The Thor movies have never been one of Marvel’s highlights.
Granted, the first Kenneth Branagh-directed film in 2011 was alright, but the second was pretty dreadful and diminished any interest in a follow-up. However, Thor: Ragnarok chose New Zealander Taika Waititi, director of cult hits What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, to take the reigns for this instalment. As a result, it’s vastly different from either previous film, but in a really good way.
Returning to Asgard to find his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) masquerading as their father on the throne, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes him to Earth where a dying Odin (Anthony Hopkins) allows for the escape of his secret first-born Hela (Cate Blanchett) from her imprisonment. As she begins a despotic rule of Asgard, Thor is forced to become a gladiator on a distant planet for a being called the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Running into his old friend Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and an Asgardian warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), he strives to escape and stop Hela.
This movie drops Natalie Portman, Stellan Skarsgård, and Kat Dennings for a much more entertaining and colourful cast of characters. Thor has a more rounded personality in this film, being played with a lot more comedy, yet still retaining his nobility and sense of responsibility.
Hemsworth is very good and charismatic, and Hiddleston is refreshingly downplayed as Loki this time around. I like this version of him: the schemer rather than outright villain ties a lot better into his being the God of Mischief.
That role here is Blanchett’s, and she’s having a lot of fun with an equally entertaining Karl Urban by her side. Goldblum, the quirkiest tyrannical hedonist, is naturally the best part of every scene he’s in.
It’s nice to see Ruffalo again, and it makes sense to team up Thor and Hulk in this movie considering they were the only Avengers left out of Civil War. It also makes for an interesting pairing that hasn’t had a lot of screen-time before. Thompson and Idris Elba are good, and there’s a minor appearance by another significant character in the Marvel universe; not to mention a few surprising cameos early on.
The way Ragnarok (the end-days event of Norse mythology) affects the story is tied into it ultimately being about Thor’s sense of duty. Here he truly comes into his own and feels like the God of Thunder, needed to save his people, and in doing so is forced to make some tough decisions. That kind of drama doesn’t prevent the movie from being really funny though.
There’s a lot of great humour, slapstick, and clever jokes. At times though, it is a little much, transitioning between these fun antics and Hela murdering a lot of people in Asgard. And they play a lot of the same kind of joke too where a seemingly dramatic dialogue, camera, or musical cue is interrupted by a gag. This is not Joss Whedon or James Gunn material.
However, Thor: Ragnarok is still a very entertaining movie. The psychedelic visual aesthetic and action set-pieces are really exhilarating. And it proves there’s no better anthem to set an action scene to than Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song. It goes without saying that this is the best of the Thor movies. It’s not all that special or different for the MCU and isn’t going to be one of their best films. But all it needed to be was really fun, and in that it completely delivered.