I haven’t been into comic superheroes since a childhood crush on Superman that petered out when I was about eight, but I was intrigued by reports that Kiwi director Taika Waititi had adopted a fresh approach to the genre, not taking it too seriously and injecting solid doses of the good-natured, slightly daggy Kiwi humour that everyone including me loved in Hunt For The Wilderpeople.
There was of course the added attraction that Thor is played by that nice young Aussie boy Chris Hemsworth, who’s become the global hunk-du-jour and rightly so. (I probably sound like an old chook here but I can’t help feeling a certain ridiculous pride when our beautiful young folks – the Hemsworth lads, Travis Fimmel, Rose Byrne, Guy Pearce, Our Nick, Naomi Watts – do well overseas! I won’t say Russell Crowe because there are Kiwis watching and listening….)
It struck me that Waititi has made his Thor in the cinematic likeness of James Bond: the tough good guy always ready with an insouciant wisecrack in the face of danger or death, and delivered in the kind of posh tones that suggest vaguely upper class Englishness. In Thor’s case they are meant to suggest his noble ancestry: he is the son of the god Odin, after all. Compare and contrast the pure cockney of his more fallible sidekick Scourge, who’s a bit dodgy and gutless at first although he comes good in the end.
Perhaps it’s a sign of old age but my favourite character was not the delectable Chris Hemsworth but Korg, the giant rock Avenger played by director Waititi as a kind of big dumb Kiwi innocent abroad who’s got himself into a spot of bother as the slave gladiator of Grandmaster, a comic tyrant wonderfully played by Jeff Goldblum as a kind of evil game-show host. There is a nice little dig at PC euphemism when one of his minions – a very butch Kiwi lady – refers to his ‘slaves’, and he grimaces and reminds her that he’s not comfortable with the ‘s’ word. So she amends it to ‘prisoners with jobs’.
It’s a pleasure to find such stellar performers as Cate Blanchett, Sam Neill, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and Mark Ruffalo in the cast. My jury is still out on whether there’s enough offbeat kiwi humour to offset the interminable fantasy action stuff, but when you throw in the visual attraction of a gleamingly buff Chris Hemsworth in nearly every scene I suspect they’ll bring in an overall positive verdict.
There is a final joke involving the Jeff Goldblum character at the end of the verrrrry long credits, but I suspect I’d be one of the few people in the whole world who sat through them all to see it.
This review was first published in December 2017