Who didn’t love Thor smashing coffee cups or out-drinking Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) in the first film? But even with some great fish-out-of-water humor, Thor also had some eye-rolling pop-culture references (Facebook) and other gags that didn’t go over quite as well. Always looking to improve, Marvel Studios has injected a more measured and lighthearted undercurrent into their Dark World, which director Alan Taylor called ‘crucial’ to the balance of the film:

Alan Taylor: I think I went into it, and I thought my first task was to darken the world and deepen it and dirty it up a little bit. Um, I sort of felt like that was my mandate going in. And then as we started the process, I realized, “Oops. Um, if we’re gonna darken it, if we’re gonna deepen it…we’d better make darn sure that it’s balanced on the other side.” Because the, you know, the key to the Marvel universe and the Marvel language that I was being assaulted by while I was making this movie -‘cause “Avengers” came out while we were starting it, and “Iron Man 3” came out while we were finishing it – was you are screwed if you don’t also keep it funny and light on its feet at the same time. So it’s, it’s called “The Dark World,” and there’s certainly dark currents in it, um, but, yeah, the humor was critical.

A major lightning rod for criticisms of the first film was actress Kat Dennings’ character, Darcy, who was pretty much comic relief on two legs. We asked Dennings straight up whether the first or second movie had the better jokes:

I liked the jokes in the second film, but the first film will always have a place in my heart. It was a special experience. And it was great to see everybody again and get back into it. It was awesome…. I sort of assumed I wasn’t in it or I assumed I ‘popped up,’ but I was just amazed at the amount of Darcy in there, and it was cool to see them take her, like, flavor from the first ‘Thor’ and make into this whole great thing.

Not to be outdone, Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster also gets to crack wise this time around – some of the most outright comedy we’ve seen from Portman onscreen:

Natalie Portman: Thank you, well it’s really fun to get to do a movie like this that’s just pure entertainment. It’s so funny and has so much action and the humor is obviously [there] they wrote great material, there’s just a great rapport with all the actors. Especially [since] we all knew each other well already and so to have Kat [Dennings], Tom [Hiddleston], Chris [Hemsworth] and Stellan [Skarsgard] everyone is just naturally very funny.

But let’s be honest: fans aren’t signing up for another tour with Thor JUST for a laugh. They want to see the hammer-swinging God of Thunder wreck shop all over the nine realms. Well guess what? That’s the same thing that Chris Hemsworth wanted to see when making this sequel:

Chris Hemsworth: It was one of my first concerns at the beginning of the film. I said, ‘look I don’t want him to feel he’s just doing hand to hand combat he’s a God we should see him off the ground more and we should see the power of that weapon and his abilities.’ So that was something we really concentrated on upping the action and the stunts and his skillset, really showcasing what he’s capable of.

To that end, one has to wonder if Hemsworth’s Thor is now more of a master Mjolnir wielder than he’s ever been:

Chris Hemsworth: (laughs) Yeah to some degree. I got a lot of help from the special effects department, making me look better. I had to hold that thing a lot so I became pretty apt with flinging it around and switching hands; [I became] ambidextrous with the hammer.

NEXT: Chris Hemsworth Talks Thor 3 Story Idea

Thor: The Dark World will be in (US) theaters on November 8, 2013.

Be sure to Check out more of our coverage (see below), which touches on everything from Thor 3 to Avengers 3.

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