Release Date(s)2013 (August 13, 2019)
Studio(s)Marvel Studios (Walt Disney Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C
In the aftermath of Loki’s attack on Earth in The Avengers, peace has come to Asgard at last. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been captured and imprisoned, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has matured and taken on the mantle of leadership, and Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is finally ready to hand over his throne. But when an ancient weapon, the Aether, awakens and ensnares his love on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), Thor brings her home. Drawn to the weapon, the Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) attacks Asgard in search of it and draws precious blood. Malekith’s forces are repelled, but he will return. So Thor has no choice but to enlist Loki’s help in spiriting Jane to safety, confronting Malekith, and saving the Nine Realms.
Thor: The Dark World is certainly a beautiful film and it expands upon the mythology of Thor, Loki, and Asgard in interesting ways. However, its story is significantly more esoteric and its plot is a bit more convoluted than the original Thor (reviewed here in 4K). There’s good humor here though, and several members of the cast—particularly Hemsworth and Hiddleston—deliver terrific performances. The visuals are striking, and the effects are lavish, exquisite to look at, and a bit more detailed this time, which is an improvement over the previous film. Brian Tyler’s score delivers nice medieval/classical heft too. But Thor and Jane’s romantic arc once again takes a back seat to the plot and action, which—while not unexpected—under-serves the characters in the long run.
Thor: The Dark World was shot digitally in ARRIRAW (2.8K) and Redcode RAW (5K – a few shots) using mostly Arri Alexa Plus 4:3 and Red Epic cameras with Panavision anamorphic lenses. It was finished as a 2K digital intermediate at the 2.39:1 “scope” ratio and upsampled for Ultra HD, with a high dynamic range grade available here in HDR10 (Dolby Vision is available on the Digital 4K only). The good news is, there’s significantly more (and more refined) detail in this image than there was in the original Thor in 4K. What’s more, because it was captured with digital sensors that can handle low light, shadows are never crushed and there’s much more detail in the darkest areas of the frame. This is a dark film indeed, with an often gloomy/muted color palette, so while the HDR expands the contrasts nicely, the boldest highlights never approach eye-reactivity. Still, contrast and detail are improved here over the Blu-ray image, and the wider color gamut gives the film’s hues a good deal more nuance.
In terms of audio, Thor: The Dark World offered a reference quality DTS-HD MA sound experience on regular Blu-ray, and the 4K improves upon this nicely with a new Dolby Atmos mix. It sounds great at reference levels but, if you turn it up (as is required with most Disney 4Ks) it gets ever better. The soundstage is big, wide, and liquid-smooth, with a robust foundation of low end. It sounds slightly less bombastic than the BD mix but vastly more natural, if that makes sense. You feel less assaulted by the film’s unique soundscapes but more immersed in them. Panning and movement are organic. The height channels enclose the environment and add lovely extension that kicks in nicely in key moments, particularly any time Thor summons the thunder with Mjolnir and when he uses it to defeat the rock giant in the battle of Vanaheim. The attack on (and escape from) Asgard is impressive too. Dialogue is ever clear and Tyler’s score is well staged throughout. It’s a terrific mix. Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, 5.1 Dolby Digital in Quebec French, and 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus in French, Spanish, German, Italian, and Japanese. Optional subtitles include those languages along with Norwegian and Swedish.
There are no special features on the 4K disc itself, but the package includes the film in 1080p HD on Blu-ray. That disc carries over the following extras (all in HD):
- Audio Commentary with Alan Taylor, Kevin Feige, Tom Hiddleston, and Kramer Morgenthau
- Marvel One-Shot: All Hail the King (13:51)
- A Brother’s Journey: Thor & Loki (2 parts – 31:39 in all)
- Exclusive Look – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (3:35)
- Scoring Thor: The Dark World with Brian Tyler (5:21)
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (6 scenes with optional commentary – 7:49 in all)
- Gag Reel (3:30)
- Sneak Peeks (for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the MCU on disc, Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man, Hulk and the Agents of SMASH, and Need for Speed)
All Hail the King is worth your time, as it’s an entertaining short with a great twist (and a nice cameo in the end credits). The two Thor & Loki featurettes serve up the real meat of the extras, examining the development and story arcs of these two key characters through several MCU films leading to The Dark World. Unfortunately, the audio commentary is less engaging than it should be, especially with Feige and Hiddleston’s involvement. It’s informative, but a bit dry. The rest of these extras are disappointing, something of a backwards step for extras on MCU home video releases, though you do get the usual Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert.
For all its strengths and faults—and despite the disappointing extras—Thor: The Dark World is a good 4K upgrade, with picture and sound much more in line with the recent MCU films on Ultra HD. If you’re a fan, it’s definitely worth the purchase price.
- Bill Hunt