Thor is back in the second movie of Marvel’s phase two, Thor: The Dark World. Starring a massive cast that includes Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins, The Dark World sees Thor faceoff against the Dark Elves whose attacks get personal. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.

The original Thor movie was alright but it wasn’t until The Avengers did most movie fans get their true taste of who Thor is. Thankfully, The Dark World is more of a sequel to The Avengers than Thor. The interconnection between the movies continues to be much more interesting in Phase 2, with the characters dealing with the effects of New York and not just sight gags reminding the audience about the wider universe.

Director Alan Taylor brings his experience from Game of Thrones to the Marvel Universe and it shows. The action sequences are both plentiful and well planned out, which is extra difficult in this movie because it deals with teleportation. That teleportation gimmick makes the final battle extra cool, keeping the focus on the characters hitting each other and less on making big explosions.

The other action scenes have a very classic sci-fi feel to them, with the Dark Elves shooting laser guns and flying in cool fighter jets. It’s a shame Taylor isn’t directing the next Star Wars, because at times The Dark World looks like it was lifted from that franchise. And anyone who thought there wasn’t enough action in Iron Man 3 will be happy with this one.

It is also really funny, possibly the funniest in the series after The Avengers. Kat Dennings’ Darcy speaks only in witty one-liners, but Stellan Skarsgård goes all out as the completely crazy Erik Selvig. Simply put, Selvig spends more time on-screen without pants than with them. Chris O’Dowd from Bridesmaids also shows up for a couple scenes, basically playing the same character from that movie and still just as funny.

But none of their jokes come closer to the banter between Thor and his brother Loki. For a time, they have to team up and Loki’s commentary of Thor struggling to fly a Dark Elves ship is amazing. There is also a scene with Thor and Loki’s shape shifting ability that is memorable for an awesome cameo I won’t spoil here. There have been talks of a Loki spinoff movie, which I would be all for. Recently on the Nerdist podcast, Tom Hiddleston brought this rumour up and said if it happened, he’d want Thor in it in too.

Besides the humour and actin, the story is actually pretty good too. There are a lot of twists, some I saw coming but most I did not. A lot of the characters from the first film play a larger role and their relationships with each other are explored. Thor is no longer separated from his home and we see him in the fantastical realms much more.

There are some weak spots though. The main villain, Malekith, played by Christopher Eccleston, is really boring. But he is chasing a weapon that is interesting and spoilers that weapon is thankfully staying around for future films spoilers over. Malekith is just a Dark Elf who has power over other Elves and his plan involves too much upon chance to be really threatening. But Eccleston is transformed into a pretty cool looking villain, and he is definitely one of the scarier looking characters in the Marvel Universe. If only he had a more interesting objective.

Natalie Portman returns as Thor’s lady-friend Jane Foster. And she is much more involved in the story, basically igniting the chain of events that the movie covers. Portman isn’t really trying in this movie but she doesn’t have to. She spends most of the movie in awe of the new world she is in and doesn’t deliver any ground breaking speeches. But it was nice to at least see her on-screen more. It is amazing how Marvel can get such high-profile actors for their movies, even if they aren’t in the lead.

Chris Hemsworth plays Thor for the third time in three years and this is his best performance in the role. As mentioned above, the events in New York affected everyone and Thor has his own problems, because his brother caused all the problems in The Avengers. Thor has no problem locking Loki up and attempts to mask his emotions by beating up bad guys across the nine realms. The best part of his performance is in the action, not from the line delivery, but he does have one speech near the end that was really well done. Thor’s growth is more substantial here than any film so far and the character is now much more interesting than just a Norse God who is invincible.

But it is Tom Hiddleston who steals the show again as Loki. Every scene he is in is memorable and Loki even gets to take on the Elves. Loki is easily the most fascinating character in the Marvel Universe and his motivations are always changing. Thor and Loki are connected at the hip now and I am excited to see where they take the character. He is a huge fan favourite and Hiddleston takes it very seriously so I am certain his role in the world will only continue to grow.

Marvel has delivered another hit with The Dark World and they continue to expand their connected universe in some amazing ways. The Avengers is still the benchmark to beat and The Dark World doesn’t exceed that, but it is a very good movie. Taylor has brought some new life to the franchise and hopefully he stays on for Marvel in some way. Hemsworth and Portman are good in the movie, but it is Hiddleston who steals the show again. Most Marvel fans have probably already seen this, but anyone who was hesitant can be assured this movie holds its own just fine.

And make sure to stay to the very end of the credits. The very end.

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