- Director Taika Waititi’s style of comedy blends perfectly with Marvel
- Lots of references to excite Marvel fans
- Gorgeously-shot, exciting and varied action
- New characters add a refreshing touch; returning characters are welcome and charismatic as ever
- Funny, crazy, wild ride of non-stop fun
- Up there with some of the best Marvel/ superhero films
After a total of seventeen films in less than ten years, it’s pretty safe to say that Marvel has safely established itself as a popular, successful franchise with its own identity. Known for comedy, references to its other films and comics, and epic, fun action, every Marvel film is at least somewhat enjoyable. However, there are some that peak and can be included in the best Marvel films – and sometimes best films in the superhero genre. Films like this are the first Avengers, The Winter Soldier, Civil War, Guardians of the Galaxy – and also Thor: Ragnarok. Definitely a highlight so far in the Marvel anthology, Thor: Ragnarok is one of the best, delivering everything you want and expect with a little bit more, brimming with fun, personality and action.
Leading on more or less from the last times we saw Thor in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Thor: The Dark World, we catch up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), locked up in a cage whilst he’s been travelling around in search for those pesky and mysterious Infinity Stones. After defeating a demonic creature and escaping the jaws of hell with a dragon hot on his heels in a beautifully-shot, action-packed opening scene, he finds himself back in Asgard and discovers Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been posing as Odin (Anthony Hopkins). After searching New York, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch in a delightfully geeky cameo) redirects them to Norway where they finally find him. Only here they also see the main villain of the film, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who tells them of her destructive plans for Asgard before rushing back there, also managing to throw Loki and Thor off her tracks and strand them on planet Sakaar. It’s here where things get really interesting as Thor needs to build up a team to save Asgard and escape the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), including Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (director Taika Waititi in an extended cameo) and an old ‘friend from work’ – the Incredible Hulk, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo).
Anyone who’s seen director Taika Waititi’s vampire-comedy mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows will likely expect his inimitable and delightful brand of humour to extend to his Marvel entry (perhaps they’ve learned since getting rid of Edgar Wright from Ant-Man). It’s fortunate that he kept his style of comedy as it really delivers and fits in well with the comedic personality that Marvel has crafted itself; some of their best films are also, by no coincidence, also their funniest (something DC fails with) and Waititi has continued this trend, keeping the laughs fresh and genuinely funny. Not that this is a out-and-out comedy – not all the jokes are intended to make you laugh out loud; but they never feel forced and all lend themselves to the personality of the film (and the franchise) and really maximise the fun we have watching the movie. After all, this is a film about a traditional Norse God as a superhero fighting alongside a big, angry, green rage monster – it’s important to have fun with it!
‘Fun’ is certainly one of the best words to describe Thor: Ragnarok and it doesn’t extend to just the laughs. Other enjoyable elements include references to the wider MCU to excite geeks and non-geeks alike. They all fit in well and seamlessly, not a shoehorned, forced reference or cameo; they all seem organic and make sense to the plot. It’s delightful to see Doctor Strange, even just for one scene, and to be able to spy glimpses of the Tesseract and a fake Infinity Gauntlet. These add to the re-watch value in a few years time.
If they wanted they could well have added more characters, but it’s fortunate they didn’t since there’s a decent amount of characters to balance. Like Civil War focuses on Cap, Ragnarok focuses on Thor, meaning we always feel the movie has a clear direction, unlike with Age of Ultron. It’s wonderful to see Marvel being able to balance this well since the big ‘team-up-to-end-all-team-ups’, Avengers: Infinity War, is coming soon. We may not have a group like the Avengers, or a whole ensemble like in Civil War, and the ‘Revengers’ certainly don’t rival those lovable Guardians of the Galaxy, but the final group of Thor, Loki, Hulk, Valkyrie, Korg and Heimdall all grouped together in an awesome finale can’t fail to put a smile on any fan’s face.
In fact this finale stands out as one of the greatest Marvel films so far – certainly better than the other 2017 entries Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming. This is less generic, and not just a one-on-one punch up with the hero vs the villain throwing each other through buildings and destroying a city, explosions surrounding them. Yes, this still happens towards the end of the the finale, but it’s not the focus; rather the focus is the battle between the ‘Revengers’ and Hela and her army. We get a well-rounded fight incorporating all the characters in a fun, epic and action-packed montage.
This crazy, kinetic action really does extend to the whole of the film, from beginning to end, each sequence excellently choreographed. It doesn’t shy away from its roots from comics as some of the fights are just as delightfully eccentric and over-the-top. Still they never cease to entertain and, more than that, some are just stunning to behold; the flashback to Valkyrie battling Hela the first time, her army atop a hoard of winged horses soaring through an orange sky only to be cut down by swords and spikes flying towards them in slow-motion. These are gorgeous scenes and Waititi and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe should be proud; the beauty of some of Zack Snyder’s superhero moments, but in a good film with much more personality.
Most of this movie’s joy lies in its characters though; at the end of the day, it might be funny and the action might look cool, but if we don’t love the characters, we won’t love the film. Back again we get the usual ensemble of returning characters – Thor, Loki, Odin and Heimdall. All are as regal, fun and charismatic as ever, Hemsworth and Hiddleston in particular, their chemistry a particular highlight; it’s wonderful to see these actors develop their characters over the last few films into lovable parts in a franchise full of heroes we already love. I feel Hopkins deserved a little more screentime and a chance to get more emotional, but, ever the professional, he makes the most with what he has (and is exceptionally good as Loki pretending to be Odin). Returning characters from elsewhere in the MCU Doctor Strange and Hulk also add to the delightful ensemble; it’s nice to see Strange solidifying his presence in the franchise after just one film (particularly when comparing to Tony Stark having been in six so far, not including post-credit cameos). It’s a relief too to finally give Hulk a decent amount of screentime and for us to get to know him as opposed to just Banner; they’re two distinct characters within each other and it’s about time we get to see more of everyone’s favourite rage monster.
The new characters introduced in this film are all excellent worthy additions to the Marvel roster and bring a refreshing touch with them. Tessa Thompson is excellent and charismatic as kick-ass female hero Valkyrie, able to confidently stand among Thor, Hulk and Loki. Korg may not be quite the same character he is in the comics, but Waititi takes this part (who wouldn’t give themselves a minor role in the MCU if they can?!) and really makes it his own, saving lots of the quirky laughs for himself. Cate Blanchett too is a particularly fantastic villain, sure to stand amongst the best Marvel villains so far, heads and shoulders above the likes of Malekith and Ronan. She’s less generic, less monologue-y and never boring; able to kick ass and be just as evilly sexy as Helena Bonham-Carter was as Bellatrix (or is that just me…?). And of course there’s Jeff Goldblum who’s as Jeff Goldblum as he’s ever been – who doesn’t love that?!
Thor proves himself to be the God of Thunder and Thor: Ragnarok proves itself to be one of the Gods of Marvel, standing proud amongst the best so far. The whole movie’s an absolute blast, packed with references, gorgeous action and more genuine laughs than most comedies. An excellent film to round off Marvel in 2017 – let’s hope Black Panther keeps up this level of excellence.