Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok poster Rating: 8.2/10 (84,431 votes)
Director: Taika Waititi
Writer: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Stan Lee (based on the comics by), Larry Lieber (based on the comics by), Jack Kirby (based on the comics by)
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba
Runtime: 130 min
Rated: PG-13
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Released: 03 Nov 2017
Plot: Imprisoned, the almighty 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 civilization.

Thor has always come across as the weaker of the Marvel film series’.  The first film was well made, but never really demanded a repeat watch.  The second, whilst not as bad as some people will attest, still felt more like a stop gap filler.  You can’t blame the casting for the feeling of nonchalance that the films, so far, have delivered.  Hemsworth is great in the role, and the support cast have always given their all, from Hiddleston as Loki, to Anthony Hopkins as Odin.  But the stories have just felt superfluous, generic, and lacking in anything fantastical or mystical.  In addition they have made the same error that DC made when they adapted Green Lantern – they spent too much time on Earth!  You see, there are enough super-hero films that focus on a threat to Earth, so even though you could argue that it is faithful to the comics to have Thor defending Midgard against some mythical enemy, it has the unfortunate effect of making it seem just a little too…familiar.   Wisely the decision was made for this third film to break away from Midgard, and go ‘cosmic’ with the story – and the end result is a damn sight better as a result.

The film spends the first act tying up some loose ends from the previous film, and returning Thor to Asgard.  There he finds things are not as he left, and pretty soon Hela (Cate Blanchett) arrives to take control of Asgard, and threaten all the kingdoms with her army.  Thor himself finds himself stranded on a remote junk-planet called Sakaar, where he finds himself thrown into gladiatorial combat against…well…an old friend.  Can Thor unite an army to return to Asgard and save his people?

An old friend….

To say the film is immense fun would be an understatement!  Director Taika Waititi, known for comedy dramas such as Hunt for the Wilderpeople and What We Do In The Shadows, definitely had an aim to explore the somewhat sillier side of the character, and the film is funny from the outset.  Thor, who has always been a little naïve and shown some more awkward moments, is really given a lot of great lines, jibes, and clumsy aspects to round him out as more than just a ‘dumb, cocky Asgardian’.  Throughout the film, characters quip and riff on ideas, creating genuine laughs and quotable moments, with even the newer characters getting their moments to impress on the audience.  Amongst those newer additions, Karl Urban as Skurge, Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster, and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie steal any moments they appear on screen (Goldblum in particular just needs to have a wry grin and a raised eyebrow and all focus is on him).   But Waititi himself gets to play with the best new addition to the cast, and one we will apparently see more of in the future, as Korg, a Kronan warrior.

Hi, I’m Korg.

So far, so entertaining, but is it all comedy and no substance?  Far from it!  The comedy serves well to balance against the dark drama of the story.  This is titled Ragnarok, and Hela’s assault on Asgard is chilling indeed.  In addition, the weaving in of elements from the Planet Hulk storyline, to give the mid-point journey part of the film some meat, ensures that there is never any dip in the tale, and there is plenty going on.  The delicate balance of drama, emotion, and comedy is very reminiscent of the Guardians of the Galaxy films, and the franchise is so much better for it.  After all, Asgardians are an alien race, so why not explore the cosmos a little with them?  Even the soundtrack feels a little ‘Guardians-esque’ in style, with Led Zeppelin’s fabulous Immigrant Song being utilised perfectly for battle moments, but a somewhat electro-pop-synth score resonating throughout the film.

This is a film that flies by in run time (130 minutes, but never dragging), and finally gives Thor an identity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  As the end credits finish rolling, the immediate desire is to watch it all again – which is not a feeling that the other two films left in me at all.  Jostling for position in the top three Marvel films to date (Avengers and Guardians for those who are curious – yes, I know Winter Soldier and Civil War are damned good too, but these films are just fun).  Thor: Ragnarok looks amazing, and entertains thoroughly.  Ragnarok may mean the end of Asgard according to myth and legend, but it signals the true start of Thor as a character in his own right.  All of that positive without even mentioning Ruffalo as Hulk (which you just knew was going to be great anyway)!  Just watch the film for yourself, and enjoy.

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