Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself imprisoned on the far side of the galaxy and faces a gladiator battle with the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) in order to win his freedom. Meanwhile, his home world and the entire Asgardian civilization are under threat from the Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett).
Thor: Ragnarok is the seventeenth entry in the nine-year-old Marvel Cinematic Universe. Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, the series has become a pop culture juggernaut, taking over $12 billion at the worldwide box-office and receiving consistent critical praise. There has, however, been a few missteps along the way. Lacking the panache of the Iron Man series and the thrills of the Captain America trilogy, the two preceding Thor films have been the weak link in the Marvel canon.
While Kenneth Branagh’s original was a decent introduction to the character, its sequel The Dark World was a tedious mess and contained the franchise’s weakest villain in Christopher Eccleston’s Malekith.
Whereas Branagh attempted to channel Shakespeare and Alan Taylor’s sequel was strangely dark, Hunt for the Wilderpeople director Taika Waititi has found the perfect tone and style for Thor and his universe. By embracing a 1980s sci-fi aesthetic and treating Ragnarok as a Midnight Run-esque romp, he has created a film that is incredibly funny, fast-paced and as entertaining as any of its MCU predecessors.
Continuing Marvel’s effective trend of hiring indie directors with a background of low budget filmmaking, Waititi excels with the film’s band of eclectic characters and handles the action with aplomb, especially the two set pieces which bookend the film – both set to Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, which caused such excitement in the trailer. Though the hackneyed Marvel trademarks are frequent and notable, the New Zealander has been given the freedom to make a film that is distinctively his, which is all the better for it.
Even though much of the film’s success can be credited to the direction, its cast is just as vital.
Series newcomers Tessa Thompson and Jeff Goldblum thrive in their supporting roles, while Chris Hemsworth’s excellent comic timing, which had been criminally underused in his two previous solo films, comes to the fore. Superb in Ron Howard’s Rush and In the Heart of the Sea, Hemsworth has proven that there is much more to him as an actor than just his physique. Here, he owns the role. He not only excels in dramatic scenes shared with Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston, but perfects the God of Thunder’s naïve arrogance during his incessant bickering with Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk.
Cate Blanchett is bombastically entertaining as the villainous Hella, but is hampered by a lack of screen time. The abundance of the film’s ensemble cast means that certain characters do struggle to make an impact, although its variety of cameos are very entertaining.
A considerable improvement on the two previous Thor films, Ragnarok is incredibly entertaining, often hilarious, and one of Marvel’s best films to date. The comic-book film is far from dead.