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Marvel Studios' "Thor: The Dark World" is the sort of sequel that you wish Hollywood would serve up more often

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Marvel Studios' "Thor: The Dark World" is the sort of sequel that you wish Hollywood would serve up more often

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You'd think that -- given that this Walt Disney Pictures release is built around a beefy Marvel superhero who wields an enormous hammer -- that "Thor: The Dark World" would be muscle-bound and plodding. But looks can be deceiving sometimes. For this sequel to 2011's "Thor " & 2012's "Marvel's The Avengers " is surprisingly light on its feet.


Copyright 2013 Marvel. All rights reserved

Director Alan Taylor (who's probably best known these days for having helmed the first six episodes of that must-watch HBO series, "Games of Thrones") gets things off to a fast start. He quickly sketches in the necessary backstory (i.e. Eons ago, Malekith [Christopher Eccleston] and his dark elves almost plunged the universe into unending darkness by unleashing Aether. But Bor, father of Odin, defeated Malekith & his Kursed warriors by spiriting their super-weapon away at the last possible second. Bor then stashed the Aether away under a stone column in an impossibly deep & dark mine. Meanwhile Malekith and a handful of his surviving supporters then placed themselves in suspended animation, waiting for that fateful day when the Aether finally reveals itself again) before plunging us straight into a storyline which pretty much picks up where "Thor" & "Marvel's The Avengers" left off.

"The Dark World" starts off in present-day Asgard with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in chains, standing before his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). For the crime of attempting to set himself up as the supreme ruler of Earth by using the Tesseract to open a portal directly over New York City and then allowing the Chitauri to attack Manhattan, Odin sentences his adopted son to an eternity in the Asgardian dungeons.


Copyright 2013 Marvel. All rights reserved

Meanwhile Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is at the very end of a two year-long campaign, during which the Norse God of Thunder and his warriors have fought their way across the known universe in an effort to restore order to the Nine Realms. After one final battle on Vanaheim, Thor, Fandral (Zachary Levi), Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) return to Asgard and are hailed as heroes. Which should be a time for celebration. But Thor doesn't much feel much like celebrating because his heart still belongs to Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), the attractive astrophysicist that he left back on Earth after the original "Thor" movie.

Mind you, Jane has been actively searching for a way to reunite with her Norse hunk. Which is why -- when her intern Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) -- tells Foster about this abandoned factory in London where the laws of physics no longer seem to apply, Jane just has to investigate.


Copyright 2013 Marvel. All rights reserved

And what exactly is causing all of the weird phenomena that Foster & Lewis encounter in that factory (where objects tossed into a seemingly empty stairwell either reappear directly above these two scientists or disappear entirely)? Well, every 5000 years, there's this celestial convergence where the Nine Realms align which then forms passages between all of these worlds. Unfortunately, as Jane is gathering data at this factory, she suddenly finds herself being sucked into one of these portals. And the next thing Ms. Foster knows, she's in that deep dark mine where Bor had the Aether hid. And then ...

Nah. To reveal much more of the storyline of this Marvel Studios production would take away much of the film's fun. But don't let this movie's subtitle throw you. Though "Thor" may promise a "Dark World," what this Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release actually delivers is a skillful mix of fantasy, action-adventure, comedy and romance.


Copyright 2013 Marvel. All rights reserved

In short, this is the sort of sequel that you wish Hollywood could serve up more often. Where everything that you enjoyed about "Thor" & "Marvel's The Avengers" (i.e. Loki's bitchy banter with his brother, over-the-top battles filled with elaborate special effects, quirky dialogue, great little character-driven moments of comedy) are replicated for this film but in a slightly different form.

And then there are those moments where "Thor: The Dark World" genuinely surprises you. And -- no -- I'm not talking about that last-minute twist to this movie's storyline. I'm talking about things like that beautifully designed Viking funeral sequence in the middle of this movie. Or -- for that matter -- the startlingly number of big laughs this Marvel Studios production delivers in its final battle sequence. As Thor & Malekith first face off in Greenwich in the UK (which is where the center of this once-every-5000-years celestial  convergence winds up happening) and then wind up fighting their way across all Nine Realms as portals begin popping up all over the place.


Copyright 2013 Marvel. All rights reserved

And if you're already a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe ... Well, then I don't need to tell you that you really need to hang around after "Thor: The Dark World" wraps to catch the post-credit scene. This time around, there are actually two scenes. One occurs mid-way through the credits (which -- if I understand correctly -- is actually introducing story elements that won't then officially pay off 'til the Summer of 2018. Which is when "Marvel's The Avengers 3" is supposed to bow in theaters) and the other comes at the very end of this Alan Taylor movie.

So -- just to sum up here -- look for "Thor: The Dark World" to extend Marvel Studios' on-going hit streak. Not to mention helping to set the stage for that eagerly anticipated "Marvel's The Avengers" follow-up, "Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron." Which starts flying in London next Spring and is then supposed to released to theaters on May 1, 2015.


Copyright 2013 Marvel. All rights reserved

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