It was time someone took the piss out of the MCU. Just as well Marvel decided to do it for themselves. The result is a hoot.
Finding gainful employment for the universe’s dumbest superhero is no joke, but in a welter of visual and verbal gags the studio celebrates his stupidity. I was laughing from the outset and I didn’t stop and from the mad recaps to the giant goats, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) treating his weapons as if they had the power to upset him, his ignorance of the devastation he wreaks, and non-PC references to orgies and the size of his manhood, the inevitable Marvel save-the-world plot takes second place to humor.
Asgard has been turned into a tourist attraction, terrible actors perform sagas in tacky productions to entertain visitors, until Gorr (Christian Bale) the god-killer, having been allocated in normal mysterious fashion and in Excalibur-style the Necrosword, comes calling, kidnapping children, packing them off to the Shadow Realm as a means of luring Thor. Fortunately, lost love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), unfortunately dying of cancer, reappears in his life, though, on the debit side, she steals his hammer, causing him to turn to his axe. There’s hammer hocus-pocus, the usual lengthy daft exposition, but that’s offset by Thor, sensitive soul that he is, feeling he has to woo the discarded axe.
Also recruited are Asgard king Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and stone-man Korg. First port of call, naturally, is Omnipotence City where all the top gods hang out, including Zeus (Russell Crowe), the top god of all. Unwilling to help them out when there are delectable maidens hanging on his every word and orgies to enjoy, Zeus foolishly picks a fight and loses his lightning bolt.
But that’s enough of the madcap fun. Now it gets serious in the usual annoying way, redemption and its alter-ego sacrifice required at every turn, as you try to keep up with the new ideas suddenly introduced, the Bifrost and Eternity, and have to remind yourself of the rules regarding the axe and sword and the various pitfalls awaiting the characters. But the first half has given the movie sufficient energy to woosh you through the second half.
I’m not sure of The Avengers recruitment policy and how Thor ever fitted in and it’s just as well his cohorts in this adventure, part of the way at least, are the equally demented Guardians of the Galaxy phalanx led by the vain and vainglorious Star Lord (Chris Pratt). I always felt the rest of the MCU mob, albeit they occasionally deliver a good quip or two, were just too serious a bunch, what with all the saving-the-universe-and-beyond malarkey whereas Thor and Star Lord are blood brothers, daft specimens, useless at romance and anything serious, good for nothing except a good scrap.
There are a whole bunch of stand-out comic scenes – Thor looking to Star Lord of all people for advice on matters of the heart, the goats leading the space craft crash-landing into a planet. Admittedly, excepting the serious bits at the end, this is far more light-hearted than anything else in the MCU and thankfully sticking to the one universe rather than the multi-universe departures of late.
Chris Hemsworth (Thor: Ragnarok, 2017) as usual is superb, just the right bombast and imbecility coupled with vulnerability and sweetness, his clipped delivery at odds with his befuddlement, his eve-of-battle speeches would have Churchill turning in his grave. But Russell Crowe (Unhinged, 2020), with his mangled Greek accent, matches him in the dumb stakes. Natalie Portman (Lucy in the Sky, 2019) makes a welcome return and Tessa Thompson (Passing, 2021) proves a good side-kick to both. Christian Bale (Ford vs. Ferrari, 2019) bring his malevolent A-game as a memorable villain. Watch out for cameos from Matt Damon (The Last Duel, 2021), Melissa McCarthy (Superintelligence, 2020), Luke Hemsworth (Death of Me, 2020) and Sam Neill (Jurassic World: Dominion, 2022).
Director Taika Waitiki (Thor: Ragnarok , who also voices Korg, does a quite brilliant job of combining action and comedy. He also takes credit for the screenplay along with Jennifer Kaytin Robinson (Unpregnant, 2020).