The long-awaited Thor: Ragnarok is an interesting, entertaining and slightly sideways superhero movie. It brings to a close a trilogy that, this film makes clear, has all along been about the trials and tribulations of growing up as a Norse God in a more than marginally dysfunctional family. In Thor we met Chris Hemsworth, a hot-headed intemperate irascible God of Thunder falling out with dad, Odin because he is convinced his time to assume the crown of Asgard has come.
And we met Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the younger brother with a chip on his shoulder because he doesn’t quite get why his fellow deities take a dim view of his eternal mischievousness (and occasional homicidal – not to mention deicidal) tendencies. Loki, though, has a point: he is more than unhappy that mum and dad have concealed from him the fact that he was adopted, and is actually son of an evil Ice Elf.
In Thor: the Dark World, Thor has matured to the point where he is prepared to turn down the crown and, in time of necessity to seek help from his still tricksy brother to avert universal disaster.
And here? All comes together. Early on we have the passing of Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Although, given the way he keeps turning up in visions, to provide Thor with words of wisdom, one wonders just how terminal any God’s death ever is. His departure triggers the return of Hela (Cate Blanchett) the bad girl elder Sis whose very existence Odin has sort of forgotten to mention to her brothers. (Yes, yes: purists will, of course, immediately object that in the original sagas, Hel/Hela is daughter not of Odin, but of Loki….but hey! This is Marvel, not the Heimskringla!).
God of death and first wielder of mjollnir, Thor’s trademark hammer, it quickly turns out that she is more than match for the combined might of ALL of Asgard’s gods. After an initial skirmish, the brothers find themselves at the other end of the universe, dumped in a sort of cosmic refuse tip - a world called Sakaar - and at the mercy of the Grand Master (Jeff Goldblum), an even older deity-cum-supreme-being-cum-complete-loon.
This was, for me, the absolute master stroke. From the very first scene, in which Thor addresses Surtur the Destroyer, while wrapped in chains and swinging awkwardly from the ceiling, this movie is played for laughs. Not laugh-a minute. I mean, Hel! Hela has taken up residence in Asgard and is busy working through her own daddy issues by wiping out any and everyone who gets in her way. That includes pretty much ALL of the deities who appeared in episodes I and II, thereby drawing a neat line under the possibility of continuity sequels.
But a large part of the film is taken up with the efforts of Thor/Loki to escape the Grand Master’s realm without, in the process, being pulped by Steve Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) who has also, for reasons too ridiculous to contemplate, turned up on Sakaar and appointed the Grand Master’s champion.
Let’s mention only that they are aided and abetted in their escape by out-of-work drink-to-forget Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). Back home, a stealth resistance to Hela is continued by Heimdall (Idris Elba), sneaking round the palace, saving ordinary Asgardians, and chopping Hela’s legions to shreds with his magic sword! No, not “only”: for in this era of kickass women heroes, Valkyire is a more than worthy addition and I hope we shall be seeing more of her in future.
Back though to Sakaar. If you watched the trailer, you would have imagined that Thor III was pretty much a replay of the first two: loads of manly fighting and the good guys triumphing in the end. Absent from the trailer is almost all the considerable chunk of the film spent in the presence of Master Goldblum. This, really, is the greatest and most welcome secret of the entire story arc. For despite occasional comedy touches in previous episodes - Prof Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) running naked round Stonehenge comes to mind - this really is the funniest, campest mainstream superhero film I can remember since the Adam West incarnation of Batman.
And it is all down to Goldblum who brings to his role of all-powerful bonkers deity an intriguing refreshing degree of aloof amorality. If he was deliberately channelling the long-departed Vincent Price, he could not have nailed it better – and yes! Do go and look up the glorious Vincent – and shame on the cinema staff who made me feel incredibly ancient by being so young they had none of them ever heard of him. But were Hollywood now to seek to raise the Abominable Dr Phibesfranchise from the dead (Dr Phibes rises again, AGAIN, perhaps?), Goldblum has, with this film, made it an inevitability that the role should be his.
More Deadpool tongue-in-cheek then Batman angst, this film won’t please everyone. But if you enjoyed the first two and arrive with an open mind, then you will enjoy this final working out of family differences and – perhaps! - final reconciliation of Thor and Loki.
Because above all, it is fun with a capital F and a great soundtrack.