Review: Thor: The Dark World

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Thor: The Dark WorldBigger, better and more full of thunder, Thor: The Dark World smashes onto screens this weekend. The sequel to 2011's Thor -- part of the Marvel Avengers movie continuity -- catches up with characters Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) several years after the first installment.

The story by writers Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Don Payne and Robert Rodat was directed by Alan Taylor, who has a few feature credits but has directed episodes of numerous TV favorites including among his credits Six Feet Under, Sex and the City, The West Wing, The Sopranos and most recently, Game of Thrones.

Taylor's experience directing Game of Thrones is immediately on display as the film opens with a battle scene in which Asgardians and Dark Elves do battle using a combination of medieval weaponry and laser fire. In a greatly expanded role, Anthony Hopkins' Odin narrates the battle fought by his father (Tony Curran in an uncredited role) against Dark Elves who seek to kill all other life and return the universe to darkness. Now, the nine worlds are coming into a once-every-five-thousand-years alignment, and the time is ripe for the Dark Elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) to try again.

Comic book fans may be displeased by changes to established details and storylines, but Thor: The Dark World is a crowd-pleaser. More of the action takes place on Asgard where in addition to Hopkins, Rene Russo enjoys a much more involved role as Frigga, Thor's mother. The rest of the gang is back including Jaimie Alexander as Sif, Zachary Levi as Fandral, Ray Stevenson as Volstagg, Tadanobu Asano as Hogun and Idris Elba as Heimdall, all of whom serve more important roles than the set dressing they provided in the previous film.  A newcomer to the Marvel universe, Chris O'Dowd appears as a matter-of-fact blind date for Portman's Foster, and Alice Krige makes a brief surprising appearance.

But the movie is more a vehicle for Tom Hiddleston's Loki than anything else. Stripped of his sceptre, Loki's powers are limited to creating illusions, but his tongue is his sharpest weapon, endearing him to the audience equally as well as it irritates those around him. Even without the powers of the Tesseract at his disposal, Loki's true strength is in his intellect, patience, and the ability to subtly manipulate those around him to his advantage. Loki is the saving grace of Thor: The Dark World, adding depth to the story, for Eccleston's Malekith is as one-dimensional and over-confident as villains come, merely presenting a stronger, bigger enemy for Thor to eventually knock down.