Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok
Directed by Taika Waititi
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins
In UK Cinemas October 24th, 2017

by Richard Hamer

Thor: Ragnarok, the third in Marvel Studio’s Thor franchise, is a stylistic departure, and somewhat of a soft reboot: Much of the supporting cast are jettisoned, alongside about a third of Chris Hemsworth’s hair, in a movie that shoots for a far leaner, lighter, comedic tone.

Thor (Hemsworth) returns home to Asgard to find it under threat from the evil Hela (Cate Blanchett), a powerful Goddess of Death who draws her strength from Asgard itself. In the ensuing fight, Thor is defeated, and finds himself stranded on an alien world, forced to take part in the gladiatorial games of the deranged Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).

Thor: Ragnarok is fantastic. A big part of its success comes down to director Taika Waititi, known for his work on New Zealand comedies including Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows and Flight of the Conchords. And what’s so exciting about Thor: Ragnarok – despite its huge budget, massive cast and overarching trans-media franchise responsibilities – is just how much of a Taika Waititi film this still is: His particular brand of absurd dialogue-based comedy is fully intact, and the cameos from his long-term collaborators will delight.

It’s a promising sign for future Marvel movies. Whatever really happened with the Ant-Man / Edgar Wright fiasco, to an outsider at least it gave the impression that Marvel don’t play nice with directors whose style is a little more… ‘distinct’, and it seemed to be a case of ‘get on brand or get out’. Thor: Ragnarok suggests otherwise: While most definitely a superhero movie, it feels utterly unlike any previous Marvel movie, but it does feel like a Taika Waititi film. It raises hopes that whatever the upcoming Black Panther ends up like, it might at least end up like a Ryan Coogler movie…

In fact, the dullest moments in Thor: Ragnarok come when it’s having to do its big-budget superhero blockbuster duty, setting up its uninteresting backstory, or losing itself in overlong, action set pieces. For all the great work it does, Thor: Ragnarok still doesn’t solve Marvel Studio’s most insistent problem: While it’s always exciting to see how each movie contributes to the expanding universe, the plot of any individual movie is almost always entirely forgettable. This one is no different. Cate Blanchett does better than most as villainess Hela (thanks to an enthusiastically scenery-chewing performance), but sadly – like virtually every other baddie before her – she feels disconnected from the main action, and is cursed with the vaguest of motivations. It’s just impossible to care what Thor: Ragnarok is actually about, and its every attempt to raise the dramatic stakes comes off as awkward and half-baked next to the constant barrage of jokes.

But for once it doesn’t matter what it’s about! Thor: Ragnarok is a comedy triumph; laugh-out-loud funny, and genuinely warm in a way the occasionally snide Guardians of the Galaxy can’t touch. It’s a movie that – from its humour to its music to its wonderful set designs – just exudes joy. You get the impression that this film was a lot of fun to make. It may even be more fun to watch.


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