In the current superhero movie climate of gritty, serious stories, Thor: Ragnarok (2017) stands out because it dares to be different. In just over two hours, New Zealand born director Taika Waititi takes the viewer on an entertaining journey that wonderfully blends humour with the ‘world at stake’ nature of the superhero genre. It rescues Thor’s stand alone film series, which has largely been unmemorable to this point.
The beginning sequence of Thor: Ragnarok sets the tone for the entire film. We learn that Thor has purposely got himself captured to learn why a monster wants to destroy his home of Asgard. Thor repeatedly stops the monster during his world-ending monologue because the chain he is suspended from keeps spinning him around so he is facing away from the monster. As Thor uses his body weight to swing himself to face the monster, he urges it to continue. Waititi plays with the idea that because Thor is a god he rarely feels threatened by anything, and its where most of the humour comes from. It feels fitting for the character and finally gives him a likeable and distinguishing persona.
Thor returns to Asgard to discuss what he has learned with his father only to learn that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has returned and is pretending to rule over Asgard as his father. When Thor and Loki go looking for their father they are confronted by Hela (Cate Balnchett) the Godess of Death who subsequently overpowers them both and knocks Thor out of the portal to Asgard. Thor lands on an unknown planet and is captured and sold to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) to compete in his gladiator-like contests.
The strong writing and performances from the cast are a highlight of the film. Chris Hemsworth is charismatic as Thor, always shining when he is on screen. Tom Hiddleston is great as the sometimes caring, always deceptive Loki. He and Hemsworth have a great brotherly chemistry when they are in scenes together. Cate Blanchett’s Hela is pure evil and she does a terrific job at capturing the menacing nature of the villain. I especially loved Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, a monarch who enjoys the superfluous side of life and continually angers Thor by calling him the Lord of Lightning rather than the God of Thunder.
The rest of the supporting cast is solid too. Tessa Thompson’s carefree slaver Valkyrie plays well off Goldblum’s Grandmaster and Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk/Bruce Banner. Director Taika Waititi voicing Korg, a rock creature that was enslaved because he didn’t hand out enough pamphlets for his planned revolution, is a welcome surprise that captures the humour of the film beautifully.
Thor: Ragnarok’s action sequences are highly enjoyable, each feeling unique because they place their characters in varied situations each time. Highlights include the initial sequence which sees Thor using his hammer to defeat a seemingly endless onslaught of demonic minions, his fist fight with Hulk teased in the film’s trailer, a thrilling aircraft chase sequence, Hela’s powerful yet majestic battle against Asgard’s army, and the film’s final confrontation which isn’t just a massive CGI explosion fest. There is plenty of variety in the action sequences and the fight choreography utilises each character’s distinguished fighting styles to change things up and keep each encounter feeling fresh.
I also loved the visual style of Thor: Ragnarok. Fantasy and sci-fi elements work well together, especially during the Thor and Hulk fight blending a gladiatorial setting with a sci-fi planet. The planet that Thor is trapped on is vibrant and littered with colour, contrasting to the somewhat dystopian nature of the rule the Grandmaster has over the populous. The visual effects look terrific, especially during the aforementioned aircraft chase sequence. It’s a pleasant cinematic experience.
If you are at all a fan of the Marvel Cinematic universe, you should see Thor: Ragnarok. Director Taika Waititi has put a much needed new spin on Thor, drawing out the somewhat hubristic persona that comes from Thor being an all-powerful god. Thor: Ragnarok balances the fine line between its serious and humorous tones to great effect, fuelled in part by the great acting performances from the whole cast. Thor: Ragnarok continues Marvel’s trend of allowing directors to take more light-hearted approaches to its cinematic universe (see Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy), and it pays off once again.