Thor: The Dark World opens with a chunk of exposition explaining the movies core McGunffin, and then gives us a little run down of where we left everyone at the end of Avengers Assemble. Loki is in jail, Thor is hitting things with a hammer, and Jane is mooching around London having awkward dates. Unlike Iron Man 3 though, this isn't a character epilogue to the earlier movies, but a stand alone flick with flashes of looking forward to where the wider series may go. After a quick bit of set-up and some loose character work, Thor: The Dark World just ploughs into its main story with the sort of wild, unfocused abandoned it's hero would be proud of.
Now let me say that there is a lot wrong with this film. The story doesn't make a whole lot sense, and there are clearly bits surrounding Chris Ecclestons' villain completely missing. Similarly a number of subplots just sort of vanish half-way through, and some of the character interactions lean a little too heavily on cliche for comfort, for all the cast lean into it. Tom Hiddleston's Loki unbalances the film (he'd be proud of that!) with a barnstorming performance that squeezes out many of the supporting Asgardian cast, which is a shame, because what little you see of them is great.
However, what makes all this work, and work well is that Thor: The Dark World is a throw back to a different era of action movie, and remembers that it's all supposed to be just good fun. Because this is a properly funny film; the gags come thick and fast, even when the stakes are highest, and its a reminder that sometimes you go to see a film just to be flat-out entertained. Even the final, climactic showdown in Greenwich is peppered with laughs, as the universe threatens to collapse with a big grin on it's face.
I've also got to mention that Asgard works a lot better for me in this film than in Thor, with the additional more Space Opera styling to the Nine Worlds. Energy Shields, fighter craft, giant laser guns, all that sort of stuff makes the justification of Thor's people as "Sufficiently Advanced Technology" more palatable, as well as making the battle scenes there some of the best VFX sequences of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and gave me some hope that Guardians of the Galaxy can pull off the same trick.
At heart then, it doesn't seem like Marvel worry too much about whether the audience are going to sit there and think "why is this Viking Dude running around with a hammer?" any more than, DC should worry about whether Superman has red pants on outside his trousers. The Dark World is a good example of the basic truth that movie goers will suspend their disbelief if they're given good enough cause to, and will flock to see films if they think that they are going to be entertained regardless. At this stage, the brand isn't Thor, its Marvel Studios, and they could, I think, launch almost any hero and he or she would get a good shot from the public. Maybe thats something for DC to mull on, too.
Oh and more Kat Dennings in the next one please.