So okay, this comic book-into-movie is more fun than many of its recent dark, dreary and self-important predecessors. But it's not half as good as it could have been if Chris Hemsworth could act.
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson; Director: Taika Waititi
Rating: ** 1/2 (2 and a half stars)
So okay, this comic book-into-movie is more fun than many of its recent dark, dreary and self-important predecessors. But it’s not half as good as it could have been if Chris Hemsworth could act. He loses his weapon, the character-defining hammer, early in the plot. And he happily appears vulnerable and defenceless when the situation demands.
Everyone else can. Hemsworth can’t. Which is a pity , as he has some of the film’s funniest lines to say. Hemsworth says them the way actors read their thankyou speeches at the Oscars from teleprompters. Filled with fake pauses and plenty of preening and posturing.
More is the pity since Hemsworth is surrounded by a bevy of superb actors, all in their playful bantering best. Nearly everyone gets their bright tone right, none more so than the Oscar winning Cate Blanchett. Our Shekhar Kapur’s Queen Elizabeth I here plays the arch-villain Hela who is Thorn’s evil sister whose diabolic designs must be stopped before it’s too late.
Blanchett has a ball saying lines about the misery of common humanity with a swagger that reinvents stiff upper lip sexiness. She gets relatively less space than the saucy sozzled Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) – the only character who has a change of heart in the course of the furious narrative. And boy, is she a sharpshooter! We can count on her to save civilization from catastrophe, as we can count on director Taika Waititi to convert the cult of comic book cataclysm into a delightful romp in the rough.
Mankind, I am happy to report, scarcely seems interested in saving itself in this ravishing rampage of a movie filled with tonal inflexions that include gravity and giggles in the same line of vision. The central conflict takes time to be reached. But the journey is not a slog. The characters have fun with one another and with the theme of comic book heroism as they brace themselves to serve the cause of humanity.
The central attraction is a wrestling bout between Thor and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, brilliantly baffled as the over-sized superhero and his puny human avatar) in a virtual arena run by a ‘Grandmaster’ (Jeff Goldbum) who is possibly gay.
I am just guessing about the character’s sexuality from hints that are strewn across the narrative. No one is in a heterosexual relationship in this film. There are no stolen kisses in between bouts of bravado. There is a lot of male bonding which suggests that machismo has nothing to do with one’s sexual orientation. Just as a super-hero has no direct relationship with the universes that he conquers.
Heroism is all in the mind. And full marks to this super-hero film for putting across the images of a bleeding mankind without showing any blood.