Thor, the god of thunder, war and strength in Norse mythology, swings his mighty hammer again in “Thor: The Dark World.” Featuring familial conflict, unlikely alliances and slamming battle scenes, “The Dark World” is worlds more entertaining than its 2011 predecessor.

Handsome Australian lady slayer Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor. Natalie Portman is back as the superhero’s human love, astrophysicist Jane Foster. Also reprising their roles are Anthony Hopkins as Thor’s Norse god father, Odin, Tom Hiddleston as the treacherous Loki and several more returning players.

This sequel by no means buries the hatchet. The whole adventure springs from vengeance. Unfortunately, the movie does bury Thor’s hammer, the magically powerful weapon that the blond god wields with such universal impact.

Opening scenes include a stilted intro about a mysterious force that existed even before the universe. There’s also background about the darkness-craving Malekith, leader of the dark elves of Svartalfheim, one of the nine realms of Norse mythology.

The film’s belabored introductory scenes offer a clumsy modern-day set-up for the action to follow. These preludes don’t hold much promise, which means “Thor: The Dark World” appears to be just another bad sequel. Even Hemsworth’s Thor looks bored. Further not contributing to the necessity of having conflict and adventure in a superhero movie, the nine realms, of which Thor’s grandly depicted home, Asgard, sits atop, are at peace.

Alan Taylor takes the helm from the earlier Thor film’s director, Kenneth Branagh. Taylor brings great credentials to the project. He directed six episodes of another mythology-oriented epic, HBO’s “Games of Thrones.”

Although returning writer Don Payne gets top story credit for the “The Dark World,” there’s largely a new team of writers. Their work yields imaginative storytelling and a film that easily supersedes the Branagh-directed “Thor.”

When “The Dark World” gets in gear, it launches a superhero tale of universe-spanning scope. The Marvel Comics-based Thor movies get double-entertainment value through their mélange of mythology and sci-fi. Thor and his friends and enemies do space travel in thrilling style.

In another plus for “The Dark World,” the film gets well-played drama from its multi-layered father-and-son conflict between Thor and Odin. Hopkins, perhaps having thought he was making an inconsequential popcorn movie the first time around, this time gives Odin kingly weight. Interestingly, too, the “The Dark World” writers nearly render Odin as a villain.

Thor finds a malevolent opponent in Malekith. British actor Christopher Eccleston, aided by a wicked combination of costume and makeup, assumes the part with merciless aplomb.

Once the urgency and action in “The Dark World” kick in, the movie’s slow early scenes are forgiven. From his father’s palace in Asgard, Thor is positioned to rule this weekend’s box office with a solid hit.