Latest superhero movie sports a new element: Fun

Diversions

By M.V. Moorhead

Superhero movies have been on a roll lately. For the first decade or so of this century, my reviews of
Marvel and DC films have amounted to a lot of grumbling that they were heavy, they were overlong, they were
sometimes jocular but lacked true humor, and above all that they were repetitively caught up in a post-9/11 fixation with urban destruction, buildings crumbling to rubble.
In short, I didn’t find them fun. And then I did. For the last few years, superhero movies suddenly lightened up. Ant-
Man, Dr. Strange, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming and (if you count them) the Guardians of the Galaxy flicks were all fine entertainments, and even the more standard, turgid entries like Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Avengers: Age of Ultron had scenes or performances that zapped some life and looseness into them.
This trend reaches its zenith with the latest Marvel release, Thor: Ragnarok. Those who demand seriousness from their superhero flicks may disapprove, as this movie is played more or less entirely for laughs. But it kept me smiling from beginning to end. It’s almost like an antidote to the preceding Thor flick, 2013’s chilly Thor: The Dark World.
This movie’s world is pretty bright.
Chris Hemsworth returns, and remains agreeable, as the Marvel version of the Norse deity with the hammer only he can sling.
“Ragnarok” is the term for the prophesied End Times in the Norse tradition, the day when the giant Surtur will lead an attack on Asgard. This does come into play in the movie, but the principal villains here are Thor’s long-dormant sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) the Goddess of Death, and a character called simply Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who presides over gladiatorial games on a chaotic planet.
Blanchett is an elegant Maleficent type, topped with an elegant antler headdress and attended by an impressive monster wolf. But it’s Goldblum who steals big chunks of the picture, bringing the same halting, diffident delivery to tyrannically ruling a violent world that he does to pitching Apartments.com on TV.
He’s hilarious.
The director is the witty New Zealander Taika Waititi, working from a script by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost. Waititi serves up plenty of other cheeky performances from his large cast.
Tom Hiddleston is back as the ever-devious, everlikable Loki, as is Anthony Hopkins as crusty old man Odin, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange, and Mark Ruffalo as the chagrined Bruce Banner/The Hulk, who has gone soft with cheap celebrity on Goldblum’s planet. Tessa Thompson, the love interest in Creed, makes a quite
adorable Valkyrie here, Waititi himself is hilarious, behind motion capture, as a mild-mannered revolutionary rock
monster, and his countryman Karl Urban gets a nice turn as Blanchett’s rather sheepish toady.
The talented cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe bathes the movie in cheery colors, and Waititi stages one sly, silly set piece after another. The movie clocks in at over two hours, but just slightly. It’s a trifle, but it hit the spot, and with the exception, maybe, of Spider-Man: Homecoming earlier this year, it’s the first superhero movie
in recent memory that I could imagine wanting to go see again.

Thor: Ragnarok is rated PG-13, and plays at Tempe Marketplace, Chandler Fashion 20, Arizona
Mills and many other multiplexes Valleywide.