The second installment of the Thor saga has plenty of action, but misses the mark to a certain extent when it comes to the wide array of facets it hopes to infuse into the story. The dedication to, and belief in, the depth and breadth of the various arcs in the story are solidified in the bonus features of the home release, and while the exposition makes for elaborate and detailed featurettes, they probably serve as too clear a sign of what went wrong with the production.
Thor: The Dark World kicks off with a rather clunky piece of development that leaves Thor explaining the events of The Avengers, his time back on Earth, and subsequent lack of phone call to Jane. Of course, the film also needs a villain to come and destroy a good chunk of the map and/or threaten to do same, so we suffer through a fantastic build up of Dark Elves, whose aim is to destroy the Universe as we know it, and the epic battle that kept them from doing so once upon a time.
Still a fairly entertaining ride, we were surprisingly positive in our podcast review, even if we didn’t give it the best marks. Besides which, there’s no denying the almost magical quality of Loki’s delivery throughout, something that probably wouldn’t be the case in the hands of almost any other actor. Even the final effort of the massive sibling rivalry lament, that spans both films, is more than worthwhile, and helps make the film something that doesn’t get completely bogged down in the unnecessary weight of the dark elves story. Where a real misstep in the comic to film universe has long been the idea that the villain always has to be after the destruction of the entire world, this one ups that game yet again, as if that somehow makes something more menacing. Pfff… the Earth, anyone could destroy the Earth, try the Universe! -insert maniacal cackle-
At the end of the day, it doesn’t quite live up to the first, which wasn’t the best film to begin with, but it’s still above the average action effort. Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem to have the same sensibilities for storytelling that The Avengers had, and when the Shakespearean grandiosity Kenneth Branagh brought to the original is left up in the air for someone else to tackle, it turns out that we didn’t leave it in hands quite capable of following this many threads without just cutting to the chase with the simplest moves, and over-dramatized derring-do.
Thor: The Dark World Blu-Ray Features
As you might expect, this is a Blu-Ray that is about as solidly put together as you’re going to see. The video quality is on par with the best I’ve seen, and this is a movie that obviously gives you a chance to see all the variations you’d look for if you’re testing the limits. From dark scenes with plenty of shadow, to wide open panoramas, you’re getting the full spectrum at one point or another. The only problem with the video quality is one that can’t be helped, which is one that people with big screen HD TVs will be familiar with, especially when watching television – at a certain point, video quality that is too good reveals scenes that feel fake. Which in this case means that there are certain scenes that are obviously overloaded with special effects, and given the right system, it gives off a certain aura that makes you clear that it is. This is a tricky concept to explain, but it is the same “too good” quality that leaves almost all television shows looking as though they were filmed with an iPhone.
That’s really the opposite of an actual problem, but there you go. The audio quality is exceedingly high as well, and since this is a film you might want to turn up quite a bit, that’s important.
The bonus features are a mixed bag, which might have had one or two other additions, but generally give you a lot of extra value for the money. A lot of people may have already heard about All Hail the King, the Marvel “One-Shot” bonus that takes us into prison to revisit Ben Kingsley portraying the actor who portrayed The Mandarin in Iron Man 3. This featurette has been bombarding the internet over the last few days, and the last month, and while it is cool to have something like a webisode from the Marvel franchise that will theoretically have meaning to a future film, it’s actually a decidedly stupid storyline. Almost as if to further thumb the franchises nose at comic fans who were outrageously ticked off that the character was misused and bastardized in the Iron Man film, we now get a little taste of the idea that – Ho Ho – the actual Mandarin was in the works all along, and he’s coming. It isn’t that we took a character and said, “Oh screw whatever the real story is, I’m going to do whatever I want, and basically turn him into a trick so that I can reveal the villain and not reveal the villain, thereby suckering people into wanting to see the Mandarin,” which is actually basically what was actually said on the subject… Oh no, now it’s all a super-elaborate scheme, and we were going to bring it all home eventually, and that was the plan all along. Guess what, that wasn’t the plan all along.
But, I gress.
Rather silly, or not, it’s a fun little nugget.
The other big featurette is the Exclusive Look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and it’s pretty cool. Sure, you’ve already seen a lot of trailers, clips, and whatever you could get your hands on, because this is your sort of thing, but this does give you enough that you are getting something for your money here. Frankly, it almost oversells the film, because you just got done watching this one, and now you’re thinking… “Argh, I could have been watching that!”
As to bonus features that actually have to do with Thor, the big push you’re getting is a two-part, quite lengthy, exposition on the brother relationship. As featurettes go, this is one that a lot of thought was put into, and it gives everyone a chance to offer up their theories and hopes. Clearly the best part of the film, this run through the ideas behind how to get just the right set of ideas on screen, especially taking into account how these specific actors were going to best pull it off is possibly more entertaining than the film.
Beyond that, this is a film that leads to a pretty good gag reel, and there is a featurette on the creation of the score, and a commentary track. They’re all about as good as you expect, with special kudos on the commentary, which is one of the better versions you’re going to get for an action movie that probably doesn’t have the meat necessary for a full dissection. It’s entertaining, and relays a good mix of insight and tangential anecdote.
