The Thor sequel might bring one Dark World, but we're here to bring the illumination.
What do we learn after seeing “Thor: The Dark World” — the follow-up that opened Friday in North American theaters?
Besides realizing that “Phase 2”³ of the Marvel movies is very promising, we came away with 7 observations about the second “Thor.”
Here they are, entirely free of spoilers, natch:
1. Chris Hemsworth has grown into the superheroic clothes.
Given his work in “Thor” 2, Hemsworth deserves to be given his due. Robert Downey Jr.'s much-praised Iron Man performances might make him the alpha Avenger — as well as the highest paid — but Hemsworth cements his status: He can ably carry his own superhero franchise.
2. Natalie Portman: Marvel's reigning leading lady.
After it was announced that Patty Jenkins wouldn't helm the Thor sequel — she was ousted from the director's chair for Alan Taylor — Portman's return was rumored to be up in the air. Fortunately for “Thor” fans, Portman returned to shine again as Jane Foster — whether she's being a science whiz, going on an awkward first date or giving Thor a piece of her mind.
3. Hemsworth and Portman are Marvel's top movie couple.
Marvel movies don't always pack the romance. In the “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” trailer, Cap says he has no time to date. The Hulk has emotional issues. And who knows what's going on with Hawkeye and Black Widow? What about Tony Stark and Pepper Potts? No, not even they can top Hemsworth's Thor and Portman's Jane. The two actors capture lightning in a bottle, and are a joy to watch as a couple.
4. Tom Hiddleston is perhaps the most likable guy to ever seek world domination.
Hiddleston returns as Loki, god of mischief, who is paying for his crimes against humanity from his shenanigans in “The Avengers.” Despite all that, Loki and Thor give the impression that they both would like to return to the days where they were fun-loving brothers — though both know that Thor can't trust him (something that Thor says frequently and that Loki seems to revel in). Circumstances in “The Dark World” force the two brothers to team up — which is a boon to viewers who can revel in Likable Loki.
5. Director Alan Taylor was a smart choice.
It seemed like a match made in fanboy heaven: Put the fantasy world of Asgard in the hands of someone who's directed “Game of Thrones.” Fortunately, it meets expectations. Taylor takes Thor to new heights, though it helps that he wasn't shackled to an origin story to explain the mythos (as Kenneth Branagh was with “Thor'). Here's hoping Taylor returns for the third Thor.
6. Great Odin's beard! There are real laughs.
In superhero films, the action sometimes muscles aside the laughs. Although there's action to spare in “Thor: The Dark World,” there are also many funny moments — some of them quite surprising.
7. Double the pleasure.
Marvel movies, of course, deliver a scene after the credits. What you may not know is that there are two after-credit scenes in “The Dark World.” Stick around and you'll see some big-time revelations that will connect a lot of dots as to the rest of Marvel's “Phase 2”³ and beyond.