FILM REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

The Verse’s Oliver Pendlington reviews Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Film: Thor: Ragnarok
Director: Taika Watiti
Screenplay: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum; Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins
Story: Following the return of powerful Goddess of Death Hela (Blanchett), Thor (Hemsworth) finds himself stranded and powerless on the planet Sakaar. In order to prevent Asgard’s impending destruction, he must first survive a gladiatorial duel against his old friend and fellow Avenger the Hulk (Ruffalo).

The Thor films are generally viewed as among the lesser efforts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And this is partly because of the trickiness of pinning down their style and tone. Thor was too cheesy and not serious enough. While Thor: The Dark World was dramatic, but light on the laughs. It was rather surprising then that Thor: Ragnarok had so much hype attached to it. Happily, the third instalment more than lives up to its hype and is easily the best Thor film. While its overall plot is rather formulaic, it is hilarious and boasts exciting entertainment. It has a style and tone that is only rivalled by the Guardians of the Galaxy films.

A lot of the credit for this goes to Taika Watiti; the brilliant director of What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
With his oddball quirky style, he is probably Marvel’s oddest choice yet to helm a superhero film. Let alone one that packs so much in like Thor: Ragnarok. But even in a film with fire monsters, giant wolves and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch in a welcome cameo), Watiti – who also plays the instantly loveable rock creature Korg – injects it with superb humour and an eye-popping attention to detail. There is rarely a dull moment. Sakaar especially is an artistic triumph, giant rubbish heaps and Jawa-like scavengers surrounding a futuristic and decadent metropolis. Presided over by Jeff Goldblum’s sleazy Grandmaster. The 80’s references are plenty here. One action scene even feels like a video game, complete with rollicking soundtrack.

Because Ragnarok has so much going on, there is admittedly little room for character development. But this is not a bad thing, as the actors are clearly having a great time enough to make their characters likeable. Chris Hemsworth puts in his best and funniest performance as Thor. He also makes a fine double act with Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk (and alter-ego Bruce Banner). The two behave more like frenetic college friends than superheroes. Tom Hiddleston largely plays Loki up for laughs, and Goldblum’s Grandmaster is just Jeff Goldblum being his usual brilliant self. But the stand-out is Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, the former Asgardian who now works for the Grandmaster; a cynical, alcoholic ex-warrior with a tragic past. She is the only character who actually has a proper arc and is proof that Marvel needs more strong heroines within their films.

The only real disappointment lies with the film’s villains. Despite some stunning attire and Cate Blanchett giving a Cruella De Vil-worthy performance, Hela is a fairly under-developed antagonist, who will likely be added to the list of forgettable Marvel villains. Karl Urban’s Skurge can likewise be included. Additionally, the film’s overwhelming humour means that most emotional beats are either very brief, or skimmed over entirely to fit within all the excitement. But other than these flaws, Ragnarok can lay claim to be one of the funniest and enjoyable films of the MCU. And even become one of the franchise’s most treasured.

Rating: 4/5

The Verse Staff

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