Kenneth Branagh's Thor had a certain playfulness that pitted the ultra-serious world of Asgard, land of the Norse gods, against 21st-century USA.
Now director Alan Taylor has taken the reins of the franchise and, with Thor: The Dark World, drains the fun from it. Instead, he focuses on this particular fantasy's silliest aspects, its most obvious leaps of the imagination, in trying to involve the audience in an uneasy blend of the modern and the mythological.
The result is a leaden-footed mess, bulky and uninvolving. Instead of a battle to prevent the end of the world, we get Thor-mageddon, and it ain't much fun.
Plot? Well, you've got some catching up to do if you haven't been breathlessly watching and rewatching the earlier films. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been locked up after his escapades in both Thor and The Avengers. Thor's spent the past two years restoring order to the Nine Realms. But his heart is still with Earthling scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).
Jane, unfortunately, has made an unexpected trip to the Dark World (like a wrong subway stop, apparently). There, she's been infected with the Aether, a source of evil in the universe previously only known to anesthesiologists.
It's up to Thor to rescue her, both from the Aether (which looks the unleashed contents of an angry lava lamp) and from the Dark Elves, who were thought extinct. In fact, they've come back to gain possession of the Aether and plunge the Nine Realms into perpetual darkness, like that whole CBS-Time/Warner dust-up a while back.
This review continues on my website.