Film review: Thor: The Dark World lacks the superhero glow

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Chris Helmsworth stars as a savior without substance in Thor: The Dark World, the latest installment of a Marvel Comics character on the silver screen. Chris Helmsworth stars as a savior without substance in Thor: The Dark World, the latest installment of a Marvel Comics character on the silver screen.

Mere mortals, just who is Thor? Norse god? Superhero created by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby? Bastard stepchild of the Marvel Avengers series?

At this point, it’s not clear that anyone knows, least of all the filmmakers behind Thor: The Dark World. Is Thor a funny guy? Fear not, he’ll be beating someone to death in a matter of moments.

Is Thor a romantic? There’s no way to tell from the total lack of chemistry that Thor (Chris Hemsworth) shares with Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).

Is he even the star of Thor: The Dark World? Aside from a brief appearance in an early battle, Thor stays off screen for most of the first 30 minutes.

And what’s with Loki? Forget the mythology. The character, cobbled together by five credited writers (two of them worked as a team), is at least consistent, and likably played again by Tom Hiddleston. But is he really a threat? No one this pale could be dangerous.

Here’s some good news. Anyone with an inkling to see Thor: The Dark World without having seen either Thor or The Avengers has nothing to fear story-wise. A plot at once this complex (worlds colliding or something) and this infantile (Thor smash! —where’s the Hulk when you need him?) means nothing in the grand scheme of anything, not even the Marvel universe.

Sure, there are recurring characters and references to the climactic events of The Avengers, and we’re supposed to understand that Thor and Foster have some kind of relationship, but whatever. Seriously. Thor: The Dark World doesn’t have a purpose to exist beyond making money.

But more good news! As is the case in many Marvel movies, the supporting cast is wonderful. Rene Russo pops up briefly as Thor’s no-nonsense mother. Anthony Hopkins overdoes it as Odin, god-of-something-king-of-pain, Thor’s father. And Idris Elba brightens up every scene he’s in, and not just because of the bizarre contacts he’s tasked with wearing.

This time, Thor comes to Earth because Jane accidentally transports to a spot where the Aether—a thing that can destroy the nine realms, natch—is hidden. And the Aether is a big red floating thing that looks like a cross between the ominous cloud in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and the fake blood in Machete Kills. And Jane accidentally lets it take over her body until she resembles Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man 3. And now the bad guys, led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston, sadly underused), need Jane to destroy the nine realms and turn the world into the land of darkness.

And. And. And nothing happens while everything happens. It’s hard to remember a big, dumb action movie with so little going on while everything is going on. And is it predictable? Why, yes. Yes, it is.

Here’s the real question, though. Do the Avengers even need Thor? They have the Hulk, who, if you recall, also smashes, and he does it without blathering silly dialogue meant to entertain. Stay through the credits if you care.

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