Thor: The Dark World (12A) **

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As big and muscular as its titular hammer-swinging hunk, and equally short on sparkling repartee, Thor: The Dark World is a sequel-by-numbers that slots neatly into the ever expanding Marvel Comics universe.

There are verbal references to yesteryear’s The Avengers, a cameo by one of Thor’s fellow superheroes and a teaser during the end credits that introduces The Collector (Benicio Del Toro), who figures prominently in next summer’s Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Thor: The Dark World. Picture: PA Photo/Marvel.

Thor: The Dark World. Picture: PA Photo/Marvel.

If nothing else - and there isn’t much else - Alan Taylor’s film is a master-class in brand recognition.

The Dark World squanders the strongest actors, including Tom Hiddleston as arch-villain Loki, in order to focus on the slick digital effects.

Screenwriters Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley bamboozle us with their cod-science, spinning a fantastical yarn about an alignment of worlds every 5,000 years which allows ‘an ancient darkness to strike’.

The Dark Elves of Svartalfheim led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and second-in-command Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) intend to unleash a fluid called the Aether, which will plunge the Nine Realms into eternal darkness.

Throwing a spanner in the works, astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) has been exposed to the swirling gelatinous goo, which now courses through her veins. Thus, Malekith and his hench-elves launch an assault on Asgard, where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has concealed Jane in the hope that his father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) can extract the Aether from his sweetheart. When that glimmer of hope is snuffed out, the crown prince of Asgard turns to his nefarious adoptive brother, Loki (Hiddleston), for help.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, Jane’s mentor Dr Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), colleague Darcy (Kat Dennings) and intern Ian (Jonathan Howard) prepare for Armageddon as realms collide with cataclysmic consequences.

Thor: The Dark World ricochets noisily between action, comedy and romance, punctuating set pieces with deadpan humour, like when Thor accidentally destroys an ancient statue of Bor and Loki quips, ‘Well done, you just decapitated your grandfather!’

A couple of plot twists cause almost as much head-scratching as the use of wormholes to travel between the Nine Realms.

Considering the hundreds of hours and millions of dollars invested in the sequel, it’s depressing that small details have been overlooked. When Thor crashes onto the platform of Charing Cross Underground station and asks a female commuter, ‘How do I get to Greenwich?’, she chirps, ‘Take this train, three stops.’

The passenger is dazzled by the beefcake’s flowing locks and rippling chest because the train doesn’t pass anywhere near his intended destination.

Mind the plot gap.