Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Dir: Taika Waititi
More laugh-out-loud funny and cosmic than ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, this boldly ventures into territory that could very easily have been a huge mistake, though in the capable hands of Taika Waititi the tone and style works and brings a refreshing new vibe to the Thor thread of the MCU.
Facing a formidable threat from Asgard’s past, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) finds himself hammerless and stuck on another planet where he runs into unexpected allies (including Tessa Thompson, Tom Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo), determined to return to mount a defence of his homeworld.
This is the best of the three Thor films. Though I think Kenneth Branagh’s first in the series is a brilliant introduction to the character, this is such fun that it stands out, even from all the MCU films so far. It’s visually spectacular, full of vibrant colour and interesting design, plus genuinely funny throughout. There’s a certain level of melodrama that would not work in most films and would probably be criticised, but in context, it’s a level of theatricality that befits the 80’s space opera that this delights in being.
The cast features a smorgasbord of antipodean actors, many of whom are following Thor’s lead of Asgardians having somewhat ‘British’ accents, while Sakaar-based characters are generally closer to their native accents. The stand-out new character of the film is Korg, voiced by Waitititi. Such an unexpected way to take the character but stands out, can understand maybe a few people will hate it but I loved it more than I can express, some of his dialogue sounds so much like FotC which he directed several episodes. Taika Waititi’s creative ‘voice’ is also very clear even through the mass of studio influences that would’ve had to be taken into consideration. It’s creative, funny, frequently surprising, and it worked for me perfectly though I should have expected that as I am a big fan of the ‘Flight of the Conchords’ TV series.
This clearly has a lot to thank ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ for, if James Gunn hadn’t taken the franchise halfway down the road already this could never have gone as exceptionally far as it does with the humour and cosmic craziness. Many would possibly describe this as ‘odd’ but for me it’s in all the right ways. If this was one of the first Marvel films or the first of the Thor films you might think it was verging on parody, it would look like too much of a joke. When put as it is in the context of an established character who has in the past been a little boring (most especially the second film ‘The Dark World’ being the most snooze-inducing of the MCU) this can be appreciated for what it’s really doing, taking all the fun elements and capitalizing on them, while pointing a finger firmly at everything that’s slightly silly and making fun of it in a way that works.
It’s not going to work for everyone, the shift in tone is so huge, especially for Thor, and this outlandish sense of humour will not work for many, comedy is often like that. I think maybe that’s an issue that will be mitigated by those who struggle with it first time giving the film a second look and potentially enjoying it more when they’re less surprised by it, but it’s a minor worry as it’s done fantastically well with critics and the majority of fans, with solid box-office returns.
There are major events and repercussions in this film to an extent we rarely see in Marvel films, events that will have a lasting effect on characters. I have a strong hunch of how this will feed into the ‘Infinity War’ based on the things I know from the storylines from the comics and if it goes the way I think, this film will be hugely important for the events of the MCU.
I’m sure I say this too often but I’m really looking forward to seeing this again and being able to take in even more of what’s on offer because I enjoyed it at the cinema but was too busy laughing and wondering what clever funny moment was coming to be able to take it all in. Second and third time seeing this I’m almost certain I will love it even more, Waititi’s style is exactly my kind of thing.
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is a standout film of the year, polar opposites from many others in the genre. It may take a few viewings to really let the huge shift in tone settle for some but I’m confident it will and that this will be looked back on as a key film in the MCU, possibly even a hint of what’s to come in the increasingly cosmic Phase Four. Available on home release in the first week of March (I believe) it’s a really enjoyable film even for those who are not MCU fanatics or any who were put off by ‘Thor: The Dark World’.