Review: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor: Ragnarok takes itself just as seriously as any movie featuring improbably sculptured people in bawdy costumes doing an unnecessary amount of flipping should; not a whole lot. Director Taika Waititi (Boy, What we do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) cuts through much of the fluff that’s led to so many superhero films ending up as bloated and clunky messes. Instead of delivering the standard world ending doomsday plot and snappy one liners we’ve come to expect, the film is streamlined and loaded with as much action and movement as they could fit in, and whilst it still maintains an undercurrent of self-seriousness it’s bolstered by a generous helping of self-deprecation and satire. It’s a decidedly more humorous and irreverent turn than any of the previous entry into Marvel’s cinematic universe, and seeing it will make you wonder “What took them so long?”
Star Chris Hemsworth (The other Thor movies, you know who he is) comedic chops shine through as he drops the dour performances of the past and dives headfirst into the goofiness of the character. You can tell how much he’s enjoying playing the part that it’s impossible not to get swept up along with him, and the self-awareness goes a long way in making Thor a much more three dimensional character than he’s been in previous films. The rest of the cast keeps up splendidly, with Tessa Thompson (Creed) and Tom Hiddleston (Also from the other Thor movies, and you also know who he is) also turning in great performances. Cate Blanchett’s (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy) turn as the film’s villain is a touch on the overly dramatic side and she isn’t given as much room to breathe, especially juxtaposed with the rest of the cast who just seem to flow more naturally. The undisputed star of the movie however, is Jeff Goldblum (The Fly, Jurassic Park). He is a force of nature whenever he’s on screen, with absolutely flawless comedic timing that easily makes him the funniest part of an already hilarious film.
The tone of the film is built mainly by the humor, and whilst it never truly crosses over into being a satire of the genre it does have fun playing both for and against type when it needs to. The first half of the film is filled to the brim with laughs, but as the story draws in during the second half it loses a touch of it’s comedic steam as it starts to feature some pastiche elements that shake the tongue-in-cheekness, but fortunately it doesn’t last long enough to seriously effect the film overall. Visually it’s a intense and lively affair with focused and steady camera work, embellishment-full costume design, and vibrant colourful landscapes highlighting the well timed and tentatively edited action sequences. The visual effects can be lacking in some parts, with some strangely too-fluid movement giving an inhuman, uncanny valley sheen to some of the more VFX heavy sequences, but the quick pacing means the film doesn’t linger on these too long and prevents the audience’s focus from being lost.
The last superhero film I would have expected to be this humorous would be a Thor film, what with the more paint-by-numbers previous entries and the more harshly toned comics, but it’s a pleasant surprise after the last few Marvel films fell short of expectations. It looks, sounds, and feels exciting, amusing, and most of all refreshing with it’s lively visuals, well blocked action sequences that don’t smother the film, and a comedic style that will no doubt serve to make it one of the more popular entries in the franchise. Thor: Ragnarok understands its audience and their expectations, and does everything ti can to give them what they want and more.