Marvel continues its winning formula with another solid Phase Two outing to competently build on the otherworldly success of Avengers Assemble and Iron Man 3.
The sequel to Thor is probably akin to what the Star Trek follow-up Into Darkness was to the original – more of the same that builds on the success of the first film without ever actually bettering it.
Chris Hemsworth matures in the lead role, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki shines alongside him in support, ex-Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston makes a decent enemy, and it all plays out in a very commendable – if a tad predictable – fashion.
And The Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor proves to be a worthy successor to Kenneth Branagh with his knowledge for a similarly-landscaped world on TV – and it shows with the beautifully-rendered Asgardian backdrops (which makes 3D a worthwhile addition).
This is in stark comparison to the dull-looking location of London for the film’s Earthly city choice – but hey, at least the UK gets a big-screen presence over the US for once.
Sadly it’s actually some of the female contingent in the film that underwhelm for once. Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster stereotypically ambles from one scene to the next, Jaimie Alexander’s Asgardian warrior Sif is woefully underused and Kat Denning’s Darcy borders on annoying – leaving Stellan Skarsgard’s Dr Erik Selvig and a cameo from Bridesmaids’ Irish star Chris O’Dowd to offer proper comic relief.
When Foster discovers a powerful substance called Aether in her search for Thor, it awakens the leader of the Dark Elves, Eccleston’s Malekith the Accursed, who looks to finish the job he once started – and bring darkness to the cosmos.
This then reunites the couple on the streets of London, and then takes them back to Asgard – much to the chagrin of King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) – but inadvertently leads to the Dark Elves’ assualt on Thor’s homeworld.
The film comfortably stands up on its own two feet without Thor’s now imprisoned brother Loki, but when they form an uneasy truce to take on Malekith and his army – the film really starts to shine with Hiddleston’s growing influence in the Marvel universe.
Their chemistry alone (which is superior to the sub-plot love story between Thor and Foster) makes this another worthwhile entry in the comic-book canon, before The Dark World falls foul of the trademark Marvel, messy fight ending – which again seems to slightly hamper the finales to the acclaimed studio’s generally successful incarnations.
But that is a small cross to bear for a film that will undoubtedly deal a seriously thunderous hammer blow to the competition at the box office.
Critics sharpening their knives waiting for Marvel to fail will have to wait a little longer, as their winning streak – despite a few minor flaws – impressively continues with Hemsworth’s evolving God of Thunder.
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Christopher Eccleston, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander, Stellan Skarsgard, Kat Dennings, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jonathan Howard, Chris O’Dowd
Running Time: 1hr 55mins
Director: Alan Taylor [youtube id=”npvJ9FTgZbM” width=”600″ height=”350″]