Just when you thought the Avengers films were getting stale, director Taika Waititi comes along and gives them a big goose.
His offering, “Thor: Ragnarok,” is such a fun romp you’ll wonder why someone didn’t play the mythic gods and goddesses for laughs before now.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth, who’s a dandy comedian) is worried about life in Asgard, where is sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) is determined to rule under her own terms and brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is ready to stir up trouble no matter who’s wielding the hammer.
Thor gets sidetracked to some other realm where its leader, called the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, no less), is determined to pit him against the meanest, baddest guy around. Enter: Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), a guy just trying to work out a few issues.
The two rekindle their friendship and begin the fight to get Asgard back on its feet.
Several stray henchmen figure in (Karl Urban turns up as Skurge, a man doing Hela’s bidding) and dad (Anthony Hopkins) makes an appearance before all hell breaks loose.
The fun, though, starts when Asgardians are treated to a theatrical version of the Loki/Thor story. Several familiar faces play roles and aren’t afraid to camp it up. That sets the stage for more winks and nudges and a fantasy that’s about as playful as they get.
Waititi has the same offbeat humor that made “Flight of the Conchords” so much fun. He also displays a facility with a world that’s so over-the-top it borders on camp. Hela wears an antler rack that would make hunters take aim; Loki shifts so much he couldn’t be trusted with walking Hela’s dog (who appears here, too).
Thor gets his hair cut; several other Avengers beam in and “Ragnarok,” which translates to catastrophe, lives up to its billing.
In 3D, “Thor: Ragnarok” must be like the ultimate theme park ride. Hemsworth gets catapulted into several situations, spins around repeatedly and loses the hammer that gives him strength. He also makes friends with folks we haven’t been introduced to heretofore and partners Ruffalo like Costello to his Abbott.
While the film has one too many destruction scenes (how many fights must these folks get into?), it does hold interest because Waititi isn’t afraid to sprinkle everything with a liberal dose of comedy.
“Captain America” had a bit of that, too, but even “Iron-Man” doesn’t come this close to being an all-out comedy.
Because the worlds are so bizarre, it’s the only way to approach them.
Creator Stan Lee gets a fun cameo; Goldblum is nothing we would have expected.
Blanchett chews so much scenery it’s surprising no one decided to drop her into this world years ago.
Although stunt men and women reign supreme in this outing, Hemsworth can hold his head high. Thanks to “Ragnarok,” he’s the Avenger most likely to succeed.