Released at the Cameo cinema from Fri 27 Oct 2017

After the relative box office failure of The Dark World, the third instalment in the Thor franchise had to change tack and up its game. Enter Taika Waititi, the offbeat Kiwi director of small indie treats such as What We Do in the Shadows and Boy (which is, incidentally, showing at the Cameo on Monday night) to take the reins and steer things in a slightly sillier and far more comedic direction.

The plot itself sees little deviation from the well-trodden MCU route. After narrowly averting Ragnarok (end of days) and assembling a ragtag bunch of superhero misfits, Thor must spring from one ass-whooping to the next en route to the end of level baddie. This time, the big boss man is a female; Thor’s sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) is the goddess of death and she’s so keen on dishing it out to all and sundry that their father Odin had her imprisoned. Upon his death, she returns to Asgard to resume the bloodshed.

Of course, Waititi wasn’t hired to meddle with that winning formula, and the story can become a little unimaginative and undemanding – not to mention the fact that even the most cursory second glance at the plot reveals holes the size of the Hulk. But it’s easy to forgive the film these quibbles when it’s so damn charismatic, and even apparently aware of its own preposterousness.

Waititi has forged a career by homing in on the mundane and the awkward, and he contrasts these entirely human characteristics against the superhuman personages onscreen for maximum hilarity. Though the larger-than-life characters don’t always fit the profile for his gauche comedy, they generally do, with Hemsworth in particular given the freedom to showcase his comedic timing. Although Thor has never been known to be the sharpest knife in the drawer (his weapon of choice is as blunt as they come), rarely has his air-headedness been played for such laughs as here.

Jeff Goldblum‘s cameo is expertly-weighted for the Kiwi’s humour and Waititi himself even makes an appearance as the perma-cheery rock monster Korg, rather shrewdly claiming the best lines in the script and perhaps insinuating himself into future Marvel films. While the jokes are well-paced and well-poised, they do serve to detract somewhat from any gravitas the film may have carried. Not that Blanchett’s Hela isn’t a terrifying prospect; rather the fact that much of her malevolence takes place offscreen, thus preventing any genuine terror or tension to build.

The final result of all of this is an enjoyable, undemanding romp which will entertain without engaging the brain or tingling the spine too much. Expect funny bones to be tickled and plenty of other ones to be broken, but even the end of the world doesn’t seem too bad with Waititi at the wheel.