If you’re buying a ticket for a film subtitled ‘Ragnarok’, chances are it’s not a first date.
And you’ll probably have seen most of the 17 Marvel Studios films that precede it. Worry not, Thor’s third solo outing, under director Taika Waititi, is every bit the enjoyable romp the trailers suggested. Flash Gordon’s alive (!) again, with more whizz-bang digital effects and so many gags, it almost qualifies as a comedy.
So where are we? Well, Ragnarök means the end of the world in Norse mythology and here this is tied to the heralded destruction of Thor’s home planet, Asgard. The blonde Avenger has been off gallivanting in space, leaving his homestead under the mysteriously lax leadership of his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).
Enter stage-left, in high camp, panto-vision, Hela – the Goddess of Death. With emo-black eyes, gorgeous cheekbones and her teen-friendly dominatrix garb, Cate Blanchett enjoys herself immensely. It’s fair to say she is bad news for Thor, promptly crushing his ‘indestructible’ hammer with her bare hands with the insouciance of a matron confiscating dirty magazines.
“We have a hulk”
And The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) has gone extra-terrestrial as well. We find him on a junkyard planet moonlighting as a gladiator held captive by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), a sort of cosmic Noel Edmonds with added death and disintegration. The legendary sci-fi actor has clearly been directed to be as Jeff Goldblummy as possible and he really is in full blum; drawling and eye-rolling as he thrusts Thor into the arena to fight his old green friend.
So many psychedelic set-ups, so many cosmic transitions, it reminded me of the dreamy musical numbers with Julianne Moore in The Big Lebowski. What you get is a buddy movie with Hulk, Thor and Tom Hiddlestone’s popinjay, Loki. The female characters are equally in force, not just Hela, but Tessa Thompson’s formidable ally, Valkyrie.
It has so much more pizzazz than Thor: The Dark World. The story fizzes along breathlessly, using The Hulk of comic book legend (Planet Hulk, etc…) even more effectively than Avengers: Assemble. Director Waititi puts it all together with some Luc Besson-style and a real eye for absurdity. He even voices a comic relief character who delivers five or six proper belly laughs.
Perhaps if it does feel like a throwaway soufflé before next year’s Infinity War – few fans will feel that’s the end of the world.