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WEEKEND WEB: Thor roars back with a true Marvel

FILM: Gavin Miller reviews the latest Marvel offering.

Kiwi director Taika Waititi has just moved the boundaries for what a superhero movie can be – with this extremely entertaining, colourfully-zany and comedy-laden entry in Marvel’s cinematic universe.

He uses the backdrop of Thor’s third instalment to provide us with this consistently humorous and lusciously-paletted arena, mainly set around the eclectic planet of Sakaar – ruled by Jeff Goldblum’s exuberant Grandmaster – that really delivers in so many ways.

Chris Hemsworth looks the most relaxed he’s ever been, thriving as the God of Thunder in Waititi’s comedic playground, as Cate Blanchett’s villainous Thor hammer-crushing Hela looks to reign destruction on Asgard, via the mythological Norse term of ‘Ragnarok’ – which indicates the end of days.

When Thor gets propelled to Sakaar and enslaved by Tessa Thompson’s feisty warrior Valkyrie to compete in the Grandmaster’s gladiatorial coliseum, his opponent ends up being none other than Avengers pal Hulk – who was last seen being launched into the cosmos during the finale of Age of Ultron – with Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) being lost inside his alter ego for two years, which echoes Planet Hulk comic-book lore.

In fact, the period where Thor and Hulk are locked inside the Grandmaster’s suite is arguably the best prolonged dialogue the big green monster has ever had – with the childish banter between the two being a fanboy’s dream.

With the help of fractured friendships with both Tom Hiddleston’s good cop/bad cop Loki and Valkyrie – aided by Taika Waititi’s hilarious motion-captured Thing-esque Korg – Thor and Banner must devise a plan to escape from Sakaar and get back to Asgard before Hela completely destroys his homeworld, with only Idris Elba’s Heimdall rallying pockets of resistance.

And everybody is simply terrific in Waititi’s high-octane piece – a far cry from the dreary backdrop of Thor’s last outing The Dark World – with even the likes of Karl Urban’s (Dredd) Skurge adding an interesting side story.

But it’s Hemworth who is the real winner here, as he spins off Hiddleston, Ruffalo, Blanchett, Thompson – and even Benedict Cumberbatch’s cameoing Dr Strange – to conjure up one of the best standalone Marvel movies yet.

Purists may find it a ‘bit too comedic’, which does take it a bit out of sync with previous MCU entries, but for the most part this really is a refreshing superhero take – much like Deadpool revolutionised the R-rated comic-book movie last year – and it’s definitely up there with the likes of Captain America: Winter Soldier and the Marvel ensemble films atop their blockbuster ladder.

The movie’s title may imply it’s the apocalypse for Asgard, but it’s definitely not the end of the world for Marvel as their cinematic universe juggernaut just keeps evolving in a truly mouth-watering way – and with Black Panther and Infinity War on the horizon shows no sign of abating.

And this time round Hemsworth’s Thor and Waititi combine to provide a truly satisfying lightning bolt to the senses – which sends impressively thunderous ‘bar raising’ shockwaves through the genre.

Justice League . . . your turn.

Rating: 4/5 Gavin Miller


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