Synopsis: Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s “Thor” and “Marvel’s The Avengers,” Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos…but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. To defeat an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor sets upon his most dangerous and personal journey yet, forced into an alliance with the treacherous Loki to save not only his people and those he loves…but our universe itself.
Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Marvel’s Thor, Marvel’s The Avengers, Snow White and the Huntsman) as Thor, Natalie Portman (Marvel’s Thor, Black Swan, Star Wars Episodes I-III) as Jane Foster, Tom Hiddleston (Marvel’s Thor, Marvel’s The Avengers, War Horse) as Loki and Anthony Hopkins (Marvel’s Thor, Silence of the Lambs, Nixon) as Odin.
Director: Alan Taylor (TV’s Game of Thrones, TV’s The Sopranos, TV’s Mad Men)
Screenplay: Christopher L. Yost (TV’s Wolverine and the X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Christopher Markus (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe) & Stephen McFeely (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)
Story by: Don Payne and Robert Rodat
(3D Combo Pack, BD, DVD & Select Digital Retailers)
- Never-Before-Seen Extended and Deleted Scenes
- Gag Reel
- Exclusive Look – Marvel’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier
- Get an exclusive first look at the latest installment in the Captain America franchise and it’s incredible cast of characters, including Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson as Director Nick Fury, Chris Evans, our hero Steve Rogers, his new ally Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon played by Anthony Mackie, and a mysterious enemy from the past…the Winter Soldier played by Sebastian Stan.
- A Brothers’ Journey: Thor & Loki
- In this 30min featurette go behind the scenes with filmmakers and cast as we explore two of the most iconic characters in the Marvel Universe with stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor) & Tom Hiddleston (Loki), and journey through the key moments that have defined and endeared these characters to audiences around the world.
- Scoring Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World with Brian Tyler
- Go behind the scenes with the filmmakers and acclaimed composer Brian Tyler for a look at the creation of the movie’s stunning original score.
- Audio Commentary with Director Alan Taylor, Producer Kevin Feige, Actor Tom Hiddleston (Loki) and Cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau
- And More…
Thor: The Dark World Interview Bites
Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World producer Kevin Feige says that your character – Jane Foster – is a fish out of water in the movie. Would you agree?
Jane Foster doesn’t fit in. She’s a short brunette in a world of blonde Amazons; in a place where magic is reality and there’s all of this advanced technology that she’s never seen. The people speak like they are in a Shakespeare play, but she’s like a character from Bill And Ted, walking around saying, “Like, what’s going on dude?” It’s fun.
How would you describe Jane Foster’s relationship with Thor in the second movie?
Thor came to Earth to help The Avengers save New York, but he never called to say, “Hey, what’s up Jane?” So when they first reunite in the second movie, she is pretty angry with him. It’s a funny situation that many of us can relate to; when the guy that stole your heart reappears. They start out at quite a contentious place.
How much danger does Jane Foster face in Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World?
Jane is in quite a bad situation. There’s a very mysterious weapon that the enemy is using on her, so part of Thor’s quest to save Earth is also about saving Jane, which is something that Odin [played by Sir Anthony Hopkins] objects to.
Can you talk about the relationship between Jane and Thor’s father, Odin?
Jane is clearly a thorn in Odin’s side, but it was such a great honor to get to work with Sir Anthony. He’s the loveliest, loveliest man.
Was it fun to be yelled at by Sir Anthony Hopkins?
Oh yes! [Laughs] I will take anything from Sir Anthony. If he is nice enough to be in the same room as me, I will take it.
Thor often rebels against his father in Marvel movies. What can you tell us about your rebellious side when you were growing up?
I wasn’t very rebellious at all. To be honest, I wish I had been a little more rebellious. It’s interesting figuring out who you are, and a lot of it has to do with your parents. You try to figure out how much you are like them and how much you are different from them; what you want to take and what you want to leave behind.
Why do wish you had been more rebellious? What do you feel you missed out on by not rebelling?
I feel like a lot of not rebelling was the desire to please, the desire to be good, and the desire to fit in. During those years, when you are at your most creative and imaginative, someone with a strong sense of self often rebels. The kids who were bad and rebellious were the real artists in our school.
What is it like to be back portraying Thor for the third time?
I love playing the character. The trick is to find new ways to make the character have some sort of advance or growth from the last film. That’s the trick of the director, writer and the actor obviously coming together and asking what’s the next step and where are we going to take him.
As an actor, what is it like to play a character with such a rich arc?
I love the fact that he is a god but that could be very bland and one-sided. But each time we get to break him down and find his human qualities and his vulnerable side it’s interesting because he has such a tough exterior and an unbreakable feel.
What did you change about the process this time around?
