Thor Ragnarok Review – Thunderous Applause For Thor’s Third Outing
Mild spoilers for Thor Ragnarok ahead…
It’s fair to say that Thor’s stand-alone movies haven’t really hit the mark in the same way that say Iron Man did when it launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe or when Captain America: The Winter Soldier altered the state of affairs for the popular superheroes. The first film was a Shakespearean story about gods and their ancient wars but seemed to take itself too seriously while the sequel was a fairly forgettable action film. It was almost as if Marvel were afraid to push the character too far from Earth in order to make him more relatable. Fortunately after the success of Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel seems no longer interested in restraining its more cosmic superheroes as Thor Ragnarok really pushes the character and our perception of him further than before.
Going in to the film most people would recognise that this Thor film would be more light hearted but it is unexpectedly one of the funniest films in the MCU. New Zealand director Taika Waititi is known for his comedic abilities and he turns this Thor film into a really fun rollercoaster of action, one-liners and weird characters while still retaining some of the ingredients needed for a film starring the Asgardian. There are legitimately laugh-out-loud moments throughout the film whether it’s Thor sparring words with his enemies, Hulk’s childish and grumpy lines or the hilariously kooky Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster who is on top form as always. There’s playfulness to Thor and his supporting cast that has been absent from previous films despite the stakes being higher than ever for the fate of Asgard and its inhabitants.
Not only are mundane characters brushed aside (the Warriors Three don’t get much screen time) or made much more fun but new side characters that have a lot more to say and do really flourish. Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk is of course an interesting addition to the mix but Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie holds her own as the warrior that’s fallen off the wagon and the alien Korg, who is voiced by the director, has some of the most hilarious moments in the film. The whole picture does its best to make you laugh and succeeds but at times the jokes are a little too frequent either falling flat or undercutting what should be a more dramatic, suspenseful scene. It’s inescapable that this new tone doesn’t really match up with the previous Thor films or with Thor as a character we’ve come to know but Marvel would be foolish not to take this route with him in the future. Nevertheless, this new direction may be a disappointment to some fans who wanted to see Lady Sif take on a more prominent role (who in fact doesn’t feature at all) or for Idris Elba’s Heimdall to get more screen time. There’s a clear shift away from the Norse warrior bravado in favour of humour for better and worse.
There’s plenty of action to enjoy in the film as Thor’s gladiator arena match with Hulk teased in trailers lives up to its name and a cool opening of Thor taking on a fiery enemy and his minions. All of this action is cut alongside an 80’s soundtrack that furthers the similarities to Guardians of the Galaxy but also gives the film its own distinct flavour. I was impressed how director Waititi managed to juggle the various characters giving each enough time to shine, in particular Thor and Loki’s dynamic, the strongest feature of previous films, which remains intact here. All of this culminates in a final battle with Hela, the Goddess of Death played by Cate Blanchett. She certainly has more charisma and screen presence than Christopher Ecclestone’s villain in Thor: The Dark World but like previous Marvel villains she is very one-dimensional which is again unfortunate even if her quips and nonchalant attitude are in line with the tone of the film.
Another bonus and flaw in Thor Ragnarok is that it doesn’t really have any stakes or impact on the larger universe. This is great for those who weren’t too keen on the previous Thor films and just want a space comedy but it does undercut some of the groundwork Marvel already laid. For example Loki posing as Odin on the throne of Asgard in a post credit teaser is dealt with immediately in the film without any fanfare in what some thought could play a large role in this film and Ragnarok as an event is far less consequential as we were led to believe from the last Avengers film, which was forced upon director Joss Whedon in the first place. Surely there’s plenty of dramatic moments to come in next year’s Infinity War but it’s both exciting and a little sad to see Thor’s most dramatic moments glossed over without any fallout.
Thor Ragnarok stands out as one of the funniest, most entertaining entries in the MCU offering up interesting new characters for Thor to interact with and an exciting new direction for the character. It’s a shame the more dramatic moments are undercut by humour and fail to offer much impact but Thor Ragnarok succeeds regardless through sheer entertainment value.
That was my Thor Ragnarok Review but what did you think of the latest Marvel film?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.