Scoring Thor: The Dark World with Brian Tyler" (5:21) is self-explanatory. The composer discusses his work for this sequel, the orchestra recording of which we see bits of.

Six deleted and extended scenes (7:49) include more Asgard celebration and Loki's shape-shifting fun (in which he gets to don the Captain America suit), a rare appearance by Frigga, plus some extended intergalactic combat in Vanaheim. These can also be viewed with audio commentary by the same quartet that speaks over the entire film.

Watch a scene deleted from Thor: The Dark World:

Tom Hiddleston gets silly in the "Thor: The Dark World" gag reel. Thor: The Dark World shows creativity in its artistic menu loop.

A gag reel (3:30) entertains with a few blown takes, crow mark missings, some Chris O'Dowd ad libs and a lot of general cast playfulness.

Finally, we get the aforementioned feature-length audio commentary by director Alan Taylor, producer Kevin Feige, actor Tom Hiddleston, and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau. They're recorded in two pairs and edited together. Lacking interaction and excitement, it's not a terribly interesting track, though screen-specific comments
about international filming locations and visual effects flow with minimal lulls.

The disc opens with trailers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and a promo for the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase One films. The menu's Sneak Peeks listing repeats them before playing ads for "Marvel's Avengers Assemble", "Ultimate Spider-Man": Season 3, "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.", and Need for Speed.

Recalling the closing credits, the top menu sets artistic painterly silver, gold, slate blue and red renderings of characters to loud dramatic score excerpts. Like other Disney Blu-rays, this one doesn't resume playback or support bookmarking, but it does remember where you left off watching the movie once you get back to the menu.

I can't comment on packaging or inserts because for some odd reason, Marvel sends review copies of their Blu-ray discs in plain paper envelopes instead of the case you'd get in retail.

Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is surprised to learn from her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) that her momentary excursion to another world made her absent on Earth for five hours.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Thor: The Dark World doesn't rank among the very best Marvel movies, but it offers an entertaining experience not significantly inferior to its predecessor's.

Marvel's Blu-ray delivers outstanding picture and sound plus a decent assembly of extras highlighted by the fun if unrelated new One-Shot short. It's certainly a movie to see and one you'll probably enjoy. Still, the fact that two superior movies (and Best Picture nominees) hit stores the same day underscores the fact that this sequel doesn't generate the passion or replayability of better superhero films. It also doesn't help that consumers who have grown accustomed to combo packs get no such edition here.

Buy Thor: The Dark World from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray / DVD / Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + Digital Copy / Instant Video

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Reviewed February 25, 2014



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