It’s different from “Marvel’s The Avengers” because in that film you didn’t have your individual arc or journey. The arc of that story was the group, whereas this is certainly each of us, and we each have our own specific story. And for Thor, it really is picking up from “Thor” in a lot of ways, with the same questions he still has about his brother, about why and how they ended up here and what happened to their relationship. But the bigger picture is that potentially Thor is stepping into the role of king, and he needs to prove that he deserves to be there and also understand and come to terms with the responsibilities that becoming king carries.
Where do we find Thor in this film as opposed to the last?
In the first film Thor was a young spoiled teenager, about to take on the throne and be king. Then his father realizes that he’s not quite mature enough to do that and his priorities are in the wrong place. He’s full of ego and attitude. During that film, he is humbled and we leave that first story with Thor about to step into the responsibility of possibly becoming king of Asgard. In this film we pick up with him really coming to an understanding of what that entails and the darker side of that responsibility. He figures out that it doesn’t necessarily come with all the privileges; there are a lot of sacrifices. It’s that next step in his evolution to become king.
Thor is back on Asgard in this film. What is he doing there?
Thor and The Warriors Three and the other soldiers of Asgard have been basically putting out the fires across the Nine Realms since the Bifrost was destroyed, allowing the criminals of the universe to wreak havoc. So they’ve been doing some sort of peacekeeping and sorting out the various conflicts all over the place. It’s pretty direct, but also in some ways more immediate to what we had in “Thor,” with the Bifrost having been destroyed and the realms now being free of any sort of policing.
This film is called Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World.” What is this “Dark World” that we’ll be seeing?
The Dark World is a reference to the planet that the dark elves are from, but also I think Alan’s [Taylor] take on it was that this is a darker transition into adulthood for Thor and him becoming king, and the darker side of growing up. With the maturity and the responsibilities and then the secrets, it becomes very political about what the people of Asgard and the universe need to know versus what they want to know. You start to see the shadier side of the royal family.
What’s it been like having everybody back together again?
It’s great. Tom [Hiddleston] and I obviously spent a lot of time together on “Marvel’s The Avengers,” so we jumped straight back into it. But certainly to see Natalie [Portman] and Anthony [Hopkins] and Kat Dennings and all the Warriors Three, and the whole cast was great. We had such a fun time on the first one and we picked up where we left off.
When you read this particular script, what did you connect with in terms of fleshing out the character?
I’m always looking for some sort of conflict and what it is that Thor’s trying to work through as opposed to just being there and being central to the situation. You’ve got to make sure the hero is a big catalyst to the resolution; that he’s not just there to step in at the very end and save the day. You want a journey, and often the villains are so much easier to write on one hand, but also there’s an advantage just because they’re allowed to be more unpredictable; they’re allowed to be inconsistent, whereas I think we traditionally know the hero can be pretty obvious sometimes. So I think it was up to all of us to police that and make sure he was relevant in the story; he wasn’t just kind of there. I think what we managed to find was real conflict with Thor about where his place is. Is it with Jane on Earth, or is it here in Asgard? His senses are now awakening and he’s having a greater understanding of the world and its problems. That was something we wanted to thread in from the beginning, which allowed him to be proactive through the story and constantly searching for something.
What is the relationship between Odin and Thor this time around?
Once again, the challenge was not to repeat what we had in the first film, but at the same time, the conflict between Thor and Odin was something people seemed to love. So we found new ways of having them disagree. But it’s a much more mature, respectful disagreement as opposed to the first one where Thor was a young teenager.
What is it like working with Anthony Hopkins now that you have that relationship from the first film?
He’s the greatest. Obviously having worked together before, there’s an immediate ease and familiarity, which is great to dive back into. Anthony is one of those rare actors that I could just be around and watch all day long. There’s such a weight and depth to everything he does, no matter how subtle. I think we both have such a great time playing these characters and finding new ways to explore the conflict and love they have for one another.
How has the relationship between Thor and Loki changed throughout the movies?
In the very first film Loki and Thor as brothers had a friendship where there was less hatred involved. We get to a place in this one where there’s more of that this time around again. Thor gets to ask Loki what this is all about and how they got to this point in their relationship.
Thor is able to confront Loki and say, “It’s about time that you recognize your role in this. You know, it wasn’t all everyone else’s fault.” In “ Marvel’s The Avengers” it was us yelling at each other and butting heads, and that happens a bit in this, too, but for the most part it’s a far more interesting dynamic.
What is it that Tom Hiddleston brings to the role this time around?
We make the assumption that Loki is walking the line a lot of the time about which side he is going to fall to, and is it going to be the Loki we’ve come to know or is it the one we previously knew? Tom brings so much to the part; people love that character. He brought such empathy to Loki that audiences were conflicted. He’s the villain but we kind of love him. Any time you can do that, it makes it so much more interesting. Some of my favorite scenes are with Tom in every film we’ve done. It’s great.
Why is it important for the film to contain some of the humorous beats that it does?
The humor in all the Marvel films is what ties them together. It also allows people to buy into the fantastical world that you’re a part of. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. In moments, it’s serious enough, but any chance you get to laugh takes the pressure off of having to believe that there’s a guy with a big hammer and a red cape flying around the place.