The Marvel brand remains powerful to men thanks to decades of wish fulfillment tales. The company’s movie studio, in turn, relegates sizable resources to bringing their ink-stained stories to life.
“Thor: The Dark World” merely continues the studio’s hot streak. It’s the “Godfather, Part II” of superhero sequels, a saga that improves on the original in nearly every way that matters.
The film opens with the kind of geeky exposition that immediately brings the “Green Lantern” to mind. Hoo, boy.
Matters brighten once we return to Asgard and rejoin the super-sized Chris Hemsworth as Thor. He’s a pensive hero with a healthy sense of self confidence, but he pines for the woman he met in the first film, the feisty Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). He’ll reunite with her and her earth-bound pals when a long-dormant threat to humanity (Christopher Eccleston) resurfaces with a plan for universal domination.
Superhero films rarely operate in half measures.
Now, Thor must work with Jane to stop an evil that threatens to plunge both earth and Asgard into eternal darkness, all the while hoping Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) can make good on his promise to help our heroes save the day.
“The Dark World” goes through the usual sequel motions – expanding the roles of key supporting players while maintaining the elements that scored the first time ’round. That means returning actors Rene Russo, Anthony Hopkins, Kat Dennings and Idris Elba all get more to do in round two, and in each case it pays off handsomely.
Hemsworth manages all the “thou doth” banter just fine, thank you, and Portman provides the scrappy persona that makes the film’s love story worth your while. And then there’s Loki, so good in both the first “Thor” outing and “The Avengers,” nimbly slipping whole scenes in his pocket without anyone but audiences noticing.
“The Dark World,” like most superhero outings, is geared more for adults than kids. These are sober movie franchises with plenty of coin at stake, and children under the age of, say, 8, might find some of the action frightening. That didn’t stop the film’s screenwriters from injecting plenty of humor into the proceedings. Director Alan Taylor may have a slim film resume, but his work on some of TV’s finest programs gave him the background to deliver a series of comically pointed exchanges.
By the time Thor enters a “mortal” home and casually hangs his hammer up on a coat rack we know we’re in capable comic hands.
The action sequences impress as well, even if Taylor lacks the pop culture eye that made “The Avengers” downright sublime. Even Asgard itself looks more majestic this time, a glittering realm filled not with CGI overkill but more organic flourishes that make it feel like a place we might visit one day.
“Thor: The Dark World” ends with not one, but two, scenes embedded in the closing credits along with a vow that, “Thor Will Return.”
No doubt plenty of dads will see that text crawl and mentally start lining up for “Thor 3.”