29/10/2013 13:25 GMT | Updated 28/12/2013 05:12 GMT

Review: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

As Marvel continue through their self-titled Phase 2 of films, they return to Asgard and the home of the hammer-wielding hero Thor. Set two years after the events of the first film, Thor: The Dark World catches us up with the comings and goings of the dysfunctional ruling family of Asgard.

Our hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is subduing the uprisings in the nine realms caused by the destruction of the Bifrost at the behest of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Meanwhile on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) accidentally stumbles upon a mythical power, which wakes the dark elves, lead by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who plan to conquer all the realms. It is only with the help of his treacherous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) that Thor stands a chance of stopping the elves and bring harmony to the 9 realms.

Let's get a few facts about Thor: The Dark World out in the open from the outset. It is the shortest Marvel film to date and as such it rarely drags or feels baggy. It is also the funniest Marvel film to date, which considering previous films have had the likes of Robert Downey Jr. in them is no mean feat. Finally if you leave the cinema with a strong sense of déjà vu, don't panic, I'm here to help you out. The film you're thinking of is The Phantom Menace.

Now don't panic, I'm not saying Thor: The Dark World is a disappointment, but the parallels with the first Star Wars prequel are numerous and continuous. From the sound effects of lasers, to the blend of science fiction and fantasy all the way to an unexpected older fighter. The parallels also extend to the overall feel of the films. Director Alan Taylor a veteran of Game of Thrones, tries to bring his own somewhat darker take on the nine realms, but never quite strays away from the a rod first created so wonderfully by Kenneth Branagh. Then there's the comedy. While there can be no doubt about the high-level of comic writing, Taylor doesn't find an effective way of blending the more melodramatic elements. This leaves Thor: The Dark World tonally uneven.

The drama is therefore left to Tom Hiddleston's Loki who is on electric, scene-stealing form as you would come to expect. But he is really the fancy dressing on the overall entertainment meal that is Thor: The Dark World. It is actually Chris Hemsworth bold, brash Thor who provides the emotional range and during one particular scene he creates a fully-formed character complete with depth and engagement. It's very much his film.

Comparisons to the original are unavoidable and without Branagh's deft-touch of mixing comedy and drama it doesn't quite match up. But it is big, bold and very, very funny.

Rating: * * * 1/2