'Thor: The Dark World' is the movie that I was apprehensive the first one would be. An overly serious space opera, with overcooked special effects, meaningless villains, a backstory that requires copious amounts of exposition, little reason to care about what's happening, basically a stopgap for Disney and Marvel to continue plodding towards the seemingly insurmountable mountain of sequels planned for the future. The first 'Thor' film, under Kenneth Branagh's expert direction, avoided most of the clichés one would expect from a comic book movie about an alien demi-god. The second film, embraces those clichés. Wallows in them. And, eventually, after treading water for 90 minutes, sinks and drowns in mediocrity.
After the "Once upon a time," opening of 'Thor: The Dark World,' where the villains, the backstory, and the legend are explained, it's difficult not to sigh. If you aren't Guillermo Del Toro, and you're starting your movie out with a "This is Why You Should Care About This Movie" prologue, then chances are you've already started off on the wrong foot. Such is the case with 'Thor: The Dark World.' A movie that never recovers from its lackluster beginning, plods through the paces of a Marvel movie without soul (see: 'Iron Man 2') and eventually ends up in a place where nothing noteworthy, or eventful, has happened to characters we've come to care about.
Missing from this 'Thor' film is the clever fish-out-of-water aspect that the first one used to its advantage. With most of the movie taking place millions of light years away from Earth it's almost impossible to connect these characters with Marvel's arcing 'Avengers' storyline. If this were 'The X-Files' 'Thor: The Dark World' would be a "Monster of the Week" episode. The big-budget comic book equivalent of wheel spinning.
There's something discussed about Dark Elves, and a great power that will destroy everything, another evil artifact set to destroy universal existence, but we ultimately know nothing bad is going to happen because Marvel has greenlit sequels into perpetuity. So, once the screenplay has extracted all the humor that made the first one so palatable, confined Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to a prison for much of the film, and severed most ties with Earth-bound action (except for the predictable and underwhelming climax), you're left with a lukewarm comic book movie that is peppered with just enough "something" to throw together a few decent trailers.
So uneventful is 'Thor: The Dark World' that I found myself not even caring about the obvious fallacies – like why do advanced space people who can travel light years in mere seconds, still fight wars with swords? Or, why do none of the other Avengers feel the need to help Thor out when a giant spaceship appears out of nowhere and starts destroying things? After all that was the entire foundation of 'The Avengers.' Instead I sat there, wondering why Kat Dennings, of all people, was given the best comedic lines; contemplating what would've been had Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth been given more time together; pondering why Odin's (Anthony Hopkins) eye patch is so bloody distracting; brooding about the amount of time spent destroying computer generated buildings while character building lagged far behind.
'Thor: The Dark World' is everything I was worried the first 'Thor' would be. Two ice giant steps back for the least relatable character in the Avenger clan.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Not much to report here. Disney sent us this screener in a paper CD case, so as far as the packaging and everything goes I don't know what to say.
As if any of the Disney/Marvel films have been anything less than stellar in the video department. 'Thor: The Dark World' fits right into the demo-worthy discussion that most of these movies fit in to. It's a strikingly clear and detailed image featuring some nicely crafted Asgardian special effects.
Clarity shimmers, especially since most of the movie is set on the CGI world of Asgard. Wide shots are full of pristine, crystalline cities that look too good to be true. Color is bright and out-of-this-world vivid. The Bifrost bridge is a kaleidoscopic set of rainbow colors, all glittering perfectly.
Up close the detail is every bit as impressive. Faces feature wonderful lines, visible pores, individual hairs and so on. Not once was my eye ever distracted by banding or crushing. Blacks are distinct and deep. Shadows are flawlessly presented. Every bit of 'Thor: The Dark World' can, and should, be used to show off your HD wares.
More high marks here. Provided with a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, 'Thor: The Dark World' uses every single bit of audio real estate possible. This is an enveloping track. This is one of those 7.1 tracks where you'll wonder how you ever lived without those side channels feeding you extra information.
The surround sound here is perfectly crafted to create an encompassing experience. One that will completely encircle you if you have a proper 7.1 setup. The rear channels are alive with all sorts of action during the fight scenes, as are the side channels. Up front faultless dialogue pours out of the front and center channels. Placement is perfect. Pans seamlessly transfer from rear, to side, to front.
The LFE is huge at times. When the Dark Elves space ship starts crashing into things, make sure any wall hangings in the room are secure, because this thing rumbles. It's a clear and concise pounding too. The bass is well regulated within the spectrum of the other sounds and never steps over its bounds. Everything works together in harmony to provide on helluva mix.
'Thor: The Dark World' ends up being a bore compared to the other Marvel films. A romp in space where Thor fights villains that don't matter, Loki fights to even get in the movie, and the earthlings fight to have relevance. There's bound to be a few duds in Marvel's grand master plan of phased rollouts. 'Thor: The Dark World' is certainly one of them. Yet, it's got marvelous audio and amazing video. So, even if the movie does lull one to sleep with its storytelling, at least it'll wake you back up with stunning audio and visuals. With the high marks in the technical departments, 'Thor: The Dark World' is still recommended as a demo-worthy disc to show off.