Film review: “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

“Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)

Action

3-stars

Written by: Eric Pearson

Directed by: Taika Waititi

Featuring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, and Anthony Hopkins

Thor:I don’t hang with the Avengers anymore. It all got too corporate.”

Well its here the third Marvel film to be released this year after “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017) and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) – also a Sony pictures film – which sees the return of not only Thor, but Hulk (both last seen in “Avengers: Age of Ultron”) as well as Loki, Odin and Heimdall. It also sees the introduction of a few new characters from the Thor comics such as Executioner, Valkyrie, Hela and Surtur. Its great to see some deep cuts from the Thor side of things, as well as some storylines from the Hulk comics – it became obvious from the last two Thor films that it was difficult to carry the weight of an entire film by himself, so Hulk has been imported to share the load, which works a treat, and may in facy be down to the fact that Mark Ruffalo is such a great actor, making any movie he better.

The other thing that has been done is to bring in New Zealand director, Taika Waititi, to punch up the feel of the visuals as well as making this franchise viable after the critical drubbing of “Thor: The Dark World” (2013) – directed by Alan Taylor who while being one of the great television director’s seems to have been revealed as a mediocre film director at best. Waititi has gone for it in the comedy department, possibly a little too funny in my mind which eschews drama for broad comedy – I like humour but this was possibly a little to much for my tastes.

Four years after the events of Thor: The Dark World, and two years after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor, held captive on the planet Sakaar without his hammer Mjolnir, must win a gladiatorial duel against an old friend—the Hulk—in order to return to Asgard in time to stop the villainous Hela and the impending Ragnarök, the end of all Asgardian civilization.

For those of you who know about the success of the Marvel films this is going to be another win for them as well as their parent Disney – who at this point seem to own the super hero genre hands down – any real competition has by now been left in the dust. It may be hard to believe but this is the seventeenth entry into the MCU, as well as being in their Phase Three segment of this ongoing Universe which shows no sign of stopping now. After a strong start with director Kenneth Branagh in the first “Thor” (2010), a minor dip with its sequel, it was with hope that when Taika Waititi was brought on as director this new film would have its own style – the good news is that is does, but it may not please everyone.

While not completely original this movie has taken a cue from the 1980s, which may seem like it has jumped on the bandwagon of recent hits like “Stranger Things” (2016-2017) as well as the monster hit “IT” (2017). Of course it would reductive to say that, as “Thor: Ragnarok” (2017) was in production before those were released, so I think we can put that down to good timing as well as Waititi’s own unique style which in the past has been referential of that decade. The good news is that like those other shows it succeeds not only with its look but the music is a step away from the tried and true Marvel composers as well which works wonders for this film.

As with many comic book based movies from major studios the cast is always something to behold, “Thor: Ragnarok” is no different with the already staple cast being added to with Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban and Jeff Goldblum all making appearances as major Marvel characters, almost all exclusively from the Thor comic canon. There really is not much more to say other than that all of these wonderful actors get to touch on their comedic sides more than they have in their past, more than you may think in a Marvel film to date, even taking into account the comedic relief in the previous two ‘Guardians’ films. This comedic element has been lacking in the previous two Thor films but is not absent in runs of the comic. In fact it was the great Walt Simonson who was responsible for humor in Thor, one of his best stories was our titular hero being turned into a frog – something I would love to see in the movies. As for our regular cast headed by Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston who now inhabit their roles like second skins excel here in the time they spend together – these Thor films as well as the other movies they appear in together are all the best when the chemistry they have is ignited onscreen – one of the reasons I like the Thor films is just to watch these two together.

Of course this movie has a prime mover in the form of director Taika Waititi who since production was announced has been the star of this installment. Ever since the one, two punch of “What We Do in the Shadows” (2014) and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (2016) he has obviously been on Hollywood radars but I do not think many would have thought his Hollywood debut would have been a Marvel movie, certainly not Thor. But trust the man to see the opportunity in this project, grabbing the reins and creating the probably the most original Marvel movie in some time – yes I am including ‘Guardians’ here, that was an easy sell particularly when you are starting from scratch. Here Waititi has to take an existing franchise and take a sharp left turn, the success or failure was always his – to his credit this road movie works – it takes two of the most popular storylines from both Hulk and Thor, crosses it with “Easy Rider” (1969) and produces something really cool.

There is much more that could be said but I don’t want to spoil anything but there is one more aspect of the film that has to be talked about and that is the soundtrack by DEVO front man Mark Mothersbaugh. Mothersbaugh who has been contributing to soundtracks and writing music for decades here is given free reign to create music that would suit the 80s vibe Waititi was going for, succeeding beyond any other 80s era like music anyone has produced for other shows that are set in the same time period.

The film is not perfect, it spends far too long with other secondary as well as tertiary characters, as well as introducing a few too many new ones as well. I am not sold on Cate Blanchett as ‘Hela’ as well as her actually fighting hand to hand with the titular hero – this is something that would never have happened in the comics. I am also not a fan of the dispatching of major charters from the previous two films in off handed and frankly in a lazy manner. Some of the beats could have been handled better but this may be down to Waititi’s lack of experience in a movie of this size.

If you are a Marvel devotee you will love this movie for everything that is offers, there is more to like from Ruffalo’s Hulk, never looking better, way more fun and a touch more vocal. The new cast are all great with the returning players obviously not tired of their own roles. If you are a casual fan or first timer this is a good movie to watch as it doesn’t really matter if you have not seen the previous movies. This is a humorous thrill ride through a number of planets, a lot of action with a major amount of humor, I recommend but you may be confused as to what movie this is!

“Thor: Ragnarok” (2017) is out now only in cinemas.

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