Thor: The Dark World

Not enough Loki. Too many tacky 3D effects. And then there's the hard fact that everything old isn't necessarily new again just because the bottom line wishes it so. That's the skinny on the big-budget Thor: The Dark World, a sequel to 2011's surprisingly passable Thor and 2012's surprisingly better The Avengers (thanks, Joss Whedon), featuring a large chunk of Marvel superheroes. The new Thor just has Thor (and one surprise cameo).

Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth, who proved he could do more than just pose in Rush, is back – hair flowing, muscles rippling, hammer at the ready – as that flying Norse god from the planet Asgard, dodging plot bullets from a trio of screenwriters from the planet Familiar. Director Alan Taylor, whose ace TV credits on Game of Thrones suggest a welcome nonconformity, conforms here to the Marvel rule of "don't fix what's not broken." Damn. Box office is one cruel taskmaster.

Let's catch up. The universe is in danger. Still. The dark elves, led by the baddie Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), are fixing to unleash the longdormant force of Aether that's taken up residence in the body of Black Swan Oscar winner Natalie Portman. Not really. The Aether is inside Thor's lady love, Jane Foster, the scientist now based in London and again played winningly by Portman.

Just when yawning sets in and you think that Loki, Thor's dashing, demented brother, will never show up, scene-stealing Tom Hiddleston rides in. Even in prison, Loki's poison-tipped one-liners fly like arrows, especially at Thor and their Big Daddy, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). This Thor sequel is way funnier than any movie subtitled The Dark World has a right to be (thanks, Hiddleston). And the blowout climax pitting Thor against Malekith and the elves is excitingly staged. It's just that waiting for the good stuff can be a real mood-killer. You've been warned. My work here is done.

From The Archives Issue 1196: November 21, 2013