With nary a hint of superhero fatigue in sight, Marvel continues their domination of the cinematic blockbuster landscape with the incredibly inventive Thor: The Dark World. While you’d think that it would be hard to continue crafting stories in this genre that feel fresh, Marvel has figured out a way to continue their epicly intertwined stories while evolving the very genre of each film in the series. Containing equal elements of fantasy and science-fiction, Thor pushes not only the Thor franchise into exciting new directions, but singlehandedly helps with the rebranding of the entire Marvel universe.
It’s hard to believe that the Marvel Cinematic Universe began with Robert Downey, Jr. captured by terrorists, trapped in a cave. From that moment, we have slowly been introduced to a world that spans not only the entire planet, not just Outer Space, but multiple realms of existence. As the first Thor established, there are nine realms, all existing independent of each other, but accessible through various means. This film opens with a preamble on par with Peter Jackson’s original opening to the Lord of the Rings. It is in this sequence that we are introduced to Malekith, the villain of the film, who’s origins span thousands of years. As I watched this opening, I couldn’t help but be awed at just how far Marvel has taken these characters, and how impressive it is that they have made this accessible to general audiences.
Part of that accessibility has to come from the amazing casting of each and every one of their films. Obviously, Robert Downey, Jr. is a standout as Iron Man. That being said, I couldn’t imagine a more compelling Thor than that of Chris Hemsworth. Likewise, Loki just wouldn’t have the same impact without the multifaceted performance of Tom Hiddleston. People often talk about chemistry between romantic leads, but chemistry can be so much more than love. With an antagonistic respect just under the surface, there is undeniable chemistry between these two brothers, and while it may not be romantic in nature (thank goodness), it is imperative to the success of this story.
It goes without saying that the film is filled with action, amazing special effects, and wondrous new worlds to explore. Asgard looks better than ever, with greater detail in every shot and a production design that is just gorgeous to watch. Whether admiring the majesty of the city itself, or the futuristicly dank cells in the dungeons below, there is a detail to the film’s designs that is unsurpassed in the Marvel universe.
Now that the film is on Blu-Ray, it becomes even more apparent just how much work went into the creation of this amazing film. After finishing the film, I found myself jumping back forth between various moments that I just had to get another look at. It’s a beautiful world that has been created, and I can’t wait to see how it continues to tie in to further Marvel stories.
Bonus Clip: Loki The Avenger (Deleted Scene)
As for the extras, there are some fun features, but nothing too exciting. The most interesting feature is a new short film entitled “All Hail the King.” Featuring Ben Kingsley’s return as “The Mandarin,” this film opens up the Marvel universe even more than I realized they were planning. I’m not sure how this film is going to come into play down the road, but they have definitely set up some interesting dominoes that need to be knocked down at some point.
There is also a standard making of feature, noteworthy for giving us a glimpse of Tom Hiddleston’s audition as Thor. I can’t imagine the alternate reality where that casting occurred, but it’s a fascinating look at what might have been. While most of this feature is a standard self-congratulatory talking-heads segment, there are some interesting looks behind the scenes of various setpieces, and looks at the overall development of the film through production. There are also several deleted and extended scenes, along with a quick look at the extremely entertaining score of the film. Finally, the extras are rounded out with a completely unfunny gag reel.
Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the direction the Marvel franchise is going. With Captain America 2 and Guardians of the Galaxy just around the corner, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for these films. If the quality is maintained to the level of this film, we are in for a very exciting finish to Phase II of the Marvel franchise.