Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – Film Review
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chis Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston
by Roger Crow
Back in 2011, when Kenneth Branagh was making Thor, I was keen to see how he would tackle one of Marvel’s best loved comics characters. The result was a solid blockbuster; a little talky in places, but the movie really came alive when the eponymous character arrived on Earth, fell for boffin Jane Foster and tackled a generic robot destroyer.
It rightly made stars of Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, and paved the way for terrific sequel Thor: The Dark World. Another great mix of fantasy and comedy with Hemsworth and Hiddleston stealing the show again.
So now we catch up with the god of thunder in a movie which throws out the rulebook and starts afresh. There’s no Jane Foster, sexy sidekick Darcy or seasoned boffin Erik Selvig. Most of Thor’s allies are also removed in favour of assorted monsters. This owes more of a debt to Guardians of the Galaxy than the previous Thor movies, and the style change may be deliberate as Marvel preps its biggest film, the two-part Avengers: Infinity War, which will see just about every member of the MCU involved in a smack down with the galactic godfather, Thanos.
Hiring Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows) as director was a stroke of genius. He brings an irreverent tone to the saga which is irresistible. At one point when the brilliant Jeff Goldblum is doing his eccentric bonkers routine as intergalactic villain Grandmaster, I’m laughing so hard I miss about five gags.
Getting rid of Natalie Portman was also a good move. Great actress, but I found her bland in the series. Newcomer Tessa Thompson is a terrific heroine. Smart, funny and lends the saga much needed femininity amid the testosterone. Cate Blanchett also has a great time as the antagonist, and even though her by-the-numbers dispatching of countless Asgardian troops is okay, it’s her bitchy comments that prove more effective. She chews whole chunks of scenery like a ravenous lioness.
And Hemsworth reminds us why he’s far more than just a gobsmacking six pack and set of biceps. His comic skills are excellent. Seeing improv so funny in a film this epic is a welcome breath of fresh air.
There are times when it feels like a couple of other movies. A bit of Lord of the Rings here, Warcraft there. But there’s also plenty of the usual Marvel staples: fight scenes; boss monster; dogfights in funky fighter craft and a lot more. It’s all expertly done and rounds out a great year for comic book movies with Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy: vol 2 fine additions to Marvel’s cinematic universe.
Obviously the presence of Hulk and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is a major selling point (in a storyline inspired by the comic ‘Planet Hulk’), but Taika Waititi’s rocky gladiator Korg steals many of the best scenes. Again, his improv is often side-splitting.
And as usual, stay through those closing credits for an extra scene or two which should keep fans intrigued over Thor’s future. Even if you’re not a fan, there are so many gags here, it’s guaranteed to brighten the bleakest autumnal day.
Good luck topping this Justice League. You’re going to need it.