Out of all the main heroes within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s pretty fair to say that Thor’s solo movies haven’t caught light like some others had. The first movie was solid, better than expected, mainly thanks to Kenneth Branagh’s direction, the massive scope that was presented, the design of the world and characters, as well as the performances of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. The second movie, The Dark World, however, was not only a massive disappointment, but also it ended up being possibly the worst out of all the movies within the MCU. It felt directionless, the visuals were downgraded, Malekith and the Dark Elves proved to be nothing more than boring villains, Loki was barely in the movie, and the increased involvement of Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings ended up being tooth-gratingly annoying. Thankfully, Thor: Ragnarok proves to be a complete do-over on that particular movie since this takes the mythology of Thor and expands in ways we have never seen before, while also giving Loki more screentime, having a better villain, a better female protagonist, and being completely creative with the worlds presented to us.
After Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor, we now have Taika Waititi taking the helm, which is an unusual choice for Thor, but he manages inject Thor with great kinetic energy and vibrancy that makes this movie stand apart from Thor’s previous appearances. Much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, there are even bold choices and decisions made that changes Thor’s character and his world forever as the movie goes on, and this makes Ragnarok more risky and daring, as opposed to The Dark World which was just filler through and through. After having so many movies in the MCU, Marvel have built up a strong universe, which warrants little references and callbacks to past events and movies that were enjoyable to see here, plus certain locations were brought back from the first two Thor movies giving an excellent sense of visual continuity.
Chris Hemsworth is back as the God of Thunder himself and appears to be having much more fun here than in past appearances, even if some of that OTT dramatic, powerful weight and heft he had before is somewhat diminished here. Yet pairing him up with Hulk is a great idea that pays off as both characters riff off each other well, and Mark Ruffalo adds a good dose of much needed humanity to this bizarre movie of gods and strange alien worlds. Tom Hiddleston is back as Loki and, unlike his role in The Dark World, he’s given a much bigger role here as the reluctant ally to his brother, and it’s always fascinating seeing the two characters shift from antagonistic to brotherly. However, standing out proud and tall is Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, the legendary Asgardian warrior turned hard-drinking right-hand woman for Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster. Valkyrie goes on a huge character arc throughout the film as she’s gradually evolving into someone that can be seen as Thor’s equal and possibly superior, Thompson has a great presence about her that makes her an absolute standout. Also, Goldblum was a riot as the flamboyant Grandmaster, whilst Taika Waititi himself was delightfully charming as the lovable Korg.
As for the big bad, Hela the Goddess of Death, it’s clear that Cate Blanchett is having fun sinking her teeth into such a juicy villainous part whilst also sporting a kickass design very reminiscent of her comic book counterpart, yet she kind of ends up getting underused here; at one key point in the film, she finally gets into a position she always wanted to be in, but doesn’t take full advantage of it thanks to a slight plot contrivance. Speaking of Hela, the whole film revolves around her and the coming of Ragnarok, which is the doom of all things man and god, but that story mostly takes a backseat to the substory that’s taking place at the same time involving Thor on the planet of Sakaar being forced by the Grandmaster to take part in the Contest of Champions against Hulk, taking influence from the classic ‘Planet Hulk’ comic storyline. As a result, this creates some pacing issues similar to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earlier this year, and as serious the oncoming Ragnarok threat is, there is a lot of levity that interferes with some of the more dramatic moments, which kind of spoils the mood it’s presenting.
Thor: Ragnarok is enjoyable, fun romp that is vibrant, kinetic and more than makes up for The Dark World’s missteps, resulting in quite possibly the best standalone Thor movie to date. But a fragmented pace, over reliance on levity, and an underdeveloped villain makes this movie not quite reach the glowing heights of other Marvel movies like Captain America: Civil War or this year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Director: Taika Waititi
Scr: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins
Prd: Kevin Feige
DOP: Javier Aguirresarobe
Music: Mark Mothersbaugh
Run time: 130 mins
Thor: Ragnarok is out now in cinemas.