Marvel’s Thor franchise is frequently cited as weaker aspects of the otherwise acclaimed connected universe. While both Thor and Thor: The Dark World have great performances and stunning visuals, the stories are generally lackluster and fans have been patiently waiting for the god of thunder to get his true shining moment on the big screen. Enter Taika Waititi, the man who was chosen to helm the third film in the Thor series, Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi, who is known for his previous comedic films such as What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, was seen as an unorthodox choice to direct a film about the end of Asgard as we know it. But then Marvel debuted the trailers for this film and fan excitement went through the roof. The film had a different look and feel when compared to previous Thor outings along with a truly star-studded cast. So, does Thor: Ragnarok make up for Marvel’s past mistakes with the character? Read on to find out…
Thor: Ragnarok takes place two years after Avengers: Age of Ultron. When Hela, the goddess of the death appears on Asgard with the intent of taking control of the Throne, she banishes Thor to the other side of the universe on a planet known as Sakaar. There, Thor is found by The Grandmaster, who forces the mighty god into a deadly gladiatorial contest where his challenger is none other than his former Avenger ally, The Incredibly Hulk. Thor’s fight for survival leads him on a race against time to prevent Hela from destroying the Asgardian civilization and his home world.
This is by far, without a doubt, the best Thor film Marvel has produced. While 2011’s Thor was a Shakespearean drama and Thor: The Dark World being a grim revenge tale, Ragnarok is a fun and action-packed ride from start to finish. Leaning more towards the action/comedy genre, Ragnarok’s biggest asset is its character work. Every performance in the film is spot on, from veteran characters to new ones. Chris Hemsworth gets to exercise his comedic chops in the film and puts on a fantastic performance. Once again, Thor is a fish out of water, being on an unknown and dangerous planet. It’s a blast watching Thor adapt to his new surroundings and Hemsworth brings such a lively and fun tone to the role. Tom Hiddleston is back as Thor’s villainous adoptive brother Loki and his performance in this film is just another reason why Loki has become one of the most popular MCU characters since its inception. Hiddleston’s Loki in this film is funnier but keeps the tragic nature of the character. Thor has become indifferent to what Loki does, having been double crossed by him so many times before and Loki doesn’t react well to this. Beneath everything, he craves the competitive relationship he and his brother has and when Thor casts Loki aside, it’s like Loki has lost the only consistent thing in his life and Hiddleston portrays this wonderfully.
Ragnarok also boasts a ton of new incoming characters to the Thor side of the MCU and the most exciting addition was Mark Ruffolo’s Hulk. Unlike previous films, Hulk is far more intelligent here, having developed the ability to talk and think for himself. The mindless beast is gone and in his place is Ruffolo’s hysterical and down-to-earth new Hulk who we see truly go through the inner conflict with Bruce Banner. Tessa Thompson makes her MCU debut as Valkyrie and is easily the show-stealer here. She is a no-nonsense, heavy drinking, flawed character who works on Sakaar and Thompson oozes charism whenever she’s on screen. If any character should return for future Marvel films, it’s Thompson’s Valkyrie. In one of the weirdest performances the MCU has ever seen, Jeff Goldblum stars as The Grandmaster. Being one his best performances in a long time, Goldblum’s deadpan delivery and dry humor is fantastic despite the character having no real arc. Seriously, you could make an entire film around this character and his daily routine on Sakaar and it would be fantastic. Finally, we have the villain of the film, Cate Blanchett as Hela. 2017 has been a mixed bag for MCU villains but Hela certainly ranks as one of the best in the franchise. Blanchett plays the antagonist wonderfully as she is ruthless, hilarious and is a complete badass. A character with simplistic goals but a complex backstory, Hela is one of the most compelling MCU villains ever.
As said above, visuals is one aspect the Thor series never struggled with but Ragnarok takes them to an entirely different level. The film is full of bright, vivid colours that see every single shot popping of the screen. It is clear that Waititi wanted to expand the Thor-verse, as he not only captures the awe-inspiring beauty that is Asgard, but also showcasing the rotten (yet still mesmerizing) junk planet of Sakaar. In addition, the costume design for this film is superb, from Thor’s new gladiator outfit to Hela’s beautiful and terrifying crown that she dons whenever entering a battle. Waititi strived to make sure that it wasn’t just the characters who were telling the story to the viewers. The visuals speak for themselves and perfectly enhance an already great narrative.
It’s evident that Marvel looked to Guardians of the Galaxy for inspiration on this film and one clear similar aspect between the two films is the actions sequences. They’re fantastic. From beginning to end, each action set-piece is expertly edited with minimal cuts (a common criticism among Marvel Cinematic Universe films). The seamless editing has each punch or use of magic blending wonderfully from one scene to the next as Waititi crafts each fight or battle with a clear purpose to further the story. Despite it being spoiled in the trailer, fans were eagerly waiting the battle between Hulk and Thor. Even though the film has already premiered, I won’t spoil what happens. What I will say is that it is one of the best action sequences Marvel has ever done. It’s bombastic, comical and high-octane and it’ll leave you on the edge of your seat.
Unfortunately, Thor: Ragnarok does have some clear drawbacks. If there was one new cast member that got the short end of the stick, it’s Karl Urban’s Skurge. The film gives him a small redemption arc but he’s isn’t on screen long enough to make the viewer feel invested in the debuting Asgardian. It’s still entertaining to watch Skurge’s action scenes, but there isn’t enough of him in the story for anyone to really care about him. Now, despite all my praise for the humor in the film, at certain points in the story, it did feel as if Marvel went overboard with the comedy. For example, when Asgard faces imminent destruction, the sequence is undercut with yet another joke. Yes you will chuckle, but it takes away from the emotional gravity of the story. It’s hard to really get scared for people losing their home world when a joke is spoken every five minutes.
Keeping with the theme of Ragnarok being an entirely different MCU film, Waititi brought in Mark Mothersbaugh to compose the score. While previous MCU films have faced criticism for its musical component, Ragnarok knocks it out of the park as Mothersbaugh creates an 80’s-infused, exciting score that fully immerses the viewer in the film. Not only did Mothersbaugh reuse and rework previous Hulk and Thor themes from other MCU films, he worked towards making the score as memorable and distinctive as possible. He succeed with flying colours.
Thor: Ragnarok is not a perfect adventure but it’s an incredibly enjoyable one. It reinvents the Thor and Hulk characters perfectly and produces an entertaining narrative that has great character work, hilarious sequences, high-octane action and a Marvel score for the ages. Bringing in Taika Waititi to direct will be remembered as one of Marvel’s best decisions as he delivers a self-contained story that gives the Thor trilogy a satisfying conclusion while also furthering the overarching MCU stories. 2017 has been a strong year for the superhero genre and Ragnarok will go down as one of the most fun superhero stories ever to grace the silver screen.
Nick’s Rating – 7.8/10
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Thor: Ragnarok is in theatres everywhere now.