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Thor: Ragnarok - Review

Thor Ragnarok

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

THUS far, the Thor franchise has been one of the weakest of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. The original was flawed but mostly fun, the sequel dark and largely tedious.

With this third entry, the decision has been taken to go for all out fun and, thanks to the presence of New Zealander director Taika Waititi, emerges as one of the best films in the MCU. Shot through with self-deprecating wit, slapstick [and knockabout] humour and all kinds of eccentric characters and elements, Thor: Ragnarok feels fresh, exciting and hugely entertaining.

Waititi, who cut his teeth on much smaller movies like the much loved Hunt For The Wilderpeople and vampire spoof What We Do in the Shadows, seems to have been allowed to plant his signature firmly on Thor’s world and does so with gleeful abandon.

Hence, while certain comic book genre traits remain intact, such as the need to save a world (in this case, Asgard) and include several superhero smack-downs, Ragnarok delivers them in a way that feels fresh and innovative.

The plot finds Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returning to Asgard to find a new threat posed by Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, who also happens to be the sister he never knew existed. Within moments of reuniting with both Hela and the continually mischievous Loki (Tom Hiddleston), however, Thor finds himself thrust across the other side of the universe and onto a planet ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who swiftly sentences Thor to gladiatorial combat for his own amusement.

Thor must subsequently survive the arena (and a battle with old friend Hulk, once again played by Mark Ruffalo) before summoning his own army and returning to Asgard to defeat Hela.

The ensuing action-adventure is a lively romp, more reminiscent of Guardians of the Galaxy with elements of Flash Gordon thrown in, rather than anything we’ve come to expect from a Thor film so far.

By keeping in-line with Waititi’s offbeat sensibilities, Ragnarok has a very distinct identity that maintains Marvel’s track record for trying to mix up genres with each of its stand-alone character films.

On this occasion, it’s a vast space opera that goes for the bombastic rather than the sedate. Every scene feels big, every character quirky but interesting in some way. And it’s shot through with snappy one-liners and laugh-out loud pratfalls.

Thor himself, expertly played by Hemsworth, is a self-deprecating delight, a muscular hero not averse to the odd moment of buffoonery and self-doubt. His story arc in this one is actually greater than the breezy nature of it suggests, another juggling act that Waititi perfects almost effortlessly.

Thor Ragnarok

But there’s room for other character progressions, too, with Hiddleston on a different kind of scene-stealing form as Loki, trading past foreboding angst and treachery for something altogether more comedic without losing any of those defining characteristics, and Ruffalo also allowed to examine the tussle between Hulk and Bruce Banner with comedic verve.

Of the newcomers, Blanchett’s Hela is suitably foreboding but also prone to the odd witty put-down; Goldblum’s Grandmaster is a veritable treasure trove of the actor’s sublime eccentricities, and Tessa Thompson makes a big impression as a Valkyrie in hiding, who similarly gets to mix muscular physicality with comic vulnerability.

But it’s Waititi’s own blue monster creation, a fellow Gladiator named Korg, who walks away with the film’s best lines, and who looks destined for the same kind of cult, T-shirt adorning appeal as Groot.

The various worlds that Thor explores are vividly realised and alive with colour, while the set pieces are brilliantly orchestrated to combine yet more humour with the customary spectacle. An opening duel between Thor and a demon sets the standard that Waititi maintains throughout – going big without ever feeling overdone and always managing to inject something fresh rather than feeling repetitive.

It’ll be interesting to see whether all comic book fans will take to the film’s tone, with those who prefer their films to come with a certain amount of darkness certain to be disappointed.

But in the interests of keeping a crowded [and arguably over-populated] genre feeling fresh and capable of surprising, Marvel and Waititi have delivered their own hammer blow to anyone who thinks such films are too formulaic.

Thor: Ragnarok is an absolute blast… a genuine cinematic treat, deserving of a big screen experience, that leaves you in a good mood from start to finish.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 2hrs 10mins
UK Release Date: October 24, 2017