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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Thor: The Dark World

February 17th, 2014

Thor: The Dark World - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack

Thor came out in 2011 and cost $150 million to make. However, it barely made a profit. In fact, had it been a stand-alone movie, it would have very likely lost money. Had it not been for The Avengers boosting the home market numbers, it might have lost money. On the other hand, Thor: The Dark World cost $170 million to make and pulled in 40% more at the worldwide box office. Is it also 40% better? Or did it benefit from the big picture The Avengers movie universe has pulled together?

The Movie

The film begins with a prologue about the nine realms that make up the universe according to Norse mythology and how before they were created, there was only a universe of darkness. From this darkness came the Dark Elves. These Dark Elves, led by Malekith the Accursed, sought to return the universe to darkness using a weapon called the Aether during the convergence, the aligning of the nine realms. King Bor, Odin's father, led the Asgardian army against Malekith defeating him. Legend has it Malekith sacrificed the last of his people in a desperate attempt to kill the Asgardians, but he was killed and the Aether was destroyed. The last part is only legend. Malekith and a handful of Dark Elves survived and the Aether, which is too powerful to destroy, was merely buried.

After the prologue, we return to modern day Asgard to deal with the events of The Avengers. Loki is brought before Odin to be punished for what happened on Earth. While Loki expects death, Frigga convinced Odin to spare his life, but that just means he will spend his days in Asgard's prison. Meanwhile, Thor is tasked with cleaning up the mess Loki left behind, with the help of Sif, and The Warriors Three (Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral). After victory is secured, Thor speaks with Odin, but while Odin is pleased with Thor's work, he's concerned he's distracted by his love for Jane. It's not that he doesn't think Jane is a good person, it's just that she's human and humans live and die so fast compared to Asgardians. (If Loki's comment about 5,000 years was accurate, then it would be like falling in love with someone knowing they will only live a year, maybe a year and a half.) Odin wants Thor to be with someone who will live a long life with him, like Sif.

Jane, meanwhile, was having trouble dealing with Thor's departure. However, when we see her, she's on a date with a guy, Richard. Jane is more than a little distracted, so the date isn't going too well. Things get worse when Darcy shows up. It turns out, Jane's scientific equipment has been picking up strange readings, readings like that Dr. Erik Selvig found. At first Jane blows off Darcy to be on her date, but it's clear she's intrigued by these findings and Richard tells her to check them out.

Jane, Darcy, and Darcy's new intern, Ian, head to where the readings originate. Jane also tries to get in contact with Erik, Erik had an episode at Stonehenge (Did you know that Stonehenge isn't technically a henge? Its ditch runs outside its bank and not inside as with proper henges.) When the three of them arrive where the readings are from, they find three kids playing in the area. The kids found some anomalies, like a floating cement truck. There is also a pair of portals one on top of the other. If you drop something in the lower portal, it will appear in the top one and fall completing the drop over and over again. Usually. Sometimes you drop something into the portal and it never comes back. Darcy points out the readings are like those they found in New Mexico, the first time they met Thor. While the others play with the portal, Jane wanders off looking for where the readings are the strongest, only to be sucked into another portal. There she finds the large stone plinth that houses the Aether. Curiosity gets the better of her and suddenly the Aether is in her. When this happens, the Aether is not longer hidden from Malekith and he awakens.

Meanwhile back in Asgard, Thor goes to Heimdall. For those who don't remember, Heimdall is the guardian of Asgard who can see and hear everything. Since Thor is not permitted to return to Earth, he can not visit with Jane, so he asks Heimdall to tell him what she is doing. This time, however, Heimdall can not see her. (The audience see her floating enveloped by the Aether.) This panics Thor enough to travel to Earth when Jane does return. However, in the meantime, Darcy called the cops (Jane was gone for five hours). Unfortunately, they were technically trespassing and the three of them are arrested. When the cop grabs Jane, the Aether inside of her defends her by attacking the cops. No one's really hurt (Jane passes out) but Thor sees this and knows he has to get her to Asgard to figure out what to do. When Odin sees Jane in Asgard, he is quite upset. He wants her sent back immediately. But when his guards grab Jane and the Aether attacks, he recognizes the ancient weapon. Odin still refuses to believe the Dark Elves remain and is convinced his father destroyed them all. His beliefs leave him unprepared when Malekith attacks.

