Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Review

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The image is frequently scintillating and the audio is richly dynamic, detailed and aggressively presented

by Chris McEneany Apr 1, 2014 at 7:06 AM

  • Movies review


    Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £24.99

    Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Review

    Everyone I know loves this second Thor spectacular more than the first. But I disagree.

    Where Ken Branagh’s lavish production was alien Shakespearean fun about an arrogant princeling fish-out-of-water who learns to love and honour, boasting immense charm and genuine innocence, Alan Taylor’s follow-up, taking place after the New York toppling of The Avengers tag-team showdown, is an energetic bore of cardboard villainy, brawny contrivance and soapy comedy. Although I always agreed that Chris Hemsworth’s hammer-hurling debut lacked a set-piece or two, his sophomore assault possibly has too many, my complaint being that the derring-do is stale and humdrum with confrontations and battles more yawn-inducing than jaw-dropping.

    We’ve seen it all before and the cosmic superhuman antics of these gods and sinister dark elves singularly fails to grip or excite despite the sheer brilliance of the FX work and undoubted charisma of the lead.
    It is Tom Hiddleston who, much like his lauded character of Loki, mischievously snaffles the show, and no amount of physical heroism or frame engulfing action from Hemsworth and co can compete with his withering verbal sprightliness. The film only comes alive when he is on screen. Otherwise, it is by turns, generic piffle stuffed to the gills with Asgardian silliness or bedecked with grimy dismal Anglophile grey. What should be a refreshing quality in a costumed superhero yarn becomes its Achilles Heel. Greenwich cannot fail to bring down the fantastical scope and colour, and the London scenes feel just plain wrong.

    Still, enjoyably lightweight hokum.

    What is Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Picture Quality

    Thor: The Dark World 3D What is Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Picture Quality

    There was no way that this was going to look anything less than stellar. In 2D – and this release has the 3D version on a separate disc – Thor: The Dark World is impeccably transferred at 2.40:1 via AVC. As its very title suggests, this has a darker-hued aesthetic when compared to its forbear, and this results in some splendidly deep shadows that yawn across the various realms and add imposing grandeur to the often radiant interiors. The downside, perhaps, is that certain elements and locations can be too damn dark. The realm of the Dark Elves, certainly, is a grubby and indistinct environment that would not look out of place in either of the 300 movies, especially given its ochre-tinted, smouldering skies. Here, the image may appear to lose some definition, with the rugged, barren canyons looking soft in comparison with the scintillating detail seen elsewhere. Detail, on the whole, though, is exemplary, with finite information keenly resolved and background elements retaining clarity whilst foreground subjects are sharp and crisp.

    Close-ups are immaculate. Facial detail is strong, as is that for armour, costumes, weaponry (including some rather daft bazooka-type things and wacky alien rifles) and the set décor is so sumptuous that it demands repeat perusal.

    This is a profoundly visual film, of course, with the interesting conceit being the contrast between drab London and radiant Asgard. But whilst the grey dismalness of Blighty is actually quite dour and depressing, the film’s best qualities are ably showcased once we go celestial and whoosh ourselves to the gleaming glory of Asgard. Here, the image is alive with colour, detail and vibrancy and there is no denying that the visuals becomes a thing of real beauty, with the rainbow spectrum presided over by thick, vital primaries, and the golden opulence of palaces and temples and costumes shining like melted honey.
    There is no problem with aliasing or edge enhancement. The image is pretty much a delight in terms of its encode, meaning that the only issues you may have will be those of the aesthetic choices made by the filmmakers.

    Depth is appreciably enhanced with the splendour of Asgardian temples providing acres of scale and sweep.

    Dimensional additions …

    Is the 3D necessary? Probably not, truth be told, but it is all part and parcel of modern cinematic blockbusting. The previous Thor had a waster of a post-conversion, but this MVC transfer does improve things quite a bit without being particularly wowing. As we have already mentioned, this is a much darker movie all round, and this aspect is only magnified when we battle through the evil murk of Svartalfheim during some crucial developments in the final third. In 3D, this is actually quite disappointingly drab and much too dark to properly satisfy.

    But there is still plenty to commend.

    Depth is appreciably enhanced with the splendour of Asgardian temples providing acres of scale and sweep. The laser-blasting air battle-cum-chase is also a much wilder ride when experienced in 3D. Flybys and statue-scrapings become much more vibrant and the flow over the various intricate land, water and cityscapes gains surprising impetus. I experienced very little – in fact, nothing - in the way of blurriness or crosstalk, something I wouldn’t have been surprised to see with such high-speed and kinetic movement across hugely detailed background expanses, leading to a very reassuring and consistent image.

    Foreground figures certainly do stand proud with pleasing regularity, and there are lots of little images whose boosted dimensionality should bring a smile. That hammer zipping through the air, for instance. Or explosions in the sky hurtling past us. Groups of warriors on the attack, too, have an appreciable level of spatiality, so massed battle sequences have a tendency to, well, stand out.

    Overall, this release offers a fine transfer both in 2D and 3D. So long as you don’t expect too much from the 3D you will probably be quite pleased with the result. But the 2D version is the clear winner with excellent contrast, a retina-scorching palette and impeccable detail.

    2D gets a 10.
    3D gets a 7.

    What is Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Sound Quality

    Thor: The Dark World 3D What is Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Sound Quality

    The release is equally blessed with the sort of gorgeously rib-shattering audio bombast that will give your set-up a thorough workout and possibly even register on the Richter Scale. The influence of Ben Burtt soars through this soundscape of whipping energy bolts, swirling portal implosions, zigzagging aircraft and this delightfully “organic” approach is complemented with tectonic impacts and bowel-loosening .LFE.

