Thor: The Dark World Alan Taylor

Thor: The Dark World Alan Taylor
Thanks to the heavy lifting done by Kenneth Branagh to find an effective approach to a ridiculous character in the first film, (coupled with the subsequent goodwill generated by The Avengers,) the viewing public is perfectly acquainted with the idea that the Marvel Comics version of the Norse God of Thunder can work as a rollicking action adventure full of straight-faced whimsy. Having Tom Hiddleston on board for another turn as the charismatic, duplicitous heel Loki doesn't hurt either. This puts new franchise director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) in the enviable, reasonably low-pressure position of simply needing to not bollocks up a self-contained chapter of the ongoing Marvel Universe.

While it's not as artfully constructed and deliberately askew as its predecessor, the relentless and action-packed Thor: The Dark World should be an even more appealing prospect to mass audiences. In another CG lesson about the violent history of the Nine Realms, we're introduced to the Dark Elves, a puissant species representing the absence of being. These champions of dark matter seek the end of existence throughout the cosmos via the use of a fluid artefact older than the universe. Thought to have been destroyed long ago, these grumpy bastards awaken for another stab at universal annihilation thanks to the unwitting help of Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who stumbles into their dimension while investigating a physical anomaly on Earth (or Midgard, as the Asgardians call it).

Taylor, working from a collaborative script, does an excellent job balancing the myriad requirements of presenting a stand-alone fantasy adventure with the necessary acknowledgements of the greater playground belonging to the Marvel cinema brand. Whenever there is a nod, it feels organically integrated into the story and never hinders the pacing of Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) struggle to protect the universe with his big-ass hammer and thousand-watt smile. Beyond the great chemistry between Hemsworth and Hiddleston, and Hemsworth and Portman, The Dark World is admirable for giving the entire cast of characters something meaningful to do this time out, though the action remains focused on the aforementioned trio of stars.

It doesn't aspire to be anything more than a damn good example of top-notch popcorn entertainment, so while it's not as funny as the first Thor film, Iron Man 3, or The Avengers, it's hard to imagine anyone interested in comic book movies being anything other than stimulated and enthralled. Just don't expect anything to chew over once you've left the theatre other than how awesome one of the next Marvel movies is going to be; an enticing mid-credits tease hints at things to come.

Oh, and it's worth staying in the theatre even after that for one final joke that playfully ties up a loose end in this wholly enjoyable cosmic extravaganza. (Disney)