The nature of the attack is well into spoiler territory, so we should end the plot summary there.

A lot happens in the first 30 minutes. That's probably the biggest flaw in the movie. It takes nearly a third of the movie before the main plot kicks into gear, because there's so much that has to be setup. And it isn't until after Malekith attacks that the film finally gets going. When it does get going, it keeps going. Thor: The Dark World is a lot more epic that its predecessor was. Thor did have a couple of big fights, but it was more of a fish-out-of-water comedy for a large stretch of the film. This time the fate of the universe is at stake and the film is darker as a result and that helps it feel like it has more weight. That's not to say the film has lost the sense of humor we saw in the first film. Early in the movie, Thor and Sif share a few jokes, as do The Warriors Three. (Sif and the others don't have a lot of screen time, sadly.) Darcy is always good for a snarky line, plus she is actually proactive in the movie, especially during final battle. Then of course there is Loki. Granted, he's not in much of the movie, but when he is, he brings energy and humor. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston do have great chemistry together. Even the final epic battle has plenty of humor. One of the things that made Man of Steel such a drag to watch was the lack of humor. With Thor: The Dark World, the universe could end and the filmmakers still take the time to add some jokes into the mix. It's a hard balance to get right, but this film does.

There are some other downsides. Malekith isn't much of a villain. He's just someone who wants to destroy creation and doesn't have a personality outside of that. Jane also doesn't get as much to do this time around. Once Jane is hit with the Aether, she's spends a lot of the time unconscious. Fortunately those are minor flaws and even Jane being less proactive is compensated with Darcy getting into the action more (she even gets a reverse Times Square Victory Kiss). Lady Sif doesn't get as much screen time as I would like, but she's in it more than last time. Even Frigga gets more to do, including kicking some ass. Also, none of the women show off inappropriate levels of cleavage, unlike so many comic book characters out there. (I'm looking at you, Power Girl.)

I don't know if I would say Thor: The Dark World is better than Thor, but it is close enough that if you liked the first one you will very likely like this one as well.

The Extras

Extras begin with an audio commentary with Alan Taylor, the director; Kramer Morgenthau, the Director of Photography; Kevin Feige, the producer; and Tom Hiddleston, who of course plays Loki. Up next is All Hail the King, the latest Marvel One Shot. It focuses on Trevor Slattery, who was the actor who played The Mandarin. He's in prison, but is being interviewed by a documentarian who wants to get to the truth behind the lies. Ben Kingsley is again amazing in the role, plus there's a scene in the end credits of the One Shot. There are a series of featurettes, starting with A Brother's Journey: Thor & Loki, a 32-minute long look at the brotherly relationship throughout the three movies. There is also a five-minute look at the score for the movie. Also under Featurettes is a four-minute look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Finally, there are eight minutes of deleted / extended scenes and three-and-a-half minutes of outtakes.

The technical presentation is brilliant. I really have nothing to complain about. There are a few scenes where the picture isn't as sharp and the colors are strong and there are a number of scenes that are quite dark. However, a lot of this is to do with aesthetic choices, not a problem with the transfer itself. The audio is even better with lots of activity in the surround sound speakers, including lots of dynamic effects, pan, zooms, etc. The base also very active throughout the action scenes. It's just wonderful. Reference level quality.

I don't have the 3D version to compare, so I don't know how it looks in 3D.

I can tell you about the prices. Its $20 for the DVD, $23 for the Blu-ray, and $28 for the 3D Blu-ray. If you have made the upgrade to 3D, then this is certainly a good deal.

The Verdict

Thor: The Dark World is a very fun movie that balances the serious aspects, the action scenes, and the humor. They don't forget that this is a movie that is supposed to entertain, unlike some comic book adaptations that came out last year. The extras on the DVD are good enough to make it worth picking up. However, the Blu-ray Combo Pack / 3D Combo Pack are the better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Thor: The Dark World, Tony Curran, Kat Dennings, Christopher Eccleston, Idris Elba, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, Zachary Levi, Chris O'Dowd, Natalie Portman, Rene Russo, Stellan Skarsgård, Ray Stevenson, Scoot McNairy, Tadanobu Asano, Kevin Feige, Jaimie Alexander, Alan Taylor, Kramer Morgenthau, Jonathan Howard