The God of Thunder returns for his best solo outing yet in Thor: Ragnarok…
I have to admit I was one of those worried about Thor: Ragnarok before going into see it. I had enjoyed the trailers but the sharp swerve away from the tone of the first two movies to Guardians of the Galaxy-like outer-space comedy in a film that should be about the darkest moment in the God of Thunder’s life made me suspicious. After watching it, though, I can happily say my fears were unfounded and Ragnarok works as a thrilling threequel with lots of spectacle and, yes, humour.
Thor: Ragnarok tackles the rise of Hela, the Asgardian Goddess of Death, as she returns to claim not just her homeworld and its Nine Realms but the entirety of the universe. Without his hammer and trapped on the garbage world of Sakaar, Thor (Chris Hemsworth, in his most enjoyable performance yet) and his friends must return to Asgard and prevent the prophesied destruction of the gods.
I think I enjoy 2011’s Thor and its 2013 sequel The Dark World more than most, but I will admit that they aren’t among the MCU’s very best. Looking at the likes of Guardians, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and so on, it’s clear the best ones have a director with an auteur’s vision behind the camera. Thankfully, Ragnarok has that in Taika Waititi. Lovers of his indie movies What We Do In the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople will know something of what they are in for beforehand and the director marries his usual improv-heavy comedic style with the sort of big, bold space opera that was popular in the 1980s.
The best thing I can say about Thor: Ragnarok is that it has potentially the finest collection of characters of any solo MCU movie so far. That’s a tall order, I know, but the cast is so spot-on and entertaining. At the centre of things, you have the Thor’s “Revengers” – his ragtag team including Loki, Hulk and newcomer Valkyrie. In supporting roles, you have the one and only Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster and Waititi himself as the loveable rock-man Korg, both of whom threaten to steal the film in their own ways. And let’s not forget Cate Blanchett’s Hela. It’s criminal that it took 17 movies for the MCU to give us a female villain but thankfully she is worth the wait.
There are also some fantastic cameos scattered throughout. Highlight the following paragraph for my spoiler-filled chat: Benedict Cumberbatch’s return as Doctor Strange was a lot of fun, even giving us a 10-second meeting between BC and his real-life best pal Tom Hiddleston. Loki’s Asgardian play also had some brilliant cameos. Fake Odin was Jurassic Park‘s Sam Neill, Fake Thor was Chris Hemsworth’s brother Luke and Loki was Matt Damon!
There are some issues, of course – minor faults that crucially don’t harm the overall machine. I enjoyed their performances but Karl Urban (as Hela’s executioner Skurge) and Tessa Thompson’s English accents were distractingly shaky. You won’t miss Jane Foster, Erik Selvig and Darcy, but the Warriors Three sadly get short shrift (and Lady Sif is nowhere to be seen at all). With so many characters and elements, you could argue that the cataclysmic nature of Ragnarok is lost somewhat, but mostly the tone and story is very assured and well-controlled.
For all its flushing away of elements of the first two installments, Thor: Ragnarok actually works really well as a closer to the Thor trilogy. The similarities to the Guardians franchise are very clear, but Waititi has still brought his own vision to the MCU and given us one of the most outright entertaining movies of the whole MCU. It’s bright, bold, funny and thrilling. Previous Thor movies have turned to Shakespeare for inspiration, but this one likes to Ragnarok and roll.
Final Thought: By my reckoning, Thor: Ragnarok makes it five barnstorming successes out of five for the superhero movies released this year. I’m really, really hoping Justice League doesn’t break this winning streak. Thankfully, I’ve really liked what we’ve seen of DC’s team-up movie so far.