The fact that much of the action plays out in Asgard and other far-flung dimensions makes for an enlivening change of scenery at the very least, even if the film’s formula of destructive mayhem plus tongue-in-cheek humor remains pure essence of Marvel. Already expected to outpace 2011′s Kenneth Branagh-helmed “Thor” when it begins its international rollout Oct. 30 (with a Stateside bow to follow Nov. 8), the Disney release should rep an even more conclusive test than “Iron Man 3″ of “The Avengers” effect, revealing just how massively Marvel’s individual franchise properties stand to capitalize on spillover success from that 2012 worldwide smash.
An ancient prologue recalls the battle between the noble forces of Asgard and a wicked race known as the Dark Elves, named less for their pale complexions than for their love of all-consuming darkness. But their dastardly plans are thwarted when they failed to detonate the Aether, an “ancient force of infinite destruction” that resembles a mass of writhing red energy-tendrils, or perhaps a plate of radioactive spaghetti. The surviving Dark Elves, led by the supervillain Malekith (an unrecognizable Christopher Eccleston), are sentenced to centuries-long slumber, while the Aether is buried deep down in a place where nobody would ever find it.
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