Another world conquering doofus steps up to challenge a Marvel hero in Thor: The Dark World, the latest in the studio’s sequel spewing efforts meant to link their media properties together. A lingering lure from The Avengers hooks into this feature as it pulls an impressively brisk narrative reset into view.

The appreciable comedic snap brings a smile to this mythological goofiness, with rock monsters stomping about and dark elves leeching onto the power of Aether. Led conveniently to the “no one will ever find the Aether” location as the Nine Realms sync into alignment, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) becomes a plot contrivance in need of Thor (Chris Hemsworth).

A triple dose of screenplay writers disengage from outmoded damsel in distress tropes, turning Jane’s scientific bulk into an asset in this war against Malekith (Christoper Eccleston). Thor himself enters a protective state, slinging a hammer to rid Asgard and Earth from this plight. It is all cause for a visual effects blender of practical suits and swift acting CG. Skies fall, British locations are crushed, and Nine Realms are saved… even if we only see three.

In-between the loudness and dizzying spaceship combat is a stingy rumble between siblings. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) tires of his imprisonment, resenting Thor for his glowing blonde locks and general god-ness. This makes for a questionable partnering as Malekith barges into Asgard, forcing the family duo to pull their best Batman & Robin routine.

This all occurs with PG-13 stabbings and city ‘sploding uppercuts, enjoyably pieced together between droning comedic bits from Kat Dennings. Dark World has spunk despite being a dimmer offering, lacking in the glitzy color of its establishing predecessor. It’s safe to blame London.

Keeping things interesting is soupy science regarding inter dimensional portal gobbledygook and Stone Henge (plus a nude Stellan Skarsgard). End results mean a zippy battle between space and time as Thor butts heads with marketable foe. Throwing each other around results in a shuffling of scenery as fast as this editing squad can manage. Say what you will for Hollywood’s clinical overdose of computer work, but a paltry 20 years ago, none of this was possible with such creative application.

Marvel’s ferocious cinematic output has led to these features bunching and blending into one another – which is sort of the point. Thor, and his Avengers counterparts, are being turned into disposable mush for the sake of future pairings. So be it. Wasting two hours in these deliberately toned universes is no bother. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]

Romance @ 27:04

A mish-mash of digital cameras bring this fantasy-verse to life with hefty sharpness. Asgard’s golden structures are well scaled in the 2.35:1 frame, free from infringing aliasing. London aerials are pristine, firm in their delivery without complications from Disney’s AVC encode.

Dark World appears appropriately expensive with beefy texture levels. Close-ups host tremendous clarity outside of minor exceptions. Certain lighting schemes prove less conducive to producing image defining precision, and Sakrsgard is oddly out of focus in one late shot. The disc otherwise bleeds fidelity.

Fascinated with teal, color timing proves less flirtatious and more locked down in a relationship with a single hue. Earth’s gray overcast is tinted enough for teal domination to rush over flesh tones while Asgard is sprayed with a golden tan. Condensing of hues pulls some of the life away from this sequel, even if it moves too fast for the loss of bountiful primaries to be noticed.

Black levels and contrast pair for enough weight, adding density even if coloring decisions are less fanciful than before. Shots of space are pure without any loss of pure black. Shadow delineation is nailed. Interiors are strong and exteriors can rebound artificial sunlight with outstanding results.

Post converted into 3D midway through production, director Alan Taylor shows little adherence to the basics of stereoscopic design. Outside of bottles thrown at the lens and a moment or two of Thor’s hammer panning by the screen, Dark World is dead in 3D. So lackadaisical is this post work the double credit bumpers have no effect applied.

Dark World’s work is truly a distraction as viewers need to adjust in order to reassure themselves the glasses are functional. Depth is claustrophobic and actors carry dismal dimensional stature. Backgrounds insert close to the foreground with minimal separation. Aerial battles (which should be dazzling) are abhorrent, blending together without any consideration as to how best present this material for those paying higher disc prices. This is not a subtle application so much as it is a rushed one. [xrr rating=4/5 label=2D-Video] [xrr rating=1/5 label=3D-Video]

Audio mixing takes a brutal approach, attacking the subwoofer to sell the film’s scale and upsize its combatants. Thor’s hammer strikes are burly and his drops to Earth are packed with ferocious use of the low-end. This is often an astonishing use of the .1 channel, consistently applied to create admirable results.

Sound stage design is never secondary, creating a naturally blended 7.1 affair. This is not a mix where individual effects stand out, rather the film is coated with a carefully placed layer of audio. Seams between channels are invisible. Panning effects are effortless, utilizing the added rears for their intended purpose and with notable frequency. The sheer volume of this work is (forgive the pun) a marvel, arguably showcasing growth over the likes of perceived perfection in Iron Man or Captain America. [xrr rating=5/5 label=Audio]

Disney’s slate of bonuses open with vocal shots courtesy of director Alan Taylor, cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, producer Kevin Feige, and Tom Hiddleston as they work over this feature through their joint commentary. A Brother’s Journey dips into making of fare for around 30 minutes, standard fluff up with enough interview fodder to keep fans at bay.

Scoring Thor is the follow-up featurette, brief at five minutes. A series of six deleted scenes will sap eight minutes of your time and the latest Marvel One Shot is labeled All Hail the King. Avoid spoilers. A brief gag reel and promo for the Captain America sequel bring an end to these Earth-bound bonuses. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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