Among the indelible qualities the mighty Thor has as a character, his cocky charm is his strength. In three entries in this series, the character has come full circle in what may be his last solo outing. If it is, Taika Waititi has perhaps more so than the other two films, tapped into the energy and that cocky charm of its lead, to point the obvious; this world is silly. In Thor: Ragnarok, an effortlessly cool and action packed trilogy capper, Chris Hemsworth brings the energy, and then some. Mr. Hemsworth and Waititi were born to work on this project together, and Waititi’s eccentric brand of humor and style are felt heavily throughout the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Waititi directs Ragnarok into becoming a satisfying conclusion to the somewhat panned story arch of Thor in the MCU. The film finds Thor grappling with his return to Asgard spoiled by some unwelcome news. Powerless and imprisoned, he is trapped on the planet Saakar, forced to fight as a gladiator, against none other than the Incredible Hulk. See, told you, it’s silly. But it’s Waititi’s no holds barred approach to tackling the silliness is what makes Ragnarok so effective. To that point, inserting his voice into the film as the character Korg, Waititi injects the thoughts going through everyone’s head while watching these grand spectacles play out. It’s cynical, but a refreshing aspect that I appreciated. To really drive it home, in a perfect amount of screen time, Jeff Goldblum’s character, the Grandmaster, takes on a similar role.
Performances don’t usually stand out in these films. They are, and for good reason, event films. The spectacle and the larger story unfolding is what we are ultimately interested in. It’s why we’ve taken this 18 film journey. With maybe the exception of this years Spider-Man: Homecoming, there hasn’t been better chemistry between the cast of an MCU film of recent memory than Ragnarok. The original Guardians of the Galaxy still finds itself taking top honors there. However, Ragnarok‘s cast is charismatic and features a very fun dynamic that ultimately helps the pacing. We don’t mind, as moviegoers, hanging out for two hours with a group of really fun and engaging characters.
In choosing Waititi, I assume that Marvel knew what they were getting. Fans of his films (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) knew what they in for. As a result, with mr Waititi, the MCU has some of its boldest filmmaking choices yet. The brash, but earnest humor combined with the visual flair of its acclaimed director. The one flaw? Waititi doesn’t reinvent the wheel. These movies still have their formula. That can be a death sentence. Here we are introduced to fairly standard Marvel villain (even with a committed performance by the immensely talented Cate Blanchett), a heroes journey to find the strength within himself and stakes are raised higher for Thor than ever before. You’ve seen it, well 18 times. The repetitive nature of Thor’s journeys does become tiresome three movies in. Take away his powers, in this case his hammer, and you are left with the vulnerable god.
But Marvel, for its formulaic storytelling, always manages to keep things fresh by cleverly working in sub-genres. Even reviewing these films is formulaic to some extent. We can talk about how The Winter Solider (still the best of the MCU) is very much in the vein of 70’s political thrillers, or how Spider-Man: Homecoming is the John Hughes-esque coming of age stories from the 80’s. The fact remains, all of these films manage to always feel fresh, fun and exciting, always finding directors who tell stories, not show the audience two hours of explosions and CGI. Waititi dials it up even further with Ragnarok taking Thor full circle in a surprisingly creative and authentic way.
Of course as the trailers showed you, we get to see talking Hulk, Valkyrie and more from Loki. In the timeline of MCU entries, the film explains Thor and Hulk’s disappearance during the events of Civil War. One of the better storylines that continues to be fleshed out in this series is Bruce Banner’s inner struggle to control the big green guy. It’s a struggle we quite literally in one of the films more powerful dives into the psyche of the character. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), on the other hand, is an exciting new entry into this world, and establishes a deeper backstory surrounding Asgard. In addition, Tom Hiddleston once again is superb as Loki. Blanchett, for all of her commitment to the role, still fits the bill as your standard Marvel villain.
Thor: Ragnarok isn’t the deeply philosophical look into the psyches of superheroes like Civil War. Nor is it the stand-up comedy routine its trailers may have you thinking it is. It is a throughly entertaining, unique comic book film that doesn’t rely on your knowledge of this never ending expansion of the greater Marvel universe. Ragnarok signals another hit for the franchise, and one that dares to be that much more original than previous entries. It’s exactly the refreshing story we need in this universe as it grows towards its own dark conclusion. Kudos to Marvel for getting another superbly talented story teller, and continuing to let them do their thing. Ragnarok is every bit as good as some of its stand-alone predecessors.
Have you seen the film? Comment below and let us know what you thought!
Runtime: 130 minutes
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Taika Waititi