By Chris Rebholz
Nov 08, 2013 08:48 AM EST

Thor: The Dark World Theatrical Review

Thor: The Dark World Theatrical Review
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Now that we're firmly into Phase Two of Marvel's plan for total cinema domination, the titles are coming thick and fast.

The next Captain America (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) will be along in the spring, and in a year that's already brought the terrific Iron Man 3 we now have this sequel to Thor, a movie that was bright, funny and carried along with a real zip by director Kenneth Brannagh. This first return to that world feels a bit rushed, especially in its storytelling, but it's still a breezy and fun couple of hours.

After the events of The Avengers, Norse god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is busy keeping peace across the realms. Since almost all the necessary introductions were made first time round, we can get straight to it, something that also allows characters slightly down the cast list to get their moment to shine.

The main bit of setup required is a prologue that goes all Lord of the Rings on us, as we learn about the Dark Elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). He's after some cosmic goo called the Aether, which will allow him to get up to no good when the nine realms align for the first time in 5000 years, something called the Convergence. Sounds very astrological to me and we all know from so many fantasy films of the past, whenever heavenly bodies align, no good can come of it. Just watch Masters of the Universe.

Back in Asgard, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been placed in Asgardian prison (which doesn't look too shabby), and left to rot until the plot requires him to be freed to help Thor with the current threat. Meanwhile, on earth, Natalie Portman's scientist, Jane, is trying to adjust to life after Thor. But she gets dragged back into events when she's alerted by her colleagues about some sort of portal they've found. Through a vague and confused bit of plotting, she comes into contact with the Aether via the portal, and gets somehow infected by it.

Thor brings her to Asgard in an attempt to cure her, but don't look for much sense during this stretch that also brings an attack from Malekith that makes a mockery of the supposed Asgardian defenses.

It's one of two or three key sequences that, while never exactly botched, just point to a lack of directorial craft and poor editing choices. For all its story, and backstory, the writing isn't the strong suit here. The big picture is often little more than gibberish, but individual scenes please and are still capable of moments of wonder.

Much of what draws audiences in comes from its technical brilliance. Glorious production design is used to realize Asgard and the other worlds we visit. Then of course there's the action, generally rousing if a little repetitive at times. Thor swinging his hammer at a monstrous foe is enjoyable, but quite possibly the best scenes come when Thor has to go his traitorous brother for aid. The moments between those two, while too short are some of the best throughout the film. Perhaps that's thanks to the brilliance of Tom Hiddleston, or the majesty of Chris Hemsworth or just that they clearly love working together. Either way, it's enough to make any comic geek squeal. Visually Thor: The Dark World delivers in spades. If you were a fan of the first film and the towering glory that is Asgard then you'll be equally pleased here. Wonderful shots of Asgard, excellently rendered enemies and some spot on creature design make for some fun eye candy. And then there's the humor. Where the first film largely was largely comprised of Thor's fish out of water antics, this time everyone gets the opportunity for a one-liner or two and most comedies wish they were as funny as this.

When compared to the blockbuster that was The Avengers, it's hard to give Thor: The Dark World as big a thumb's up, however what movie could compare to that gem of a film. Even Iron Man 3, which many fans were divided on, doesn't even come close the majesty of The Avengers. But, of the second installment of Marvel's Phase Two line, Thor: The Dark World delivers where it counts, terrific action, quippy dialogue and stunning visuals. Everything a comic book movie should be. 

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