How do you provide a challenge for Thor, one of Marvel's mightiest beings?  In the first movie, they took away his powers.  In Thor: The Dark World there's an ancient threat that could destroy Earth, Asgard, and just about everything else.  There's almost the entire cast of the first movie, plus a little too much humor.
At the start of Thor: The Dark World, big things are happening on Asgard and Earth.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is battling armies stirred up by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and being urged by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to prepare to be king -- and to romance the Asgardian warrior Sif (Jaimie Alexander) instead of pining for the human Jane Foster (Natalie Portman).  Loki is imprisoned, urged by his mother Frigga (Renee Russo) to think about what he's done.  Back on Earth, Jane is investigating a strange anomaly with her intern Darcy (Kat Dennings) when she's transported to a strange realm and infected with a reddish energy.  And Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) has been arrested for running around Stonehenge naked with some scientific equipment.

It turns out that a race of dark elves (I'm not sure why they're called that, since they're pale white) want to re-create the universe as a place of darkness -- and their leader Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) wants to use a convergence of the universes to accomplish this task.  He transforms an ally into the hulking Kurse (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and plans to use a nigh-indestructible energy called the Aether to destroy our universe and create the new one.  But the Aether is what's infected Jane -- and what's slowly killing her.

Thor: The Dark World is high on energy, with numerous battles ranging from a desolate wasteland to a trippy fight as things pop in and out of dimensional portals.  The movie has a bit too much comedy from start to finish, possibly because of Kat Dennings' popularity on the show 2 Broke Girls.  The bag guys have imposing physical presences (especially Kurse, as a stony Hulk-type monster) but little personality, and Hemsworth's casual swagger is about the same as the first movie.  Not surprisingly, Hiddleston steals every scene he appears in, knowing Loki isn't to be trusted and reveling in that fact.  And there are some nice cameos, not to mention two post-credits scenes.

Thor: The Dark World may skimp on character development (and use Loki's illusions a few too many times), but it's pretty exciting and entertaining.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch

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