Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World is now the eighth movie to come out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while the filmmakers behind the franchise have done a great job of making sure that each of the titles stand as independent stories, there is still plenty of backstory, continuity and mythology that is helpful to know before walking into the movie theater. Rather than let the series newcomers and non-comic book fans get lost in the dark, however, we’re here to help.

Just as I do whenever a new superhero movie comes out, I’ve constructed a list of people, places and things that audiences should know a bit about and be on the lookout for while watching the newest Marvel Studios movie. Read on and enjoy!

WARNING: This article contains some minor spoilers about Thor: The Dark World at the very end. While the first eight entries are safe, the last two may affect the surprise element of certain aspects of the film. We'll give you another warning before you get to those!

Who Is He? Thor is best known from Norse legend as The God of Thunder. He hails from the mystical land of Asgard where he is next in line to the throne. In addition to his incredible strength and speed, Thor’s power is given to him by Mjolnir, a powerful hammer that the hero can use to conjure lightning and fly. He also happens to be the brother of Loki and they take sibling rivalry to a whole new level.

How Does He Fit? Where do we start explaining Thor’s place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He was banished to Earth in his first solo movie so that he could learn a bit of humility (which he did), and then he had to save our entire planet from his power-hungry, scheming brother in The Avengers. The character has had to do a lot of growing up in the last few years, but he has met the challenge. At the beginning of Thor: The Dark World he is a confident leader and warrior, has the love of Jane Foster, and is still expected to be the next king of Asgard. What could possibly go wrong?

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