The third Thor movie begins with Marvel’s red-caped crusader-meets-blacksmith (a.k.a. the Norse god with the ratty blond surfer hair) breezily recapping his franchise’s previous two instalments to a skeleton he’s been caged up with by a giant fire demon. Merrily, Thor: Ragnarok only gets more un-self-serious, daffy, and romper-room fun as this space-opera rollicks right along.
Ragnarok may sound like a Swedish heavy metal band, but it’s the end of days battle for Asgard. On Earth, Odin warns his sons, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the trickster Loki (Tom Hiddleston), that it’s coming now with the return of their sister Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death (#superawkwardfamilyreunion).
On their way home, though, Thor and his bad bro are thrown a few light-years off-course and dumped on Sakaar, all scrapyard suburbs and one city ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Glodblum). And in that city’s gladiator arena, Thor’s got to fight a certain angry green work friend-turned-foe …
It’s the funny and games between the action-sequences that fizzes and pops in what often feels like a sly remix of Flash Gordon and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh supplies the beats—especially important when it comes to the Grandmaster, as much a sexually-ambiguous MC as a tyrant.
Deft touches of self-aware humour abound, from a propaganda-play retelling of the previous Thor film staged by Loki-impersonating-Odin to a Sistine Chapel-like ceiling in Asgard offering comic book-ish panels of history. And this is a super-power pic delighted to feature female fighters and make its muscled marauder the Silly Putty butt of slapstick: Thor’s frazzled, jarred, and jolted, and even gets floored by a big red bouncy ball.
Still, Thor 3 (Thoree?) taps out some predictable beats and doesn’t stretch its psychological and political storylines. Bruce Banner’s panic about permanently becoming the Hulk is a Jekyll versus Hyde dilemma later forgotten; Hela’s crowing about Asgard’s imperialist conquests of yore raises some disturbing questions, soon dropped; Thor’s talk of protecting his people rings hollow when they’re left as a near-blank, near-mute mass.
Thank ye gods that Thor: Ragnarok mostly just takes the piss out of yet another superhero flick.