Thor: Ragnarok – Film Review by David Minogue
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldbulm, Karl Urban, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson
Thor Ragnarok is the seventeenth film within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It follows on two years after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron and four years after Thor: The Dark World. One of the intriguing things about the memorable ending of Thor: The Dark World was the possibilities of what would happen in a third stand-alone Thor film. Thor: Ragnarok definitely answers questions from the previous film but the main thing about this film is the new direction in terms of style, tone and dialogue that the Thor series has gone in. This year has already seen the release of two other films in phase three of the MCU. What was important to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming was how humour played a major part in the telling of the stories. Much of the humour within the first two Thor films and the first Avengers film was expressed through the now iconic portrayal by Tom Hiddleston of Thor’s brother Loki. In this film humour is very much a personality trait in many of the characters especially in Thor himself. Thor: Ragnarok particularly in the first third of the film is more comedy than regular super hero movie. It is very obvious that Marvel took a gamble in selecting Taika Waititi as the person to implement these changes. He brings elements of characterisation from his previous films such as What We Do in The Shadows (2014) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) to the Thor films. The specific sense of humour and likability of various characters in these early films are now part of the tone that he has brought to the MCU.
Apart from one or two scenes in the first half of the film, the dialogue is played almost entirely for laughs. It is common for a Marvel movie to have a funny retort or punchline but here it is almost constant. It is something that is sure to divide fans but may also be part of the hope to attract a new wider audience. The film opens with Thor speaking directly to camera which highlights that this will be a very different film to prior ones. It introduces a brilliant villain in Surtur the monstrous fire demon in his realm in Muspelheim. His fight with Thor is the first of many battles with various villains that feature throughout the film. The main adversary in the film is Hela the Goddess of Death played with wonderful menace by Cate Blanchett. Hela is the first lead female villain in the MCU and it is right that she is played with the conviction that Cate Blanchett does. With Hela being the main nemesis it places Loki somewhere between being good and evil. He features throughout but often feels under-utilised.
One of the main talking points about the publicity for Thor: Ragnarok was the gladiatorial fight between Thor and his fellow avenger Hulk. Their fight is one of the most dynamic sequences in the film but it is one that would have been a brilliant reveal if it had not been in the trailer. Mark Ruffalo as both the Hulk and Bruce Banner has great interactions with Thor. Elements from the Planet Hulk comics were drawn on in the making of Thor: Ragnarok but a stand-alone Hulk film could still be a future success for Marvel. Once Hulk is introduced into the story it quickly becomes an Avengers story. There are as always moments that seem like they are from other films such as the District 9 setting that introduces the new character of Valkyrie. She is played by Tessa Thompson who will be the main breakout star from this film. Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster who pits Thor against the Hulk dominates his scenes as much as Cate Blanchett does in hers as Hela. However, his character is almost too reminiscent of Stanley Tucci’s character Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games.
Thor: Ragnarok is visually stunning throughout as the story interweaves between Asgard and parts of the other realms in the universe. The award-winning production designers Dan Hennah and Ra Vincent create a true tribute to the imagination of Jack Kirby’s artwork in the original Thor comics. At times it looks like a 1970’s rock album come to life but with the style and colour of films like Guardians of the Galaxy firmly connecting it to the MCU aesthetic. Costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo implements a change in costume for Thor but this comes gradually into the arc of the story. The overall theme of Thor: Ragnarok is change and it will be interesting to see how fans embrace the changes in terms of style and tone that the film holds.