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    BLU-RAY REVIEW: Thor - The Dark World

    Marvel's Latest Phase 2 Film Hits Hi-Def Home Video...



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    2011's comic book film Thor introduced comic and non-comic fans alike to the fantasy elements of the Marvel Universe, exploring everyone's favorite hammer-wielding Avenger, his homeworld of Asgard, and the various supporting friends and foes which have graced the comic page since Thor was first introduced over 50 years ago.

    Now, with the home video release of Marvel's latest live-action film, 2013's Thor: The Dark World, fans continue to watch and enjoy the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Thor: The Dark World introduces new characters and new conflicts as well as a new cosmic entity which will no doubt play a part in future MCU films.

    Here, we get an even larger look at the Odinson and the mythology he brings with him. The latest enemy, the Dark Elves, lead by the viscous Malekith, make for a formidable foe and entertaining new enemy for Thor, Sif, Fandral, Volstagg, Hogun, Heimdall and the other Asgardians who must face this ancient foe.

    Film writers Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely and film director Alan Taylor (whose other work includes runs on TV series Game of Thrones, Mad Men and The Sopranos among others) breathe beautiful life into Thor: The Dark World, making it even more entertaining and engaging than the first film. In fact, I actually enjoyed Thor: The Dark World more than any other MCU film save The Avengers... and that's saying a lot. Here we find action, adventure, romance, deceit, revenge, justice, and a new a new cosmic power - the Aether - which is sure to play a major role in future MCU films.

    Thor: The Dark World continues the romance established in the previous Thor film between our titular hero (played brilliantly by Chris Hemsworth) and Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Foster, possessed by the cosmic entity known as the Aether, must seek healing and protection on Asgard as the All-Father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) seeks a resolution to the recent resurgence of the Dark Elves, previously thought destroyed. The Dark Elves, lead by the evil Malekith (Christpher Eccleston), lead a strike on Asgard in order to possess the Aether, which finds death and destruction in its wake and thus causes an unlikely alliance between Thor's brother, the meddlesome Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and our heroes, who join together in an on-going relationship that's both fierce, funny and - at times - touching and heart-felt.

    Thor: The Dark World, like other live-action MCU films, provide both fans and non-fans alike a broad introduction to the world of Marvel's on-going comics while, at the same time, a look at the engaging, personal characters and their relationships. These fan-favorite characters continue to populate the big screen thanks to Marvel's brilliant film strategy and no doubt there's more in store for Thor, Dr. Jane Foster and all of the Asgardians - especially Loki, who ends the film in a unique - if not unexpected - position.

    Thor: The Dark World is beautiful to watch thanks to the gorgeous 1080p video transfer. The colors throughout Asgard are rich and full and contrast beautifully with the dreary, overcast London seen throughout the film. The special effects - especially Thor's constant use of his magical hammer Mjölnir - brilliantly comes to life on-screen as does the cosmic power of the Aether. The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track delivers throughout, though no where more than in the devastating and destructive scenes in which the Dark Elves invade both Asgard and Earth. Lightning crashes, hammers strike, lasers flash, swords clash and clang, explosions burst and buildings crumble and collapse - and each and every sounds fills the stage completely. Dialogue is always clear from the front speakers and dynamic use of the side, rear and surround speakers will put your system to the test as the audio delivers an engaging and engrossing cinematic experience that's top-tier.

    As for special features, the film delivers a number of fun, funny, entertaining and educational experiences. An audio commentary with director Alan Taylor, cinematographer Kramer Morgenthau, producer and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, and actor Tom Hiddleston (Loki) expands on the film's creation, production, and acting. The 32-minute "A Brother's Journey: Thor & Loki" explores the development and relationship between Hemsworth's Thor and Hiddleston's Loki. Focusing on both the original 2011 Thor and the 2012 The Avengers as well as Thor: The Dark World, this overview and interview provides an interesting look at the on-going relationship developed on-screen.

    Other special features include the 5-minute "Scoring Thor: The Dark World with Brian Tyler," which features composer Brian Tyler discussing the film's score; approx. 8 minutes of deleted and extended scenes; and a 4 minute gag reel.

    Maybe most impressive - and attractive to fans - is a 4 minute extended look and behind-the-scenes featurette about the next live-action film in the MCU, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and the 14-minute long Marvel One Shot: All Hail the King, which features Ben Kingsley's Trevor Slattery from Iron Man 3. This short by Iron Man 3 co-writer Drew Pearce delivers some great expansion on the character and is sure to provide plenty of fun and surprises for die-hard fans of the MCU. It's a "must watch" for all fans of the MCU.

    All things considered, Thor: The Dark World is one of the best MCU films yet. Whether you're a fan of the Odinson or not, you'll appreciate the amount of fun, action, adventure and entertainment found here. Everything a comic reader enjoys about the comics they read each month (save the words and artwork) is present here: drama and suspense, intriguing characters, complex relationships, enthralling adventure... Thor: The Dark World has it all. Get your copy now on Blu-ray, DVD and/or digital download.

    Look for Thor: The Dark World on DVD, blu-ray and Digital download wherever fine home video is sold.

    - Jess C. Horsley


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