Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett
In the midst of the Infinity War hysteria and it’s insane run at the box office, a film I’ve now seen three times incidentally, I thought I’d go back and watch the film that interconnects seamlessly into the latter’s tone setting introduction. I am of course talking about last years Thor: Ragnarok. Taiki Waititi starred in one of the worst superhero movies to ever exist in the Green Lantern, but thankfully, there’s no lasting traces of that abomination here.
I’ve had something of a love hate relationship with the Thor ‘trilogy’, I’ve put that in inverted commas because I’m not entirely sure that it is actually a trilogy. The first was an excellent introduction, whilst The Dark World was a particular low point for the Asgardian God of Thunder. I knew weeks in advance of Ragnorak’s release that it was a return to form however. First of all, Waititi’s humour is well renown. Hell, I’ve enjoyed it first hand previously with his other films. Secondly, the rave reviews from early screenings confirming he’d gone and blended said humour into an MCU film all but sold it.
That’s my biggest takeaway from this film. The humour is genuinely laugh out loud funny, the comedic timing is on point and it’s absolutely relentless in its execution throughout.
A funny comic book film without a badass antagonist or intriguing story would only be half a film though, but Mr. Waititi has that covered too. Hela (Cate Blanchett) is a believable, enjoyable and extremely powerful villain. Being the half-sister of both Thor and Loki, and the Goddess of Death puts you pretty damn high up in the badass, MCU villain list. The fact she dispatches of the Warrior Three and casually grabs Mjolnir early on the proceedings and crushes it likes a child’s toy, only serves to further highlight it. Before Odin (Anthony Hopkins) passes on, he reveals her existence to his sons, explaining that his death will release her from imprisonment and sadly for our two favourites he wasn’t lying.
The general gist of the plot is Hela returning, banishing Thor in the process, who ends up on Sakaar, where he’s imprisoned and must find a way to escape in order to defeat his sister and prevent the Ragnarök.
During his little break on Sakaar, Thor is captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a slave trader working for the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who was once a warrior of the Valkyrior. She’s going under an alias and it’s established immediately, despite her early bout of drunkenness, that she’s not to be trifled with. He then meets an old friend in Hulk, though perhaps not in the manner he’d have liked and the pair have a bit of an epic showdown in the gladiatorial setting of the hedonistic Grandmaster’s ‘Contest of Champions’. Thor manages to summon lightning giving him the upper hand, but the fight is rigged and he remains imprisoned in a room with Hulk of all people.
Loki does a Loki. He was sent packing by Hela too, but once again betrays his brother and manages to get on the favourable side of the Grandmaster. This isn’t even the last time he’ll betray Thor in movie, but by god, do I love the guy regardless.
One thing I absolutely loved about this film was the pacing. There’s never a wasted moment and it’s frenetic. From the battle at the start with Surtur all the way through to the finale. If there’s a point when the action looks like it’s stalling on Sakaar then the perspective flips back to Hela on Asgard with her new pet executioner Skurge (Karl Urban). I’ll show some love to the continuing development of Hulk and Bruce Banner’s story too. I recall it being mentioned that his back story would be fleshed out over three non-Hulk centric films and you can definitely see it in Ragnarok. It’s a mostly Hulk affair although Banner pops does up, but it just adds another layer onto the MCU take of the iconic character.
Incidentally; Banner, Thor and Valkyrie end up leaving Sakaar after a combination of moral awakening, the usual gamesmanship and a minor gladiator revolution occur and that sets up the showdown with Hela on Asgard. Loki tries to betray his brother again during this and as a result has to seek alternative transportation with Korg (Taiki Waititi) and the other gladiators, but needless to say the finale is fantastic. There’s various different perspectives and battles taking place synchronously, as Marvel fans have long came to expect now. In the end, Ragnarok, the one thing Thor battled to prevent is exactly what is required to finally prevail against Hela.
Asgard is completely destroyed with presumably Hela too and there’s a short lived happily ever after ending between the two brothers. The end credits scene puts pay to that pretty sharpish.
Until Infinity War, this was by far the best performance I’d seen from Chris Hemsworth as Thor. It had a bit of everything; humour, anguish, arrogance and emotion. It’s been overtaken now, following Infinity War, but I thoroughly enjoyed him in this film. Cate Blanchett was perfectly cast in the role of Hela. She was an incredible and fitting villain. This woman is nearly 50 years old, but certainly doesn’t look it. She was one of my favourite villains to date in the MCU. I loved Mark Ruffalo too. There’s been many a Hulk but he’s my favourite. Hulk had a fair chunk of this film and Mark delivered a brilliant performance as ever.
The other standouts were Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum and Taiki Waititi. Thompson was actually my second favourite performance behind Hemsworth. Those two had great chemistry and I’m looking forward to potentially seeing the two together in future films. Urban didn’t have a huge amount of screen time, but managed to convey the conflict within Skurge perfectly. Goldblum was a real surprise as the Grandmaster and Waititi was by far the funniest character in the film for me. His line at the end had me in stitches.
I usually discuss visuals and the score but you know what you’re getting in a MCU film. The visuals are insanely gorgeous and the score does its job. I’ll not elaborate any further on either.
We Marvel fans have been spoiled rotten over the last ten years with a real litany of consistently brilliant films being released year in, year out. My main question going into seeing this film for the first time last year was whether Taika Waititi could take his unique blend of humour and make it work in this universe and I was delighted to see for myself that he did. It’s the most I’ve laughed in a MCU sense since the first Guardians of the Galaxy came out. It was a real return to form for Thor and had everything I could have wanted. The antogonist was fantastic, the story was enjoyable and it had lots of action. What more could you want?
A highly recommended watch for me.