In terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s trilogies, the Thor series always had something lacking that meant it couldn’t quite keep up with the high standards set by Iron Man (not number 2 obviously) and the brilliant Captain America. Who better then to raise the bar with the Thor series than acclaimed comedy director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), who’s outrageous humour and stylistic prowess has taken the films of the God of Thunder to a whole new level of brilliance with his third solo outing; Ragnarok.
A blast inspired by the past
Even from the trailers it was clear this wasn’t going to be a typically dark solo entry into the Marvel Universe, with Waititi’s razor sharp wit clearly on display and the 80’s style synth-fuelled soundtrack accompanied by some retro-looking titles. The Incredible Hulk himself Mark Ruffalo compared Ragnarok to the 1988 classic Midnight Run, and talked of a structure similar to that of a road trip movie, which is evident as Thor’s trip around space finds him visiting some visually astounding locations. The plot follows the return of Thor to Asgard after the events of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron where his brother Loki reigns under the guise of Odin; until the return of Hela, Goddess of Death, who seeks to establish Ragnarok, the destruction of Asgard. Thor’s journey to stop her takes him to the weird and wonderful planet of Sakaar, most notably where Waititi’s wholly unique sense of humour begins to take hold of the film.
With the success of humour based comic-book movies like Guardians of the Galaxy or Deadpool, it’s evident that Waititi has made a film of the same kind of mould, with a shedload of expletives and even a mention of orgies, Ragnarok is wholly unapologetic and an absolute riot from start to finish. Certainly, it’s refreshing to see a film that counteracts not only the DC Universe’s dark and dulcet tones but also Marvel’s attempts to sometimes be too family orientated, with Waititi’s deadpan humour certainly tailored for a more mature audience, which only ceases to make Ragnarok such a fun and well-rounded piece of cinema. Humour aside, Ragnarok easily boasts the best Marvel score outside of Guardians, with it’s 80’s vibe a real treat to the ears that also accompanies some of Marvel’s best visuals to date and some stylish and thrilling action scenes.
If there’s one thing the Marvel Cinematic Universe exceeds at better than any other franchise, it’s their ability to cast the biggest names in their films, and Ragnarok is absolutely no exception. As usual Chris Hemsworth is excellent as Thor, and the new direction he takes as a character in the film gives him a refreshing edge and keeps his character relevant when there’s such a plethora of interesting characters already part of and joining the MCU. Mark Ruffalo, arguably the most talented actor in the MCU besides Downey Jr., thrives as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk and his likability factor further warrants the need for the big green monster to get his own solo outing. The welcome return of Tom Hiddleston as Loki was always going to be a major draw, and as usual he never fails to bring with him some sort of conflict, but his on-screen chemistry with the other cast members, notably Hemsworth, is easily one of the film’s highlights as it has been in the two other previous Thor films.
Valkyrie, played brilliantly by Tessa Thompson, is a solid inclusion to the franchise and the potential romance with Thor plays out subtly, whilst her effortless charm and eye-catching fight scenes make for some of the film’s surprise hits. Jeff Goldblum provides a huge amount of comic relief as the bizarre Grandmaster on Sakaar, who’s odd demeanour and hilarious dialogue allow Goldblum to be as charming as ever. Cate Blanchett is easily the biggest draw in terms of acting however, and she revels in her role as the evil Goddess of Death Hela, just as someone with her outrageous talent would, despite limited character development. Solid background performances from the graceful Anthony Hopkins as well as the effortlessly badass Idris Elba and Karl Urban just help to exhibit the depth of the MCU’s huge pool of talent. Watch out for a tongue in cheek Dr. Strange cameo from Benedict Cumberbatch as well as some other huge names in Hollywood that Waititi has recruited for this film, an even more baffling display of just how influential the MCU really is.
Undoubtedly the best Thor film by a country mile and up there with the best Marvel has to offer, Ragnarok is a unique and riotous addition to the MCU that will surely prove to be one of the year’s biggest surprise hits, with it’s Rotten Tomatoes score the highest of any MCU film ever made. Waititi brings his authentic vision to life with a hilarious and stylish, 80’s inspired take on the God of Thunder, and without his wonderful directorial talents this film could have really fallen flat. It boasts easily one of the MCU’s best ever casts and all the actors thrive in their respective roles, whilst remaining easy on the eyes and ears and exhibiting some quality action scenes. An obvious must watch for any Marvel fan and simply one of the funnest superhero movies ever made, an absolute blast from start to finish, with perhaps the only criticism being Hela’s lack of character development.
Words by Elliott Jones