Expectations for Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World are high, given how entertaining the recent handful of Marvel superhero blockbusters have been. But the director didn't let the pressure get to him, and delivers an action extravaganza.
This time, Thor (Chris Hemsworh) faces super villain Malekith (Christopher Eccleston); Thor's grandfather defeated him years ago, but the leader of the Dark Elves is back, and with his light-absorbing weapon Aether, he wants to plunge the Nine Realms of the universe into darkness.
Thor's earth-dwelling beloved, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), is also caught up in the conflict. She is possessed by Aether, and will be consumed if the dark force is not extracted. The Norse hero needs to come up with a plan that can save both his world and Jane. To do this, he even has to enlist the help of his villainous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
This script is filled with witty gags, raising the bar for all Marvel movies yet to come. Keeping the film under two hours, Taylor has made this engaging and tight, leaving audiences wanting more, rather than stretching it out just for the sake of giving Thor more screen time.
Visually this is outstanding - the gods' home of Asgard, and Malekith's spacecraft fleet are highly detailed, and the battle scenes spectacular.
Post-credits footage suggest there'll be another Thor spectacle; but you'll leave wondering what they can do to top it.