Movie Review: 'Thor: Ragnarok'
Opened: 24 October 2017 (UK)
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins
Director: Taika Waititi
Producer: Kevin Feige
Mild spoilers ahead.
While the first Thor ticked all the relevant boxes way back in 2011, when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was still in its infancy, and proved to be a star-making turn for its principal star Chris Hemsworth, it’s inevitable follow up The Dark World, missed the mark by a mile with its poor pacing and humourless script.
Thankfully, there’s none of that this time round in Thor: Ragnarok as they’ve done away with Natalie ‘Bland’ Portman’s Jane entirely, and instead Kiwi director Taika Waititi goes almost entirely for laughs, kicks and quick wit (reminiscent of adventure films from an era gone by), and by and large succeeds in creating a cheerful romp that expectedly looks dazzling and is as fun as it looked in the trailer.
Set four years after the events of the previous film, Thor, held captive on the planet Sakaar, by an intergalactic, kooky egomaniac simply know as 'The Grandmaster' (Goldblum, having a blast with his bizarre character), must win a duel against frenemy the Hulk (Ruffalo), so that he can return to Asgard and save it from certain ruin at the hands of his own sister Hela (Blanchett playing to the gallery in a deliciously camp and wicked get up). He convinces a band of unlikely cohorts to return to the celestial abode, but is it already too late to salvage the impending apocalypse?
Despite the doom and destruction that’s about to engulf Asgard and it’s entire civilisation, you never quite feel the urgency, drama or peril here purely because the script runs on a series of never-ending, lol inducing gags – with the exchanges between Thor and Hulk coming in thick and fast, and essentially turning out to be be the highlight of this upbeat enterprise, along with a few stray superstar cameos.
Both Ruffalo and Hemsworth are for once allowed to have fun with their otherwise highly-strung characters and the actors appear to be having a hoot with the material, which could have worked to the detriment of the film given its context, but their camaraderie makes the cut and sees them through. Even otherwise, Hemsworth is less sullen and not as wooden, having loosened up with experience and proves that he's more than capable of shouldering the burden of this inevitable blockbuster with his on point comic timing, which despite following the standard Marvel template, is right up with there with the Studios' finest works namely The Avengers and subsequently, Guardians Of The Galaxy.
Besides Hemsworth and Ruffalo, the film also benefits from its able supporting cast. Hiddleston has a little more depth as Loki this time round and has fun with the God of Mischief, with the constant nudge nudge wink wink nods from previous outings, while Tessa Thompson as the last Asgardian Valkyrie injects deadpan humour into her otherwise traumatised, inebriated character, kicking intergalactic butt besides. The casting masterstroke here though is Blanchett, who as always, adds gravitas to a borderline psychotic antagonist, acting as the perfect foil to the heroes' best laid plans that end up going for a toss every time she enters the frame.
Over the past decade, Marvel have done a cracking job with setting up their universe, which has more or less remained consistent if you discount Edward Norton's departure as the Hulk (which proved to be a blessing in disguise, given that Ruffalo more than made up for it), and here too, they carry on weaving the plot to set it up for next year's Infinity War. There are plot points that suggest that Loki has more conniving plans up his sleeve, and the obligatory after credits scene hints at a crossover with the Guardians, but we'll have to wait until next April to see how that pans out. As an aside, it's amazing how people just stick around until the credits roll to see what else is in the pipeline – it's a genius gimmick that's gathered momentum over the years, but only Marvel have been able to execute it and again remain consistent and true to the idea. Anyway. We digress.
Coming back to Ragnarok, it is hands down the best in the trilogy and undoubtedly a sure shot blockbuster crafted with care, vivid imagination and a rollicking script to boot. Sure the pacing is a little uneven, but overall, Waititi manages to mesh together a heady concoction of 80’s feels (a far cry from its predecessors), and cracking humour that works by and large, even if sometimes at the expense of drama or depth. As such, I'm going with four stars for what is, surprisingly, one of the funniest films to come out of the MCU.