By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Yeah, it’s dark, all right, but that doesn’t mean it’s a Thor loser.

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And as a sequel, Thor: The Dark World is not only equal but incrementally superior to its predecessor, which is a modest compliment.

We’re here with the superhero known as The Mighty Thor, who defines the franchise.  Again.

Last time we met, in 2011, this brawny but arrogant future king -– the god of thunder — was banished and, against the wishes of his father and egged on by his brother, was sent to live among humans in the modern world.

(2½ stars out of 4)

(2½ stars out of 4)

There — that is, here — the bemused Thor, in search of the misplaced Excalibur-like hammer that gives him magical powers and strength, fell in love.

Like its predecessor, Thor: The Dark World is an epic, exposition-heavy fantasy about mortals and immortals.

Like its predecessor, it’s based on a Marvel comic that is itself based on Norse mythology.

Like its predecessor, it has a sense of humor, but is still too self-important.

And like its predecessor, it’s got a bit too much anachronistic dialogue and a few too many supremely silly, godawful moments.

In the realm of Asgard — one of the nine realms, one of which is Earth — where Odin (Anthony Hopkins) rules as the king, the Dark Elves remain intent on using the powerful energy source, Aether, for their own nefarious reasons.

Warrior Malekith the Accursed (Christopher Eccleston), the leader of the Elves, is waging an intergalactic war that threatens the earthling astrophysicist named Jane (Natalie Portman), whom Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the king’s son, still adores.

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Meanwhile, Thor’s traitorous, power-hungry brother, Loki (scene-stealing Tom Hiddleston) plots his revenge –- still up to no good and lusting after the throne, even though he’s locked away in a dungeon –- while his square-jawed brother and his cohorts travel around the universe trying to undo the damage Loki has done.

Extended action sequences dominate the proceedings and fall just short of being the tail that wags the Thor.  But the film’s saving grace is its ready sense of humor, delivered by supporting players Kat Dennings, Stellan Sarsgard, and Chris O’Dowd (as, respectively, Jane’s intern, colleague, and suitor) while Idris Elba as the guardian of Asgard and Rene Russo as Thor’s mother stay on the serious side of the ledger.

And look for a pair of surprise cameos sure to please fans of the genre.

Director Alan Arnold, whose extensive background is in television but whose approach here is downright operatic, takes the directorial reins from Kenneth Branagh and holds his own energizing and personalizing the collection of elaborate but indifferent CGI special effects, familiar faces, and full-of-sound-and-fury-signifying-nothing battle scenes.

Hemsworth, coming off Rush, looks natural enough as the muscled man with the mallet.

But this time, with his sin of hubris well behind him, he is unshakably, maybe even insufferably, righteous; it would have been nice if screenwriters Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, and Stephen McFeely could have found a way to make their principal character more textured.

That said, Hemsworth and the film get the job done.

So we’ll immortalize 2½ stars out of Thor -– I mean, 4 –- for the consistently amusing god-among-humans fantasy, The Dark World.

For fans especially, this will be a sight for Thor eyes.


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