Thor The Dark World
Five Stars (out of five). Released by Paramount Home Video. Running time 112 minutes. Rated PG-13. Equipped with closed captions, and English Subtitles. Special features include just a commentary by the director and deleted scenes. This was reviewed on DVD February 25, 2014.

Sigh...another day, another universe to conquer.... Almost three years ago, Thor was released, another entry in the Marvel comics superhero universe that led up to the ultimate superhero team up The Avengers. Superbly directed by Kenneth Branaugh, Thor was a robust fantasy with a romantic heart that made the viewer genuinely care about a God of Thunder who hailed from Asgard. When the sequel was announced, I was disheartened to hear that Branaugh, a classically trained actor/director who brought gravitas to the first film, would not be helming this one.

Damn, that thing's horns are bigger than mine! I was afraid we were in for another Iron Man 2, where the theory seemed to be to just slam the audience over the head with as many explosions and over the top action scenes as possible before they realize nothingís making any sense. But the new director, Alan Taylor, is a veteran of HBOís Game Of Thrones, and, as expected, he handles the Asgard scenes in the sequel very well. Thorís hometown and its people come off as a genuinely pleasant place to be when he brings his beloved Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) there for her protection. A race known as the Dark Elves, who have been vanquished by Odinís father, return to wreak havoc upon the universe.

Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's...Thor?! Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who, Heroes) stars as the central villain, Malekith, who has survived the war with a cadre of his most loyal warriors. Theyíre determined to bring an end to the known universe, in favor of their own. Director Taylor also handles the effects heavy action scenes very well, including a rousing battle climatic between Thor and Malekith where they are socked in-between different worlds. Itís a visually spectacular sequence, and at no time does the narrative gets lost. Part of the charm of the first Thor for me was the more humorous side, and thatís thankfully present in the sequel with Kat Dennings reprising her role as Darcy.

We'll always have New Mexico.... Stellan SkarsgŚrd also returns as Erik Selvig, playing him as being more mentally unstable since having been possessed in The Avengers. The events in the Avengers are mentioned, making this film--like Iron Man 3--a sequel of sorts. But Thor: The Dark World stands on its own as a truly satisfying and enjoyable adventure that manages to give everyone in its large cast something to do, including Loki (Tom Hiddleston), a character whose wry comments on the situations adds some much-needed extra humor. Lastly, Chris Hemsworth once again acquits himself very well, giving another sturdy performance as Thor in a sequel thatís so well-done that, once it was over, I wanted to see it again immediately. Looking forward to Thor 3. --SF

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Thor: The Dark World (2-Disc 3D Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital HD)