Thor: The Dark World

Centuries ago the Dark Elves attempted to unleash a powerful weapon against Asgard, but when it failed to detonate, they and their Aether were put into safe limbo. Now the Aether has been found by Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), awakening the threat with a vengeance against all Nine Realms in "Thor: The Dark World."

Laura's Review: C

The first "Thor" was a surprising amount of fun, but the second one sinks with a generic story blueprint (light threatened by dark! portals between worlds!) so haphazardly told I'm still trying to figure out just how the filmmakers expect to explain their twist ending in the inevitable third go-round (I'm betting they don't even try). The cheesy effects which were part of the first film's charm now, with one exception, just seem third-rate. Only the cast, especially the slippery Hiddleston as Loki, keep "The Dark World" from disappointing entirely. After a ponderously silly prologue, we're brought to the present where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his merry men (Zachary Levi's Fandral, Ray Stevenson's Volstagg and Tadanobu Asano's Hogun) are busy bringing peace back to the Realms with their brawn. Sif (Jaimie Alexander), the female warrior, also proves her mettle while also obviously carrying a torch for Thor. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Jane isn't really coping with not having heard from the mighty Thor by reentering the dating game ("Bridesmaid's" Chris O'Dowd is her hapless suitor). That's interrupted by persistent intern Darcy (Kat Dennings), who's gotten strange readings on a scientific thingamajig. Darcy and *her* new intern Ian (Jonathan Howard) bring Jane to the London site where objects dropped from a staircase vanish only to reappear from above before vanishing again. Except some don't reappear. Investigating the abandoned warehouse further, Jane comes across the Elves's Aether which possesses her. Awakened by the Aether activity, supreme Dark Elf Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) attacks Asgard, giving Loki, who's been thrown into Asgard's dungeons for treason, a new opportunity to vie for daddy's throne. Odin's (Anthony Hopkins) already got his hands full, disapproving of Thor's attachment to mortal Jane, whom Thor has brought to Asgard for safekeeping (mom Frigga (Rene Russo) proves more of an ally). Working from a script by Marvel TV series writer Christopher Yost and "Captain America: The First Avenger's" Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely, director Alan Taylor's (HBO's 'Game of Thrones') ploy is to revert to comedy whenever the plot stops making sense. Too often, we're treated to the sight of Stellan Skarsgård (as scientist Erik Selvig) running around without his pants on. If Thor's team are mighty warriors, Jane's are more like the Three Stooges. There's nothing wrong with a little levity, but it's over employed here, the film's explosive climax played like a slamming doors farce. Hemsworth's Thor, however, has just the right mix of stoicism, sexiness and manly jocularity (and yes, once again we're treated to the sight of the Australian's jaw-dropping physique). Asgard's Guardian, Heimdall (Idris Elba), as well as its King and Queen, also provide some necessary dramatic weight. But it is Hiddleston's sly mix of scheming sentiment that steals the show, and despite the film's head-scratching ending, it at least sets him up for a prominent piece of the next outing. 3D adds nothing, despite dimensional warps and imploding grenades (one of the film's few interesting effects). "Thor: The Dark World" turns out to be nothing more than holding pattern for characters in search of a better story.

Robin's Review: DNS