“Alan keeps talking about the dark side of that responsibility, and the secrets within being king, becoming very political about what people need to know and what they want to know. You can even see with the set design that Alan sort of wanted to ground it in a more organic tone. 'Game of Thrones,' obviously, is set in a reality-based world, but there are fantasy elements which are quite prominent. It’s similar to what we've got going over here.”

This darker, grittier world is also very different from the one Thor inhabited in his last screen appearance – in the dayglo comic (in more ways than one) universe of “The Avengers,” where Thor partnered up with such Marvel stablemates as Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk to fight his own brother, Tom Hiddleston's memorably deranged Loki. Was a conscious effort made to distinguish Thor's own stories from the Avengers narrative?

Hemsworth thinks it's important that they remain separate, particularly with “The Avengers 2” on the way. “They all link up in some way, but I think Marvel is pretty adamant about them being their own stories. I was sort of wondering if we were going to start doing cameos in everyone’s film, but I guess that would take away from the impact of all of us when we do finally come together.

“So I think these stories kind of segue off into their own world – and, you know, each of the Avengers are conveniently not around at the time. And that’s the thing. You watch 'Iron Man' now and you wonder, where's Thor? Was he on vacation or something?” He laughs. “But they’re being really smart about removing everyone in a way that hopefully takes care of that.”

So while the new film's obviously a less sprightly, comedic affair than “The Avengers” – blame the absence of Robert Downey, Jr., Hemsworth says wryly, since “he takes care of that for us” – fans of the first, decidedly droll “Thor” film will be relieved to hear that the Dark World isn't a wholly unfunny one.

“Natalie [Portman] and Kat Dennings certainly have some great humor,” he says of the actresses playing Thor's unlikely Earth allies. “There are a few nice fish-out-of-water moments with Thor, but not quite as naïve and obvious as in the first one. I think the earthbound stuff sort of really grounds the story in both films, and keeps a lightness to it that trickles through to Asgard as well.” That lightness extends to Thor's budding romance with Portman's human scientist Jane, which Hemsworth promises will pick up where the first film left off.

Arguably more important, however, is the development of Thor's relationship with the men in his life, his firm but fair father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and his venal brother Loki, with whom our hero continues to find himself torn between avowed opposition and unconditional brotherly love. “I don’t think they’re going back to being best friends,” says Hemsworth, noting that such reunions were eye-rollingly frequent in the comic books. “But I think Thor’s at a loss about how they got to this point. I think that in this film he certainly can acknowledge now with a maturity that, okay, he should have been more aware of Loki over the years, why maybe that led him down a certain path. So I think there’s an empathetic view for Loki that no one else can have, because they’re not bound by blood.”

Thor's relationship with his father, however, has apparently mellowed somewhat in the new film. “The conflict between Thor and Odin was, I think, so great in the first one, and he didn’t want to repeat that,” says Hemsworth. “So certainly they disagree, as I think they always will at times. But there’s a far greater respect for each other. It becomes, I guess, a more mature conversation. It’s not sort of just their individual egos – the whole universe is at stake.”

And that, as Hemsworth trudges off to do battle once more in the English drizzle, appears to be the approach to the entire film. As far as they can tell us, at least.

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Guy Lodge is a South African-born critic and sometime screenwriter. In addition to his work at In Contention, he is a freelance contributor to Variety, Time Out, Empire and The Guardian. He lives well beyond his means in London.