By Darren Franich
April 23, 2013 at 05:06 PM EDT

Thor was always the wild card in Marvel’s big multi-spinoff gamble. A character drawn out of myth who has spent half his comic-book history fighting monsters with unpronounceable Nordic names, Thor doesn’t have much in common with other superheroes. Casting then-unknown Chris Hemsworth in the lead only added to the uncertainty. But then Thor hit theaters in 2011 and wound up grossing $450 million globally. The character got another boost when his personal nemesis, Loki, became the Big Bad in Avengers. (Meanwhile, Hemsworth kept busy with Snow White and the Huntsman, a lucrative side-franchise where he basically plays Muddy Thor.) Today, the first trailer for November’s sequel Thor: The Dark World appeared online, featuring an expanded look at the Asgardian’s fantasy realm. You can watch it here — and now, let’s dive in, shall we?

Sean P. Diddy Combs: Karl Crutchfield/Ai Wire/NewsCom

The trailer begins, as all trailers must, with an establishing shot of London, while the voice of Sir Anthony Hopkins narrates: “Some believe that before the universe, there was nothing. They’re wrong. There was darkness. And it has survived.”

A few children find a truck, in what appears to be an abandoned warehouse. Let’s take a close look at that name on the truck:

Now, this might just be a throwaway prop. But let’s assume it isn’t for a second, and throw out some somewhat baseless theories! “Norman” could be a clue towards the film’s initial London setting: As we all remember from world history, the Norman Conquest way back in the 11th century brought the Viking-descended Normans to England. Maybe the Normans also brought some Norse-mythology magic with them? A second clue: The name “Emerson.” Remember the bad-guy Frost Giants from the first Thor? Well, in Thor’s comic-book mythology — and, well, actual mythology — the very first Frost Giant was named Ymir. Could “Emerson” = “Ymir’s son?” Will the Frost Giants be back in Thor 2? Yeesh, were there any left after Thor 1?

The kids touch the truck. It floats in the air and starts spinning around….

…and we suddenly cut to a place that resembles the set of Alien. (Or, as the twelve-year-olds call it, “the set of Prometheus.) This fellow looks like he’s imprisoned, or perhaps in hiding. If this is indeed the “darkness” Odin refers to from before the universe, he’s probably been imprisoned for a long, long time. Is this Malekith, the dark elf who appears to be the film’s main villain? Or someone else?

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At this point, a dark gothic-looking ship starts laying siege to a waterside park. It vaguely resembles the Collector Ship from Mass Effect 2.

Helen Sloan/HBO

Present during the attack is none other than Darcy Lewis, the plucky astrophysicist’s assistant/snarkbot played by Kat Dennings. And where’s there’s an astrophysicist’s assistant, there must be…

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

…an astrophysicist! Yes, the powers that be apparently called in Jane Foster to investigate the Floating Truck/Collector Ship phenomenon. Unless maybe Jane wasn’t investigating anything; maybe the dark powers in Thor 2 are after her? Later in the trailer, the baddie will appear to have a serious interest in Jane.

Roderick Fountain/BBC Worldwide Ltd.

Another fellow who has a serious interest in Jane: Thor, God of Thunder, blond, blue-eyed. “I gave you my word, I would return,” he says.

Roderick Fountain/BBC Worldwide Ltd.

Immediately thereafter, he beams Jane up to Asgard. Presumably, they go to Asgard to avoid the whole “Why doesn’t he just call the other Avengers?” problem.

Roderick Fountain/BBC Worldwide Ltd.

Jane marvels at the wonder of Asgard, while Natalie Portman breaks out her wardrobe from The Other Boleyn Girl.

Meanwhile, the Lady Sif looks at the reunited couple with a look of sadness and jealousy. Sif wasn’t developed very much in the first film, but in the comics, the warrior woman has a long and tempestuous on-again/off-again love affair with Thor. In her movie incarnation, she seems like more of a best-friend-who-the-hero-just-doesn’t-notice character — she’s the Tifa to Jane’s Aeris, if you will. (In this metaphor, Thor = Cloud, Loki = Sephiroth, Odin = Red XIII, The Warriors Three = Cid, and Darcy = Cait Sith.)

Carlos Marino/GC Images

We see Thor, Jane, and a character who looks from this angle like Loki walking across a snowy landscape. This seems like a good opportunity to mention that Thor: The Dark World is directed by Alan Taylor, who directed several episodes of Game of Thrones.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Seriously, there’s like a fifty percent chance that Thor will run into Jon Snow somewhere on that glacier.

In this shot, Jane appears to be A) captured, B) reaching out to something, and/or C) having her life energy absorbed into whatever that bright blue rectangle is.

Reunion time! The trailer features a quick peek of Odin, flanked by some Asgardian guards (AsGuards?)…

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…and Rene Russo as Queen Frigga, once again brandishing a knife.

A freaking awesome battle scene. But also an intriguing peak at the expanded Asgardian universe. Random bit of nerdery: In the comics, Malekith was an agent of Surtur, a freakishly powerful fire demon whose appearances usually augured destruction. Here’s a typical shot of the big guy. See those horns? Now, look at the picture above. Do you see that thing to the right of Thor — some kind of structure that the attacking army has? See those horns? Could Thor: The Dark World be building to an appearance by Surtur?

HBO

Speaking of bad guys! The trailer gives us our first official look at Malekith, played by former Doctor Who star and bad-guy-in-GI-Joe Christopher Eccleston. Creature-wise, the ruler of the dark elves looks a bit like Bib Fortuna without skin cream.

Richard Cartwright/CBS

“Ask yourselves,” intones Malekith. “What would you sacrifice for what you believe?”

David Letterman: John P. Filo

Apparently, that “sacrifice” might be Jane Foster, who is shown in the clutches of Malekith. Does Jane hold some kind of secret power within her? Is it, like, the power of love? One of the most interesting things about Thor, compared to the other Marvel franchises, is that it took pretty significant liberties with its female lead. So The Dark World is in pretty new territory with the Jane Foster character.

Richard Cartwright/CBS

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” screams Thor, presumably upset.

Epic

Sometimes, a hero needs to partner up with his worst enemy to fight an even worser enemy. So it goes with Thor, who visits Asgard’s version of a maximum-security penitentiary. The prison looks like it was designed following the X-Men/Skyfall/Silence of the Lambs rules of supervillain prison: Shadowy corner, heavy lights, no props except for one table that may or may not have a chessboard on it.

Richard Cartwright/CBS

And here we see Loki, played as always by your boyfriend Tom Hiddleston. Loki is rocking some grunge-rock prison hair and still looks like he holds all the cards in this situation. “You must be truly desperate to come to me for help,” he says. His step-bro tells him bluntly: “You should know that when you betray me, I will kill you.” “When do we start?” Loki asks gleefully.

Something to ponder: We know that, in Avengers, Loki was working (perhaps inadvertently) for Thanos, the long-range Big Bad of the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. We also know now that Dark World will take a wider look at Thor’s cosmos — a cosmos that might overlap a bit with next year’s space adventure Guardians of the Galaxy. Could Malekith and his dark elves be pawns in a Loki long-con that will lead into the next cosmic movie? Or maybe — completely baseless theory alert — somehow, Jane Foster has come into contact with one of the Infinity Gems, which is why Malekith seems so interested in her?

What did you think of the trailer, everybody?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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