Thor: Ragnarok

Year: 2017
Production Co: Marvel Studios
Studio: Disney
Director: Taiki Waititi
Producer: Kevin Fiege
Writer: Eric Pearson/Craig Kyle/Christopher Yost
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Mark Ruffalo, Karl Urban, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Taika Waititi, Clancy Brown, Luke Hemsworth, Sam Neill, Matt Damon, Stan Lee

For anyone who has a continuing disinterest in comic book superhero movies, Marvel continues to do very smart things by not only giving fans and devotees what they want, they somehow bake enough personality and point of difference into successive MCU instalments to attract and please the cynics too – especially as the whole movement threatens to grow more tired and used up with every new movie in it. In this case it's the same sort of thing (laughs) that made Guardians of the Galaxy such a success but with the added appeal that we already know the characters.

The script by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost manages the trick of not only being genuinely funny and putting a pin in the grandiose pomposities inherent to this genre, it continues to make stuff that's frankly ridiculous actually make sense and seem real.

Even if you're the kind of moviegoer who rolls his or her eyes when sitting down to another $200m comic book tentpole, Thor: Ragnarok will win you over despite yourself.

It's particularly irritating if you want to hate it because the structure is the same thing we've been seeing since this whole ball of wax was launched with 2008's Iron Man – the endless parade of villains to be vanquished with quips and swirls of computer graphic violence are beyond the point where they've become a blur.

But director Taika Waititi (Flight of the Conchords, What We Do In the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) manages even to sidestep that pitfall by casting Oscar winner Cate Blanchett to play lead villain Hela, ensuring that even she stands out in the canon.

When we meet Thor he's been searching for one of the talismanic Infinity Stones and he's about to defeat and banish some giant demon thingy that wants to destroy Asgard.

When he does so he returns home and ropes his evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) into finding their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who's exiled himself on Earth. Odin tells the boys he had a daughter, Hela, who turned out to be evil and power hungry, so he imprisoned her. But the proverbial hits the proverbial and Hela comes home to Asgard to take over, enslave the people, raise an army of the undead to do her bidding, etc etc.

She also kicks Thor and Loki off the CGI magic rainbow bridge that joins worlds and they find themselves stranded on a planet populated by scavengers who live in piles of garbage and a city overseen by Jeff Goldblum in full Golblum-ey mode, playing a warlord who entertains the people and himself with a huge gladiator contest.

Forced into combat, Thor finds himself facing Hulk, who's somehow been stranded there too, still in his angry green incantation since the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron and frankly enjoying the adulation too much to return to normal or go home to Earth.

Thor has to convince Hulk, the scavenger/Asgardian warrior woman who captured him, Loki (who's in the good graces of the local leadership) and a small band of fellow prisoners to bust out, follow him back to Asgard and depose his horned older sister from her campaign of plunder and pillage.

The initial story treatment would have been as humdrum as the above description sounds, but the devil is all in the details. Waititi is a comedy director first and foremost, so while he's ably supported by armies of CGI engineers and art directors with Marvel Studios' limitless resources, barely a minute goes by without a decent belly laugh.

If you're one of the few who want to see the end of the business model in Hollywood that produces the endless procession of this kind of thing, move to a third world country that has no cinemas for a decade or more – it's not just about the money they make, it's just that Marvel hasn't dropped the ball and started churning out cynical, creatively bankrupt movies quite yet.

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