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THOR: THE DARK WORLD: 3 ½ STARS. “It’s hammer time at the movies again.”

2013-movie-preview-thor-the-dark-worldIt’s time to get hammered at the movies again.

In the first “Thor” movie Marvel superhero (Chris Hemsworth) and his magical hammer fell in love with Natalie Portman, argued with his father Odin, the one-eyed King of Asgard (Anthony Hopkins) and saved Earth from the super chill Frost Giants.

This time around he’s still in love with Portman (who plays astrophysicist Jane Foster) and fighting with pops but now he must not only save Earth but all Nine Realms from an ancient enemy.

Led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) these evil Dark Elves have a bone to pick with Odin. Thousands of years ago Odin’s father banished the Elves and seized their secret weapon, the Aether, a deadly WMD with the power to destroy the universe. Unable to extinguish the Aether the folks of Asgard bury it in a secret location “between the realms.”

Eons later Thor’s girlfriend Foster discovers the Aether in an abandoned warehouse in London, attracting the attention of the vengeful Malekith and his army of angry Elves.

You know what comes next. Hammer time! Thor makes a deal with his untrustworthy (but undeniably compelling) brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and hatches an elaborate plan to save Jane, defeat the Dark Elves and save the universe from the Aether.

“Thor: the Dark World” is a much better movie than 2011’s “Thor.” The love story that bogged down the middle of the first movie is replaced with more double crosses, vengeance and daddy issues into its two hours than any three Norse myths.

There’s a lot going on, but “Game of Thrones” director Alan Taylor nimbly juggles the mythology and the action, peppering the movie with amusing cameos from Stan Lee and a certain other superhero and some light comedy.

It feels slightly generic, as though bits and pieces were cribbed from the Superhero Blockbuster Playbook, but redeems itself in the inevitable showdown between Thor and Malekith. It’s wildly entertaining as they zip to and fro through wormholes, literally punching one another into next week—or at least into a new dimension. It’s tighter and way more fun—check out Thor on the subway!—than the endless dustup that bogged down the last forty-five minutes of “Man of Steel.”

Hemsworth and Hiddleston, the film’s yin and yang, are charismatic and while they don’t do anything much different than they did in the first movie or in “The Avengers,” they both seem to really grasp the film’s semi-serious tone.

“It’s not that I don’t enjoy our little chats,” Loki says to Odin. “It’s just… that I don’t.” It’s a good line and Hiddleston delivers it with perfect timing, half villain, half comedian.

Unless you’re a comic book geek you might need a quick trip to https://marvel.wikia.com/Thor to make sense of the first twenty minutes of “Thor: The Dark World” but once the movie gets the exposition out of the way and gets into the gags and the action it hammers home the good stuff.

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