Thor Ragnarok movie review: The Gods have been kind to us, it’s one of the best Marvel movies ever made
Director - Taika Waititi
Cast - Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, Anthony Hopkins
Rating - 4.5/5
It is astounding, frankly, that Thor: Ragnarok got made. It’s astounding that presumably thousands of people saw bits and pieces of it during the two odd years they spent in production, and didn’t slip into a full-blown, shrieking panic. It is astounding that at no point did the bosses get a bout of cold feet, and hurriedly pull the plug before too many people noticed.
And it is astounding, but more encouraging really, that somehow Marvel – a studio notorious for the rigidity of its ways – found both the will and the freedom to pay heed to what their audiences had to say, and decide that it is finally time to let their hair down. So Thor, the stoic hero we’ve grown to admire (but crucially, not love) over the course of a half-a-dozen movies, looked himself square in the mirror, sheared away his long locks, smeared his face with some bright war paint, performed a quick wink at his own reflection and strutted into what appears to be an ‘80s discotheque. There, he successfully managed to drown his sorrows in colourful cocktails, and regaled anyone within earshot with tales of adventures past.
And while these adventures have seen deliriously stratospheric highs, the lows have – as lows tend to be – been hellish, like an involuntary chinwag with fire demon Surtur. It’s no secret that – even among Marvel apologists – Thor: The Dark World is the series’, and the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe’s weakest film. Even its director, Alan Taylor, has since come out and publicly voiced his dissatisfaction with the final film – he didn’t own up to it, but instead pointed the blame squarely in Marvel’s direction, accusing them of redressing his film beyond recognition.
But with Ragnarok, not only has Marvel learnt its lesson, but in a fit of underdog ambition, they’ve produced a movie that eclipses some of this iconic franchise’s best works. Everything from the font used in the titles, to the synth-infused rock opera score by Mark Mothersbaugh, to the gloriously retro set design and visuals clearly inspired by the art of Jack Kirby, there is no Marvel movie quite like it, and there is no Marvel superhero who has starred in such a disconnected, and seemingly spontaneous series of films. Each of his solo outings – Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean first movie, Alan Taylor’s blatant Game of Thrones ripoff, and the live-action cartoon that is Ragnarok – feels like it is aggressively distancing itself from the others, like a brother scorned.
It is my theory – supported by much smarter minds – that the best Marvel movies are the ones in which the directors are (mostly) left to their own devises. Which is why to this day, Iron Man 3, the two Guardians of the Galaxy films, and the first Avengers stand proudly apart from the rest - which has, unfortunately, congealed into one giant spandex mess.
With a great bellow (and a cheeky nudge), Thor: Ragnarok earns its place among those movies, and maybe even a notch or two above them.
And to express our eternal gratitude, we can all kneel at the feet of director Taika Waititi and pledge our undying allegiance to his genius. As charming as Chris Hemsworth is in the title role, a scoundrel cousin to the versions of Thor he’s played before, and as venomously over-the-top Cate Blanchett is as Hela, the Goddess of Death; Taika Waititi is the star of the show. He’s the man who brought this almost cartoonish, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe vision to a series desperately in need of retooling, and he’s the man who had the courage to see it through. It’s heartwarming to see the darling of New Zealand’s indie scene take on such an immense behemoth and emerge victorious.
You will notice that I’ve been rather cagey about revealing too much about the plot. There’s a reason: The surprises are truly marvellous, and Waititi keeps them coming at surprising regularity. Experiencing them for the first time is, as you’d expect, a special feeling. So you’re better off not knowing.
We can, however, come to an agreement of sorts. For instance, there’s no harm in knowing that Thor: Ragnarok answers all your questions about Thor and Hulk’s absence in Captain America: Civil War. Knowing that it’s a quirky cosmic road-trip comedy (emphasis on the comedy) featuring an entourage of colourful supporting characters like Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, Mark Ruffalo’s The Incredible Hulk, and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki – because “Of course it was Loki,” as Neil Gaiman once wrote, “It’s always Loki” – won’t affect your viewing experience in the least.
And it would probably be best if you were to prepare yourself in advance for a couple of scene-stealing performances: Jeff Goldblum at his most Jeff Goldblumiest as the Grandmaster, and Taika Waititi (he’s everywhere) as a mild-mannered rock monster prone to stating the obvious.
But that’s about as much as you need to know.
I loved Thor: Ragnarok. Loved, loved, loved it. Loved every glittery moment of it, loved that big, goofy smile permanently plastered on its face, loved every dumb joke it insisted on making, and loved the unabashed sense of joy it left behind. End times might well be headed our way, and as always, we turn to the movies for escape. Thor: Ragnarok is our saviour. Because that’s what a hero does.
Watch the Thor: Ragnarok trailer here
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