Many, many moons ago the father of Odin (Anthony Hopkins) was waging an all out war between the Godlike denizens of Asgard and the Dark Elves, who were led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). He wished to unleash the power of the Aether, which would ensure his victory and evil spreading throughout the universe, but Odin's father ensured he was vanquished instead and the Aether was contained in a stone column, then placed where it would never be found. Recognising his defeat, Malekith opted to cut his losses and escape in his spacecraft along with what survivors from his troops he could gather, biding his time for millennia, waiting for the chance to exact his vengeance...
Though he's forgetting about a certain someone whose name happens to be in the title - this ain't called Malekith: The Dark World. Of course this was the follow-up to two movies, not simply the opening shot in bringing the long-running Marvel comic book character to the big screen, but also a sequel of sorts to one of the most popular movies of its era, The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble as it was known as outside America). That had been more Transformers with superheroes than something identifiably individual to the Marvel Universe, but audiences lapped it up nevertheless, and there was no way the company's juggernaut of linked franchises was going to give up the ghost now.
Therefore in the run-up to the second Avengers movie, a selection of other instalments were prepared, and Thor: The Dark World was the first of those. Such was the public's appetite for all things superhero, or all things Marvel superhero at any rate, this was another hit for them, yet again it wasn't especially its own entity as by this point the studio were churning out such continuity-obsessed productions that if you hadn't happened to have caught up with enough of the other entries you would be utterly lost. Lucky for them that so many people had watched those others, yet if you'd ever found reading comic books offputting because they were so wrapped up in backstory and history then the movies were doing their best to replicate that sensation.
Although there were rumours of behind the scenes turmoil in getting this to the screen in time for its place in the canon, the results under the guidance of TV director Alan Taylor - replacing not only Kenneth Branagh but also Monster director Patty Jenkins who left the project - were predictably slick but also dense with plotting and action setpieces of the kind that were by this stage growing very familiar indeed, as if Marvel had a template they wished their product to stick to. Fair enough, if you've found a hit formula why mess with it? Yet for all the colour and movement and loud noises, there wasn't much substance to this Thor film, in spite of the by now accustomed echoes of September the 11th 2001 in the scenes of cities under attack.
One of those cities was London, which to give these their due again proved they were prepared to take a chance in their locations (nothing here takes place in the United States) even if the results were pretty samey. Thor's love interest from the first one, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is pointed by her colleague (scene-stealing Kat Dennings) in the direction of the Aether which happens to be in the British capital, and wouldn't you know it, Jane gets to be its unwitting host which more or less means she has nothing to do for the rest of the movie aside from getting saved a lot (Marvel were not treating their female characters with much imagination, even this far into their franchises). Thor (Chris Hemsworth at ease with the role) steps in, and after briefly pausing to get riled up by that action movie cliché of a woman close to him suffering hugely, he is on the warpath towards the Dark Elves with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) assisting, having been sprung from prison since he was so admired in the previous two efforts. This was better than the ho-hum initial Thor movie, but you had to be extremely invested in him to care much. Music by Brian Tyler.