“Thor: The Dark World" a solid sequel

“Thor: The Dark World.”

Courtesy Photo

“Thor: The Dark World” is part two of “phase two” of the Marvel cinematic universe, but, lest ye become too confused with the comic-book giant’s attempt to make its movie world as convoluted as its comics, forget all that nonsense and just enjoy this film for the breathtaking battle between good and evil that it is – with some sappy-fun romance thrown in for good measure. This film rocks (and I don’t mean just the short-lived appearance of the Kronan).

After the events depicted in The Avengers movie (2012), the God of Thunder has some serious clean-up to do back home in Asgard – delivering his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to justice, and helping to straighten out the damage caused to the Nine Realms that are under his guardianship.

Back on Earth, a jilted Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) continues her astrophysical scientific research together with her snarky intern, Darcy (Kat Dennings). The two stumble onto an inter-dimensional portal that promptly sucks Jane into its maw where she is then possessed by a malevolent dark force called the Aether (a red and black ghost-like entity.)

You see, before the beginning of time the Dark Elves, led by the malicious Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), sought to use the Aether to bring darkness to the Nine Realms. But the Elves were defeated by Thor’s grandfather, Bor, and the Aether was hidden (they thought) for all eternity. Hopefully you are not “Bor[ed]” with this set-up, which is the weakest part of the film.

When Jane falls out of the all-seeing Heimdall’s view, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) fears the worst and heads to Earth to find his mortal love-interest. The hero whisks the Aether-infected woman away to Asgard to protect her from Malekith and the evil Dark Elves who want to recover the entity from within her body, which they will then use to destroy all nine worlds.

If you are familiar with comic-book artist/writer Walter Simonson’s original tales of Thor, Malekith and the “Casket of Ancient Winters,” well, there’s none of that here. The screenplay for “Thor: The Dark World,” which has been touched by a slew of writers, plays fast and loose with Simonson’s stories and characters, including Algrim (AKA Kurse.) In the end though it is no different than the liberties taken with any of the other Marvel characters we’ve seen in these films, which, for the most part, have turned out pretty darn good.

The plot is really not as complicated as it sounds and if you have trouble following the details just remember it’s Thor, Jane and Asgard versus Malekith and the Dark Elves with the fate of the universe in the balance and you’ll do just fine. Loki also plays a big part in all of this, but it is best that you find out how for yourself.

In fact, I would even say that Loki steals Thor’s thunder, as it were, and is the star of this show. Actor Tom Hiddleston has turned the “Lord of Mischief” into one of the most interesting characters in the Marvel movie universe. His multi-layered portrayal of Thor’s rascally step-brother is an absolute pleasure to watch and one of the greatest screen villains in years.

Besides Hiddleston, the casting and acting of almost every major character in this film is excellent.

Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Jaimie Alexander as Sif, Idris Elba as Heimdall, and especially Hemsworth as Thor – it will be hard to imagine anyone but these actors filling those shoes anytime in the future.

I was very discouraged by the first twenty-minutes or so of this film and was wondering if the very successful series of Marvel movies had finally “jumped the shark.” The beginning of “Thor: The Dark World” is confusing, slow and extra absurd (even for a movie with flying Norse Gods in it); and Darcy’s cynical musings wear thin very early on. But if you are feeling similar discomfort when watching, be patient noble viewer, because it’s smooth sailing once the action moves to Asgard – and there is some insanely entertaining action coming your way.

Speaking of the many action sequences in this film, I may be reading too much into the Disney purchase of both Marvel and Lucasfilm, but there seems to be a very significant “Star Wars” influence in the battle scenes of this Thor sequel.

Having read more Thor comics than I can even remember, I don’t recall Asgardians ever using ion cannons, blasters and force fields (complete with matching “Star Wars” sound effects.) This film even has Lucas-esque aerial dogfights in the skies over the Thunder God’s home realm. That’s not to say these sequences are not exciting, but if you were expecting “Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder” instead of spaceships, you’re going to be disappointed.

There is also a lot of humor in this movie and not all of it as bad as the annoying Darcy quips. “Uncle” Stan Lee has a hilarious cameo appearance and even Thor cracks a good one-liner now and then. The gags do go over the top in a couple of instances, but the movie is an overall great blend of action, adventure and fun.

As we’ve come to expect from Marvel films, “Thor: The Dark World” has two end-credit sequences. One midway, which has been bad-mouthed by director Alan Taylor and adds nothing to the film or any announced Marvel movie plot line – but it might be in line with the ending of spoilers (maybe leading up to a certain “phase three” film.)

The final end-credit sequence is actually very amusing and had people applauding at the screening I attended.

Despite missing a few marks and some lulls at its beginning, “Thor: The Dark World” is a great sequel and nice addition to the Marvel movie series. The 3-D version, as usual, is dark and muddy and I wouldn’t waste the extra money on it, but I plan to see this film again soon in “mortal” vision.

Grade: 7.5/10

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