The eccentric Kiwi director Taika Waititi has been set loose on Thor and – praise be! – he seems to have been allowed to do pretty much what he wishes. Working from an unremarkable script by studio regulars, Waititi has layered camp, slapstick madness over every neon-lit, acid-soaked set piece. The prevailing influences on Thor were once Robert E Howard and JRR Tolkien. Now they are Terry Pratchett and Barbarella. I can say nothing kinder about Thor: Ragnarok than that it is not "one for the fans". It's for anybody at home to the throb of a sub-woofer and the scent of the herb. Can we say more?
We begin as we mean to go on with Thor (a hilariously off-hand Chris Hemsworth) in conversation with some dragon deity in a fiery lair (you see what we mean about Pratchett). Something has gone wrong on Asgard. The impending threat of an apocalypse called Ragnarok has sent Odin into a spin. Meanwhile, an enormously cross female goddess is plotting various categories of ruthless domination. She is called Hela and if you hadn't guessed that Cate Blanchett is beneath her curly helm then you really haven't been paying attention. La Cate smacks her lips so enthusiastically you half fear that she'll do her mandible a mischief.
The framing plot is simultaneously of inter-galactic significance and of no importance whatsoever. The picture really kicks into gear when Thor and welcome newcomer Valkyrie (given boozed-up, kicking-out-time vigour by Tessa Thompson) find themselves captured by Jeff Goldblum the Intergalactic Party Man. He wants Thor to fight his fearsome champion in the planet's dome of destruction. The champion turns out to be Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). We turn out to be very satisfied.
One could argue that when any sequence sinks into parody it is surely nearing its death throes. That would be a misreading of the best recent Marvel pictures. Both Spiderman: Homecoming and Thor: Ragnarok are aware of the genre's ludicrousness, but the humour derives from a desire to celebrate – not ridicule – those rampaging absurdities.
Waititi has moved from the gentle absurdities of What We do in the Shadows to much larger absurdities that, for all their brashness, rarely sink into snark or cynicism. Everybody involved is in on the correct joke. Mark Mothersbaugh's electronic score shimmies aside to allow in pompous orchestral surges and – during the two big battle sequences – most of Led Zeppelin's durably riff-tastic Immigrant Song. Ruffalo and Hemsworth make sense of Waititi's initially baffling claim that he drew on Withnail & I when plotting the squabbles between Hulk and Thor.
Inevitably, it becomes too much some time before we collapse over the unnecessarily remote finishing tape. Come to think of it, there’s too much right from the beginning. That’s the point.
Smashing fun. And too, too much.