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By Shane M. Dallmann

2013_thor_the_dark_world-wide

Don’t get me wrong… I didn’t “hate” the original THOR, but I thought it was pretty much the least of the pre-AVENGERS build-up movies. I liked Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Tom Hiddleston as Loki, but really… I didn’t think that a Decepticon threatening to step on a 7-11 in a tiny New Mexico desert town really DID it for me?

But now that we’re well past the slew of “origin” movies and we’ve already had our first big team-up, our characters are established and we can just rock and roll without the burden of introduction. THAT’s where things kick in. I liked the new THOR movie SO much more than the first one, which is why I continue to roll my eyes when reviewers like my old buddy Mick LaSalle complain that the sequel lacks the “charm” of the original. Perhaps he wanted an entire movie of Thor looking for a horse in a pet store or heartily smashing his coffee cup to the floor? I don’t know.

Anyhow. No major plot summary required. The remnants of a race of evil “Dark Elves” (led by Christopher Eccleston) have been biding their time for nearly 5000 years, waiting for the “nine worlds” to re-align so that they may unleash the nasty, indestructible “Aethre” power on Asgard (too bad if it wipes out Earth in the meantime). The trouble is, the NEAR-alignment of the worlds sucks Natalie Portman into a rift and infuses HER with the Aethre. So heads are going to roll on Asgard and Earth alike, and as you already saw in the previews, Thor is going to have to enlist the help of none other than Loki to attempt to set things right.

Well, now that Thor and Loki have had two movies in which to work on their chemistry, I’m pleased to say that it has sufficiently ‘clicked’ for them to carry a movie of their own. They’re great fun to watch whether they’re at each other’s throats or warily trusting each other. Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo and company are still standing strong as the Asgardians, and the Earth people? Well… they’re still eccentrics and/or bunglers who exist so that other folks have a reason to spell the plot details out. It’s typical and no worse here than anywhere else. And yeah, there’s the entire sequence that seems to have been lifted lock, stock and barrel from STAR WARS (in short, we get the Millennium Falcon being pursued by Tie Fighters shooting brightly colored bolts at them yet again)… but the payoff to the scene works just fine, and we’re even treated to something of what I call a “Remo D. Moment” shortly afterwards, so that’s all good!

The action and effects are terrific and far more ambitious than what we got in Thor’s first solo feature. Better yet, the fantastic technology at the core of the story allows the climactic battle to jump from setting to setting in the blink of an eye, keeping things constantly interesting and unpredictable.

In short? THOR: THE DARK WORLD surprised me by being just what I wanted from a superhero movie. Bravo!