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November 8, 2013

'Thor: The Dark World' a setback for Marvel Studios

There’s a fleet and funny comic-book movie buried inside “Thor: The Dark World.”

You catch glimpses of it here and there, like a shot in which the Asgardian muscle-bound hero (Chris Hemsworth) enters a London flat and hangs his hammer on a coat rack as if it were an umbrella, or a clever sequence in which Thor’s villainous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who wreaked all kinds of evil in “The Avengers,” relishes the fact that his older sibling is now asking for his help (how convenient). That scene gets the biggest laugh in the entire film.

But moments like those are rare. The bulk of this bloated, plodding sequel, which was written by Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (the latter two wrote “Pain and Gain” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”; how’s that for diversity?) is just another riff about an ancient being, this one named Malekith (Christopher Eccleston, unrecognizable under makeup), who wants to destroy the universe — all known universes, actually — as payback as for an ancient slight against his people. Wasn’t this stuff already old hat during the “Masters of the Universe” days? Even Thanos had more reasonable motivations than the end of everything.

The inherent problem in setting the stakes so high is that you know there is absolutely zero chance the bad guy will triumph. There’s no suspense, no stakes, no gravity. Sure, he may kill a few supporting characters along the way. But Marvel Studios is minting so much money off this fresh batch of superhero pictures, the annihilation of all existence as we know it is off the table, so Malekith’s villainy is essentially neutered. He’s left to do little but glower and pose and make gravelly threats and shoot red CGI tendrils from his hands that bend time or something.

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