Poor Thor. Dude can't even hold center stage in his own movie. He's the Asgardian god of stolen thunder, upstaged at each ab turn by Loki, malarkey and Odin's eyepatch. Chris Hemsworth could carry Thor: The Dark World on his lats and deltoids, just a demi-hunk and his trusty cosmic hammer, but the script keeps handing it off. • How's a strapping Marvel superhero supposed to feel when a cameo from another Avenger with a movie coming out gets more applause? Or when one of his movie's obligatory Easter eggs during the end credits teases another franchise entirely? I'll tell you how he feels: like he can't wait for those other movies, either.
Honestly, I can't speak for Thor. I know he's a principled superhero, not the kind to demand his name plus a colon and Tolkien-ish subtitle on his sequel when a simple "2" would do. I'm sure he's concerned about securing the Thor brand, so his movie franchise doesn't wind up like the Hulk's. In a pressure cooker it's easy to make bad decisions. Ask the Fantastic Four.
First thing, Thor should avoid plots hinging upon any weapon like the Aether here, so powerful that it can't be destroyed. How do you know when you've won? The answer is: You don't, you just make another movie. But if you keep doing that, and they proceed as sluggishly as this one, folks will eventually notice. Start something and finish it. Otherwise we have to hear Anthony Hopkins' Odin recapping everything, and that eyepatch is distracting.
Next, spend more time on Earth. Not with Natalie Portman, though. She's too chic for the science geek she's playing and immune to the ridicule her character invites. You should chat up her intern, Darcy (Kat Dennings), unless you're not into the New Girl type. Either way, Earth is where you're out of your element, and that's more fun, no matter how much fanboyz griped that 2011's Thor didn't spend enough time on Asgard.
So, they got their wish in the sequel. The Dark World is directed by Alan Taylor, whose credits include HBO's Game of Thrones, which this movie resembles in every respect except anything making people tune into Game of Thrones.
Above all — and I can't stress this too much, Thor — MORE LOKI! You have a gold mine in each sneer and sarcastic jab from Tom Hiddleston's pie hole, which is infinitely preferred to masked, monolithic elves and wild hogs walking upright. Playing second banana to such a deliciously rotten apple isn't a bad idea.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.