It’s odd to think you’d only expect a modest return on a $100 million investment, but that’s just what Marvel Studios was banking on with Thor (2011). The real grabber was supposed to be Captain America: The First Avenger; Cap did as expected but Thor did much better and no one still knows why, other than Thor appears to be everyone’s favorite blond. So now we have the unexpected sequel (and the middle act of the unexpected trilogy), Thor: The Dark World.


Way back in the day, Thor’s grandfather defeated the Dark Elf Malekith and imprisoned him and his WMD, the Aether,  in a place where they would never be found. (Hero Mistake 101: whenever you put something someplace it will never be found… somebody always finds it!)

Flash forward, two years after “New York.” Loki has been returned to Asgard and imprisoned for his crimes, Thor is traveling throughout the Nine Realms, restoring order, and Jane Foster still hasn’t moved on. But she stumbles across a portal that brings her into contact with the Aether, just as the Nine Realms are converging as they do every eternity or so, and Malekith escapes, and…


And mayhem ensues. If Thor was staged as a Wagnerian rock opera, The Dark World is sort of a road show version of the stage play. The script is actually pretty good but it fails not by underachieving but by overreaching. despite some tragedy and a little social commentary it never achieves the gravitas of the Dark Knight Trilogy but it does (surprisingly!) continue the character development of Thor. The frat boy who learns humility is now the quarterback who knows he could be elected Student Body President but who also knows that level of responsibility is not in his skill set. But the scene stealer is Loki, the most suave villain since the original Die Hard’s Hans Gruber.


The story is suffused with enough unforced humor to keep things light (including a quite unexpected cameo) and everybody gets something to do (Heimdall, Darcy and Dr. Selvig are all back) but trying to explain dark matter theory as a means of bringing about the End of the Universe as We Know It by phantasmagorical means… And the movie has not one, not two, not three or four but four and a half of climaxes! You not only sit through the credits, you wait until the lights come up and they start cleaning the theater for the next show, just in case you might miss something.


Still Thor: The Dark World does not disappoint. It’s a “very good comic book movie” but not “a great comic book movie.” It won’t change your worldview but you won’t want your ticket money back, either.

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