With the explosion of superhero movies in recent years — some of them excellent — basically anything with a costumed crime fighter will sell tickets.
While everything stamped with the Marvel logo may be a box-office success these days, however, not every superhero film is going to be an artistic success.
“Thor: The Dark World” is a messy and generic sequel which may temporarily slake the thirst for comic book adventure, but will be forgotten as soon as the next superhero hits the screen.
“Dark World” is far closer to “Iron Man 2” than “The Avengers” — more special effects and battles, less coherence than the original “Thor.”
Much — probably too much — of “Dark World” takes place on Asgard, where our hero Thor serves his father Odin (played with bombastic fervor by Anthony Hopkins) and keeps a wary eye on his imprisoned, but still mischievous, brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
The film’s primary nemesis is Malekith, played by Christopher Eccleston (“Dr. Who”), leader of the vicious dark elves, who have been waiting in their own sort of purgatory for eons for a rare convergence of realms or planets or somesuch that will allow them to destroy the universe.
Yes, the future of the universe is once again at stake.
Thor is eventually reunited with his earth-bound astrophysicist girlfriend Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), who has come in contact with the Aether, the mysterious, all-powerful substance that the dark elves need for their plans of domination.
The film has plenty of relatively bland action scenes, and some hit-or-miss humor. Am I the only one who is annoyed by Kat Dennings, who plays would-be comic-relief intern Darcy?
Still, it’s at its best when it’s earthbound, with fantastical creatures and crises introduced to our world and the human characters. The scenes on and around Asgard tend to drag.
There’s enough stuff happening on the screen in “Thor: The Dark World” that viewers may not have time to question all the Norse gobbledygook, and may not even wonder why Stellan Skarsgard, as scientist Erik Selvig, walks around a lot without pants on.
The movie doesn’t do any harm to the superhero genre, but it does bring us closer to the saturation point. That puts pressure on the upcoming Captain America and Amazing Spider-Man sequels to be better than mediocre.
One note on “Dark World” for those who usually leave the theater quickly: there are two bonus scenes in the credits, one early on, and one at the very end.
Rental Recommendation: “Spider-Man 2” shows how superhero sequels should be done. Grade: A.
Email Steve Ouellette: Ouellette1918@gmail.com
"Thor: The Dark World"
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
Rated: PG-13 (action, violence, adult themes)
Running time: 120 minutes