Chicago Tribune film critic Michael Phillips reviews "Thor: The Dark World" on this week's "Reel Thursdays." (Posted on: November 7, 2013)

"WOULD YOU rather have a real drink?"

"Uh, sure. A screwdriver."

"Fine. Go get him a screwdriver."

That was an exchange at the special screening of "Thor: The Dark World" the other night at The Crosby Hotel. (The bar was only serving water and popcorn.)

A few minutes later the helpful bartender appeared with ... a Phillips screwdriver. "Will this do?"

The thirsty patron, his friends and The Cinema Society's Andrew Saffir fell about laughing hysterically. The bartender, blushed furiously, but he too laughed.

"OK, I guess I'll have to watch Chris Hemsworth completely sober!" said the vodka and orange juice man.

THE SCREENING room at the Crosby is one of the most comfortable and intimate in the city. Perfect for a non-hysterical event, which this was. Only one of the stars, Natalie Portman, appeared. She arrived at the Crosby, posed on the red carpet and then went to the opera. (She showed up later for more photo-taking at the after-party.)

Some people were annoyed that it wasn't specified on the invite that this was a 3-D screening. Nobody stormed out, but there was some kvetching about how uncomfortable 3-D glasses are. (They really are!)

SO HOW about "Thor: The Dark World"? It has made at least $120 million overseas. It will probably be a smash in the United States too, despite some scathing reviews. I wonder what people expect from a movie based on a Marvel comic book character who carries a big hammer, and whose storyline is an amalgam of Norse mythology, science fiction and modern-day irreverence? There's always "12 Years a Slave," if you want gut-wrenching realism and dramatics.

This sequel to the first "Thor" and "The Avengers" concerns itself with the evil Dark Elves who want to destroy the universe (but not themselves) with some super-powerful agent called The Ether. The Ether has found itself into the lissome body of Thor's mortal lady friend, scientist Jane Foster, played by Portman. Thor must save the world, save Jane, collaborate with his enjoyably evil brother Loki, battle villain Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and maneuver around all the spectacular CGI.

I found the movie generally quite engaging, and much funnier than expected. A good deal of this humor is provided by Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He drips with acid insincerity. ("Oh, dear, is she dead?" he inquires laconically as Natalie Portman's Jane collapses again.) Hiddleston is sleekly sexy. The bad boy most women can't resist. He's not on screen enough to suit me! And Kat Dennings as Portman's assistant is very lively. Anthony Hopkins as Odin is not funny. He's not meant to be. (He wears an eye patch. Rarely amusing.)

Chris Hemsworth as Thor is every muscled inch a charismatic movie star and a superhero. But Thor, as written isn't a ball of fire, except when he's slamming that hammer. Miss Portman fares worse. She is required to swoon and look distressed -- a lot -- although she has a few hearty, face-slapping scenes early on. The "romance" between Jane and Thor doesn't ring true. But in a movie like this, maybe it's not supposed to?

I think this film would satisfy even those who don't know the entire story. (I do, and it's still confusing!) It's fun. And it will be just as much fun in 2-D!

THE AFTER-party at The Marlton Hotel on West 8th Street, attracted the likes of Howard and Beth Stern, Marie Claire editor in chief Anne Fulenwider, singer Peter Cincotti, Cosmo and Marie Claire scribe Sergio Kletnoy, Hearst's Nathan Christopher, designer Nicole Miller, Tony Danza and fashion's Nina Garcia. (Nina was asked, "Are you going to be nicer on 'Project Runway'? She laughed and gasped: "But I AM nice! I think I should be b------r!")

Dior Beauty co-hosted the event. Guests drank Qui Tequila cocktails, named Thor and Loki. The Marlton is brand new, not even open yet. It's so new you could smell the fresh paint and the unvarnished wood of some of the booths. Andrew Saffir said, "Liz, you know, being here means you are really on the cutting edge!"

"Oh, thank you, especially considering that the other day's column devoted a good deal of space to Gloria Swanson and Ann Dvorak."


Sigh! I love children. And I enjoyed "Thor."