Review: Thor Raganok has super comedy but not so super heroes

Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in Thor: Ragnarok. Photo: Marvel Studio

Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in Thor: Ragnarok. Photo: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland - Credit: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland

Three is the magic number for Marvel Comics' dreamy incarnation of the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder who finally gets into an otherworldly groove in this third solo outing directed to the comic hilt by New Zealand indie film-maker Taika Waititi.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Thor: Ragnarok. Photo: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland

Chris Hemsworth as Thor in Thor: Ragnarok. Photo: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland - Credit: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland

Thor: Raganok (12A)

***

The thing about Disney's Wonderful World of Marvel movies is that they like a laugh. Right from the start, with Iron Man, there was a certain lightheartedness, an acceptance that these men-in-tights epics needed to be played a little tongue in cheek.

They are called comic books after all. Thor 3 is possibly their funniest film yet: it's a marvellous comedy, but maybe not such a marvellous superhero flick.

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in Thor: Ragn

Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in Thor: Ragnarok. Photo: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland - Credit: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland


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In choosing the off beat New Zealand indie director Taiki Waitaki (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do In The Shadows) Marvel managed to do something that had previously seemed impossible: they made a Thor film anticipated.

The previous two had seen a group of engaging characters gradually got lost in the back and forth between the lively fish-out-water fun on Earth and the po-faced Middle Earth theatrics of Asgard.

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This third instalment is set almost entirely off earth, but Waitiki has been so vigourous in his loosening up of everything that it makes Guardians of the Galaxy look earnest. He has also written himself the best role: a Thing type rock monster who has his distinctive upbeat deadpan comic delivery. 'I tried to start a revolution... but I didn't print enough pamphlets.'

Which is all good fun, but Ragnarok is Norse mythology's book of revelations and the force of this impending apocalypse is considerably lessened if everybody's playing it for laughs.

Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Rachel House as Topaz, Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster and Tom Hiddleston as L

Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Rachel House as Topaz, Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster and Tom Hiddleston as Loki in Thor: Ragnarok. Photo: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland - Credit: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland

Tom Hiddlestone's Loki is more comic sidekick than villain. Chris Hemsworth is very funny as Thor, though at certain times his delivery is eerily reminiscent of David Brent.

Even evil baddy Cate Blanchett is always at it with the wisecracks. She is supposed to be a Goddess of Death but even she the life and soul of the party.

Of course, all this is fine by me. It's a Thor film that might bear repeat viewing, but it doesn't have the fantastic balance between fun and reverence that the first Avengers movie had. A lot of the humour is about cutting the characters down to size, pricking the pomposity of their mythology.

Here though the characters have been cut down so far they are beginning not to seem worthy of the big stages they are on. In fact, it gets very close to a send-up. On the Batman scale, Thor is now much closer to Adam West than Christian Bale.

The cast in Thor: Ragnarok. Photo: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland

The cast in Thor: Ragnarok. Photo: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland - Credit: Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios/Jasin Boland

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