Film Review – 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

 

SYNOPSIS

Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilisation.

After the Battle of Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor is set to gather information and discover the Infinity Stones, upon which he learns from the fire demon Surtur that Odin is missing from Asgard which has let the paradise open to attack from the coming prophecy known as Ragnarok, the foretold end of Asgard. Soon the Goddess of Death, Hela, arrives on the scene and whilst imprisoned on a planet called Sakaar, Thor is in a race against time to band together some new and familiar faces to save Asgard from Hela and Ragnarok.

Nine years on from the birth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we arrive at the seventeenth installment in the franchise and the third installment in the Thor films, Thor: Ragnarok. Here we find out what Thor has been up to since we last saw him on the big screen in Avengers: Age of Ultron back in 2015, as he searches for the Infinity Stones but returns to Asgard once he learns that Odin is missing. As soon as he discovers the reason behind Odin’s disappearance, he encounters Hela, the Goddess of Death, and their battle leads to Thor landing and being imprisoned on a planet known as Sakaar. Whilst being forced to compete in the gladiatorial known as the Contest of Champions, Thor must band together a few new and familiar faces to return back to Asgard to stop Hela’s reign of terror and prevent the prophecy known as Ragnarok, the foretold end of Asgard.

 

The film is directed by Kiwi director Taika Waititi, whose directed comedies such as What We Do In The Shadows and The Hunt For The Wilderpeople and for fans of his that were worried that his style of comedy would be few and far between in a Marvel film needn’t worry as this definitely feels more in tone of a Waititi film with a Marvel canvas. So in that regard, this film places emphasis on the fun side of things and especially when it comes to the middle act, it’s at its strongest when the Hulk is introduced to the silly madness that exists on Sakaar. It’s worth noting that it could be argued that Thor: Ragnarok may have the best Production and Costume Design in an MCU film to date, with Sakaar bursting with colourful sets in the Grandmaster’s chambers, to the people’s love for Hulk and the overall world itself. The special effects when it comes to the fight sequence between Thor and Hulk, Hela’s attack on Asgard and the final act I thought was very well handled and the new wave/synthpop score from Mark Mothersbaugh (aka Devo band member) works well with the tone of the film. It’s well known when it comes to appearances in comedy films, whether they be good or bad, Chris Hemsworth has a knack for delivering some laughs and here the shackles are unleashed in that regard for Thor to not only give a solid performance when it comes to the action, but also show his comedic side as well, from his interaction with Surtur in the films opening, to his interactions with a talkative Hulk. Mark Ruffalo gets to have more of a ball as a confused Bruce Banner whose been in Hulk mode for the last two years, while Tom Hiddleston remains his mischievous self as Loki. In terms of new characters, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is one of the strongest highlights of the film as her character arc is well fleshed out as we learn of her past and eventful acceptance of who she really is. The other new character that’ll win some fans hearts is Thor’s fellow gladiator in the Contest of Champions known as Korg, voiced by Taika Waititi.

 

While it’s all good for the film to have some fun, for me the road trip comedy vibe doesn’t gel with the apocalyptic epic that you would be hoping for. We’re seventeen films into the universe and while some people may hope for Marvel Studios to play it seriously throughout (i.e look at the Avengers: Age of Ultron trailers leading up to the film’s release) but there’s no point in changing the formula of a tone that works with the general audience. There are a few scenes here that should have emotional weight but I feel like we’re not given enough time to soak it in before the next joke/slapstick bit of comedy is thrown at the audience. The film feels like it’s in a rush to wrap up the cliffhanger from Thor: The Dark World, leading to Anthony Hopkins’ Odin whose appearance is abruptly too short for my liking, and to introduce Hela in a quick burst of exposition and then we eventually get to settle the pace down once we get to Sakaar. Speaking of Hela, while I did enjoy Cate Blanchett’s performance of the Goddess of Death, her character is rather short-changed in the development stakes and it feels the story is more focused on the Thor/Loki/Hulk/Valkyrie journey so much that her scenes feel more of a hindrance to the flow of the film. Hell, Karl Urban’s Skurge had more of a memorable arc journey than Hela and even Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster, I felt, seemed to make more of an impression due to the fact that it was Jeff being allowed to be at his Goldblumiest but yet when I think about the character I can’t help but find him….somewhat pointless. There was a rich backstory to tackle with Hela and while we get a brief glimpse of that through another character, I think they spend too much time on Sakaar for the buddy comedy rather than create an epic spectacle.

 

VERDICT

Thor: Ragnarok embraces the fun on its sleeve and depending on what you are hoping for going in to see this film, Waititi’s sense of humour could suit your taste and you’ll be knocked out by this third Thor installment. I went in with the mindset of getting an epic spectacle and I feel the film falls too much on the comedic side and felt it should’ve developed more on Hela’s backstory/character. The cast have terrific chemistry together however and seem to be having a blast being allowed to improvise the majority of their scenes, Hemsworth especially. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie for me was the standout new character introduced in this film.  6/10

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