    This is a 7.1 DTS HD MA mix delivers on all counts. Dialogue is keen and rich, with detail in the dark elfish tongue, mellifluousness to Loki, pride and humility to Thor, the brittle rasp of authority to Odin and the simpering Irish brogue for Jane Foster’s poor paramour played by Chris O’ Dowd (so many Chris’ in this film, what with Chris Evans’ little cameo as well). The film is ably opened-up in every direction with seamless panning around the channels, marvellously rendered surround activity and a real sense of immersive depth and movement. The action is audibly brutal and, much more than the first film, this is the driving aspect of the sound design, with a mix that is aggressively deep and immensely enjoyable.

    This is a 7.1 DTS HD MA mix delivers on all counts.

    There is much roaring through the skies, be it Thor, himself, or the various aircraft, and these flybys boast very perceptible movement that could well have you weaving about on the sofa. Crumbling masonry has real detail within the collapses, and a sense of solidity that delivers some shuddering suspense. The sound of mighty Mjolnir springing with an anvil shimmer into Thor’s waiting grasp is always a winner, and it shimmers across the soundscape with ear-soothing aplomb, possibly eclipsing the awesome wobbling vibranium whang!!! of Captain America’s shield.

    Sadly the score from the usually robust and redoubtable Brian Tyler is really quite poor, and not a patch on Patrick Doyle’s fabulously rousing music for his mate Ken Branagh’s earlier take. His heroic theme is utterly lacklustre and there is nothing of the power and aggression that he bombarded us with in the likes of Rambo or The Expendables, or the lyrical addictiveness of his score for Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag. This said, the track showcases his music with clarity and muscular detail, neither swamping the action nor lagging behind the adventure. Still, I hope he invests Avengers: Age of Ultron with more passion and distinction than he exhibits here.

    Well, Marvelites, this is a damn fine audio track that never once drops the hammer and is sure to excite you whilst driving your neighbours round the twist!

    Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Extras

    Thor: The Dark World 3D Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Extras

    We have a commentary from director Alan Taylor and cinematographer Kramer Morganthau, and producer Kevin Feige and Loki, himself, Tom Hiddleston, with the two respective pairs recorded separately. Although comprehensive and in-depth, I found this to be a rather dry affair. Technically sound, but nothing you would ever return to.

    There is also a two-part feature focussing on the relationship between Thor and his manipulative and scheming half-brother in the half-hour long A Brother’s Journey.

    Although it is nice to have some extended and deleted scenes, and some of them (with optional commentary) are quite good, it is far more fun to watch the gag-reel, which reveals much scene pilfering from those pesky capes, some deliciously fluffed lines and stunts that don’t go quite according to plan.

    Although I was not a fan of Iron Man 3 (or 2, for that matter), I have to admit that I really enjoyed the snappy, more cutting and darkly satirical Marvel One Shot found here, that features Ben Kingsley’s incarcerated actor Trevor Slattery in the acerbically tongue-in-cheek All Hail The King, which has to be one of the better and more intelligent shorts yet. I’m sure not everyone will agree, though.

    Brian Tyler gets to discuss his ideas for Scoring Thor: The Dark World. I love this composer’s work usually, but I found little to admire in his music for this, though.

    There is also a little glimpse at Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

    Is Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Worth Buying

    Thor: The Dark World 3D Is Thor: The Dark World 3D Blu-ray Worth Buying

    Bigger in scale and aspiration than its predecessor, The Dark World jettisons its charm and warmth in favour of the more typical stretches of elaborate action. Some of the comedy is good – with one of the better cameos from Stan Lee – and Hemsworth still makes for an engaging and sympathetic Thunder-God. But, at the same time, the story feels both more epic and yet dumbed-down. A cluttered and more clichéd narrative overplays politics and ritual at the expense of genuine emotion and excitement. The bad guys elicit absolutely no sense of menace at all, with Christopher Eccleston’s dark elf lord Malekith so distressingly one-dimensional that if he turned side-on he would vanish altogether. Thor’s chums belong in a panto. The sight of Asgardian soldiers in battle is horribly reminiscent of Masters of the Universe and Krull, the combo of swords and shields, lasers and explosions make for uncomfortable combat companions.

    Portman is wasted and Hopkins just annoys, but Tom Hiddleston once again comes to the dastardly rescue with what remains the best ongoing performance in a Marvel movie yet.

    Both in two and three dimensions, the image is frequently scintillating

    This UK region-free two-discer is a fine release, though. Both in two and three dimensions, the image is frequently scintillating, even if the 3D has only occasional flashes of eye-poking inspiration and does inevitably embrace the dark side too slavishly. And the audio is as richly dynamic, detailed and aggressively presented as you could wish for. The extras aren’t spectacular, however, with the Marvel One-Shot being the best and cleverest on offer, almost making up for the travesty of Iron Man 3 all by itself.

    Personally, I much prefer Kenneth Branagh’s original Thor outing, which seemed to hit all the right notes, while this instalment completely lacks originality and combines elements of Abrams’ first Star Trek with the Star Wars prequels to no great effect. I am surprised at the level of admiration critics bestowed upon Taylor’s blockbuster. Asides from the expectedly inspired performance from Hiddleston, this feels hollow and generic. But if you are a fan of Marvel superheroics – and who isn’t – then you will still find much of worth and entertainment in this expansion.

    I never thought I’d say this being such a champion of the first film, but this Thor is something of a bore and I don’t particularly relish any more trips to Asgard.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99

    The Rundown



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