In “Thor: Ragnarok,” the God of Thunder swaps his trademark hammer for a strong dose of humor.
Given that the Thor movies have been some of the weaker Marvel superhero films, this added jolt of yuks is a good thing.
The jokes are so plentiful though that at times it begins to feel like a “Guardians of the Galaxy” knock-off.
The initial Guardians joke-o-rama was successful precisely because it punctured the pomposity of many of Marvel’s mainstream heroes. The question is what happens when that non-stop wisecracking invades the Marvel universe at large.
Might it overwhelm the franchise’s original appeal – heroic action in the midst of epic battles between good and evil?
I suppose it could but, like I said, of all the cinematic heroes, Thor is most in need of help.
Marvel Studios took a bit of a gamble by entrusting Thor to a hilarious but little-known New Zealand director Taika Waititi.
But it’s a gamble that pays off.
Waititi wrote, directed, and starred in one of the funniest films of the last few years, the vampire movie spoof “What We Do In The Shadows,” and that wacky sense of humor infuses much of “Thor: Ragnarok,” too.
Director Waititi also plays Korg, a giant rock-creature with a New Zealand accent who kids Thor about his beloved magic hammer.
“It sounds like you had a pretty special, intimate relationship with a hammer and losing it was almost comparable to losing a loved one.”
“That’s a nice way to put it.”
And keeping with the strain of off-beat humor is the casting of Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster, one of the film’s many villains.
This movie is more than just gags, of course. There is a who-cares plot about Thor’s sister Hela, the Goddess of Death, who wants to take over/destroy their home planet, Asgard. In a classic case of sibling rivalry, Thor teams up with his trickster brother, Loki, along with the Hulk and a Valkyrie, to take on his evil sister. But even Thor’s team-building is fodder for laughs.
In a case of wasted casting, Cate Blanchett looks and sounds fantastic as Hela, but this Goddess of Death isn’t given enough to do to justify the Oscar-winner’s presence.
Despite all the laughs, “Thor: Ragnarok” doesn’t short-change spectacle. It’s just that it’s spectacular in that now routine Marvel kind of way. Audiences may go to the theatre for the action set-pieces, but when they leave, it’ll be the laughs they remember.