THOR: THE DARK WORLD
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Chris Hemsworth as THOR
Natalie Portman as JANE FOSTER
Tom Hiddleston as LOKI
Anthony Hopkins as ODIN
Christopher Eccleston as MALEKITH
Jaimie Alexander as FANDRAL
Ray Stevenson as VOLSTAGG
Idris Elba as HEIMDALL
Rene Russo as FRIGGA
Kat Dennings as DARCY LEWIS
Stellan Skarsgård as ERIK SELVIG
Directed by: Alan Taylor
BY KEVIN CARR
Aside from marginal pop culture awareness, I didn’t know much about Thor as a superhero before he became part of the Marvel cinematic universe. However, after the 2011 film by Kenneth Branagh and the uber-blockbuster “The Avengers” in 2012, I am acutely aware of the character and his mythology.
I had a lukewarm reaction to “Thor” several years ago. While it fit the bill for a modern superhero movie, it felt overly pretentious at times, and some of the scenes seemed a bit forced. This past November, the sequel “Thor: The Dark World” was released in theaters, making about the same amount of money in the U.S. but significantly increasing its take overseas.
Getting a chance to revisit “Thor: The Dark World” on Blu-ray was a treat. The film serves not just as a sequel to “Thor,” but also as a follow-up to “The Avengers.” After all, this is the first time we see Loki since the Battle of New York, and while that fallout was acknowledged in “Iron Man 3,” this film dealt directly with the consequences of the villain.
In “Thor: The Dark World,” the ancient Dark Elves have revived themselves for the convergence of worlds. They are chasing a mysterious element known as the Aether, which has found its way into the body of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). After bringing Loki to justice in Asgard, Thor must join with him to fight off the Dark Elves and their attempt to unravel the fabric of our universe and create a new dark universe.
Yeah, it’s really high concept, but I’m okay with that. What works best about “Thor: The Dark World” is that we went through all the paperwork in the first film. No need to explain anything about Asgard or the god-like race of beings that rule the nine realms. Even the powers of Thor and Loki are fully realized for the audience, so we can jump right into the story.
So, a lot less set-up means the movie can get into the plot faster, and there’s relatively little time needed for rote exposition.
This movie also balances the human characters of Jane and Darcy (Kat Dennings) with the gods better than the first. It also doesn’t hurt that Stellan Skarsgård has a fine turn with comedic acting throughout the film as the brain-fried Dr. Erik Selvig.
I had a ton of fun with “Thor: The Dark World,” and I quite possibly enjoyed it even more watching it a second time on Blu-ray. This gives me a lot of hope for the upcoming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” whose previous film was burdened with origin stories and exposition.
In short, the Marvel cinematic universe is shaping up to be one of the best cinematic universes out there, and I’m thrilled.
The Blu-ray comes with a relatively standard slate of bonus features, but they’re good ones. There’s a commentary track with director Alan Taylor, Marvel guru Kevin Feige, actor Tom Hiddleston and cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau. There’s also a half-hour two-part documentary that looks at the overall story of Thor and Loki from the first film, through “The Avengers” and into this film.
Additional features include a spotlight on the upcoming “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and a look at Brian Tyler’s scoring of the film, which includes overall Marvel themes for the cinematic universe. There’s also a gag reel and six deleted and extended scenes, with optional commentary.
Like many of these recent Marvel home video releases, one of the best things on the bonus menu is the inclusion of a “Marvel One-Shot.” This one, which was released online several months ago and has a distinct grindhouse flavor to it, focuses on Tony Slattery (Ben Kingsley) from “Iron Man 3” and teases some more material on the Mandarin (which is truer to the original source material).