I’m not exactly a Thor fanatic. I have seen zero previous Thor movies, and all I know about his character is from the first Avengers movie. However, I do know a few things about the film’s director, Taika Waititi, and much of my enjoyment of this film results from Waititi’s signature humor. The New Zealand director has made some of the greatest achievements in quirky comedy in recent years with his work on the acclaimed HBO series Flight of the Conchords and films such as What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. His filmography tickles every hipster’s funny bone with the stupidity of his characters, adorable yet twisted sensibility and the dead-pan line delivery. Waititi-heads may find his turn as director of one of the more serious Marvel superheroes a surprising turn, but his direction might have been just what the superhero needed.
As something of a Marvel nut, Stephanie was able to fill me in on the past Thor movies, and she claims that one of the reasons for the failure of the second Thor (I didn’t even realize there had been a sequel) was that it took itself too seriously, making Waititi’s humor an important injection of levity into the franchise. After the opening fight scene in which Thor puts his hammer to work to the tune of “Immigrant Song,” we witness one of the finest cameos in cinema (sadly, it isn’t from Jemaine Clement, but it might be even better). From then, it was clear this movie was going to be enjoyable, a fine mix of action and comedy that we have come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even the soundtrack doesn’t take itself too seriously. When we aren’t listening to “Immigrant Song” during two fight sequences, we are usually following Thor and his “Revengers” to a Mark Mothersbaugh synth beat which is reminiscent of Stranger Things but also recalls the cheesy, throwback songs of Flight of the Conchords.
Thor, Loki and the Hulk have some funny moments. It would be amiss if I failed to mention that Chris Hemsworth doesn’t get enough credit for his comedic talent. He likely improvised many of his hilariously stupid moments in Ghostbusters, and since this film also included improvised moments, he may be responsible for an amazing story about Loki and a snake. He’s more than beautiful abs! But the comedy gold derives from two supporting characters: Korg, a rock monster voiced by (who else?) Taika Waititi; and Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster. Guardians of the Galaxy fans will probably be reminded of Drax when they see Korg. He looks terrifying, but he’s really a sweetheart with a sense of humor. But Waititi adds his own brand of offbeat humor. Korg has the softest, least intimidating voice even when he’s telling Thor about his call for the people of Sakaar to revolt. He goes on to tell Thor that only his mother and her boyfriend answered his call, and nobody likes her boyfriend. He’s that guy who just keeps talking even though he is saying nothing interesting, but instead of being annoying, it’s endearing.
Jeff Goldblum basically plays an evil Jeff Goldblum. He plays the keyboard, enslaves powerful aliens and people from all over the universe to battle it out in an arena (but really hates the word “slavery”), makes fun of Thor’s power to sparkle, has a spaceship for orgies, and, most importantly, wears a gold cape. He’s all about using his subjects to fulfill his every whim but without realizing, or at least openly admitting, that he tortures people.
Ultimately, I would’ve enjoyed this movie even more if Goldblum was the main villain, rather than Hela (Cate Blanchett). Goldblum’s Goldblum-ness makes him an unusual villain, and I am curious what his origin story is. I’m sure it would be much more interesting than Hela’s. She’s Odin’s daughter, and after he dies and she takes the throne, she wants to destroy the world because. . .she feels like it, I guess. Blanchett has the perfect sultry voice and demeanor to make a great classic villain, but Hela’s backstory and motivations are too typical in the superhero genre and just plain dumb. Even her henchman has a better character arc than she does, and as much as I enjoy seeing a minor character develop over the movie, it did make Hela’s lack of development more pronounced.
But the problems with Hela aren’t big enough to make the film a bust. With well-executed action sequences and an offbeat sense of humor, it’s one of the most fun superhero movies of the year.
Oh yeah, the plot: so Thor and Loki find Odin, but then Odin dies. Surprise, Thor and Loki have a sister they never knew about! And that sister is Hela, who is now the queen of Asgard. But Hela is super evil, so Thor wants to stop her, but he ends up trapped on Sakaar with his brother, where he also meets the Hulk and a new character, Valkyrie. Also, Thor has to figure out how he’s going to beat Hela since she’s too powerful to defeat on his own. The film kinda rushed through that whole bit about Odin dying and Hela coming to power, but that’s fine because that just helped us get to all the exciting stuff sooner.
Cake rating: Since Goldblum was the better villain, I’ll set aside my dark chocolate cake in favor of a funfetti cake with gold frosting.
Featured image: The best villain. (Image credit)