The idea of Thor, the Asgardian God in the adventureland of a juvenile’s imagination has always been a comical one. Between Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean smirk and Joss Whedon’s laboured irreverence, the brawny blond chap never really gained a full-blooded life of his own in cinema. But in the hands of Kiwi director Taika Waititi, the buffed-up God not only loses his locks, he even releases himself from the weight of grandstanding.
A streak of self-imposed lunacy is palpable from the very first frame. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) locked in chains, is breaking the fourth wall – evidently a captive of fire demon Sutur. The villain launches into showboating, proclaiming to unleash an apocalypse but gets constantly interrupted by Thor. This banter, mostly successful in raising chuckles sets the tone for what to come.
As it turns out, Thor’s cheeky brother Loki (again a very delightful Tom Hiddleston) has sent their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to exile on earth, and is busy playacting to correct his place in Asgardian history. However, it’s not his brother that Thor should worry about, but his unknown-till-now sister Hela who can crush his Mjolnir like a packet of potato chips. Voila! Even Thor’s father reworked history.
Waititi, a craftsman of deadpan humour shows how clever he is in handling a Hollywood behemoth in Sakaar. He offers all the blaze and buster in the skirmishes, but reserves the real thing in the area he is good at. As evident in his previous films, What We Do in the Shadows (2014) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), Waititi enlivens the clashes in a poker-faced vein when characters utter words with a shrug, an attitude of wit that refuses to transport the cargo of impending apocalypse that every comic book movie suffers from. Which is why the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor clash is a terrific bang for the bucks, but it’s the repartee between the two that shines a light on the film’s true gift. So the dark knight does rise from gladiatorial battles though it’s not physical strength that wins, but good-natured humour.
By the end of it all, you remember not the flash of the sets or the absence of blood in well-oiled gargantuan fights, but the back-and-forth swag and sass of familiar-but-refreshingly-new characters. Almost like a big-budget sitcom.