REVIEW: THOR RAGNAROK
Directed by Taika Waititi
By Christopher Spencer
Directed by Taika Waititi, Thor: Ragnarok stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Karl Urban, with Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins. Hela (Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, has come to take her revenge on the Asgardians after a millennia imprisonment. It is up to Thor (Hemsworth), without Mjolnir, to team up with a distant Hulk (Ruffalo), estranged Loki (Hiddleston) and newcomer Valkyrie (Thompson) to defeat Hela or else they face Ragnarok, the end of all things.
The Thor movies have not been the best Marvel offerings. The first in 2011 was fun but plain and by-the-numbers, while 2013’s Thor: The Dark World was an awkward clash of dark themes and wacky comedy. Hemsworth and the fans too were growing tired of the same-old thing for Thor, so in comes Taika Waititi as director, a kickass crossover with Hulk, and a perfect cast. What we have in Thor: Ragnarok is easily the best Thor movie yet.
This is a comedy for sure, but it’s not a problem. The humour that the cast and crew infuse into this apocalyptic story is frantic, stylistic and fresh for the genre at hand. Waititi has his own comedic chops to show off, as well as some eccentric directorial choices pulling from Flash Gordon, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Led Zeppelin, and still giving his own unique look at themes and action. We have seen Loki, Hulk, Odin and Heimdall all going through the same story beats before, but now they can be more and do more.
It’s not ALL jokes-per-minute, as Waititi does slow at times to reflect on the characters in sweet ways, some ways which I did not expect. There’s a touching revaluation of Thor and Loki’s relationship, Hulk has some reflection on what he left back on Earth, Odin has a quick but frightfully impactful story to tell, and even new characters like Valkyrie, Hela and Skurge (Karl Urban) give effective motivations that make us care for where they’re going, good, bad, or both.
This is a film full of varied and wonderful performances from nearly every actor, fantastic callbacks to the greater MCU, a nice throwback score from Mark Mothersbaugh, solid camerawork from Javier Aguirreasrobe, and just an overall focus on delivering pure entertainment.
The movie is not without flaws, no Marvel movie ever is. Not every character gets their due (the Warriors Three in particular do less than ever before), and the multiple simultaneous subplots can be a little convoluted, especially when we are enjoying a fun scene, then interrupted by generic setup scenes on Asgard.
Thor: Ragnarok really is something different for Marvel. Sure, we have had the cosmic comedy with old-school rock music in the Guardians of the Galaxy films, but the style, direction, performances and themes are unique and keep the 18th Marvel Cinematic Universe movie thoroughly engaging. It really is Taika Waititi playing as much as he wants in the Marvel sandbox, and the result is just pure, wild, and utterly delightful fun.