I really didn’t expect Thor: Ragnarok to be as good as it was. The first two standalone Thor films were pretty underwhelming, though that could be the flip-side of recency bias in the case of The Dark World. It was a mess, and not a particularly fun one. Thor the character has always made a bit more sense next to his super peers, and he’s in good company for his third solo outing, bouncing off of the Hulk, often in a rather literal sense.
Thor: Ragnarok is a continuation of the more humorous vein mined initially by Guardians of the Galaxy, and another fine example of Marvel execs getting their director choices spot on. As we both note in the video, Thor: Ragnarok has the pleasant warm feeling of the familiar, but laced with refreshing comedic subversion. It has proven to be a sublime mix of the ridiculous and the prosaic.
This is Taika Waititi’s forte. Anyone who has seen the brilliant What We Do In The Shadows will be right at home with the near-deadpan one-liners, and the mild-mannered humour to be found here. Thor has always been a larger than life character, and Hemsworth’s exaggerated performance is balanced out by the fact that everything in this film is turned up to eleven. His verbal sparring with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is as enjoyable as ever, but it is outshone (perhaps due to repetition at this point) by the bromance between Thor and Hulk. And then there’s Jeff Goldblum, who steals every scene that he’s in.
Waititi himself pops up as Korg, a gladiatorial warden made entirely out of stone. It’s his softly-spoken observations and asides that had our cinema audience laughing out loud most of all.
Once again, however, Marvel does a disservice to its villains. Cate Blanchett looks as though she’s having a marvellous time hamming it up as Hela. But the character is underwritten and poorly fleshed out in the script, to the point that it feels like she is something of a missed opportunity. In a parallel universe, perhaps there is a more emotionally resonant version of Thor: Ragnarok that really dives deep into the machinations of the wider Asgardian Royal Family.
It’s not missed, however, on account of this particular film being arguably the most fun Marvel film to date. Instead of taking itself overly seriously, Thor: Ragnarok delivers the very best in big, brash, bold, popcorn entertainment. It’s fresh, funny, and fantastic. And even if it won’t quite stick in the mind in the way that Winter Soldier did (and continues to do) it adds another dimension to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, standing out as a brilliant slice of action-adventuring.
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