Victoria Brown, Arts and Entertainment’s Co-Editor.
This is, hands down, my favourite Marvel movie so far. It’s camp, quirky, laugh-out-loud funny, and it’s engaging enough to hold your attention in both the comedic and serious scenes. However, it will almost definitely divide audiences. I urge anyone who sees this to take it for what it is; it is not meant to be serious.
There seems to be a general consensus among Marvel fans that Iron Man 3 (Shane Black, 2013) is the best film of the mega-franchise so far, with ‘stand-alone’ Antman (Peyton Reed, 2015) coming in as a close second. Yeah, Iron Man 3 was good, but it wasn’t any different to every other Marvel film. Thor: Ragnarok is different, and that is was makes it so damn entertaining. Any Marvel fan knows that the third instalment of each hero’s individual arc is the best, since all the necessary set ups and character developments have been completed. The third film grants the filmmakers a greater creative freedom. The same can be said for Thor. Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011) was the heavily Norse-based set up, Thor: The Dark World (Alan Taylor, 2013) built on both the expansion of the mega-narrative (the inclusion of the Aether Infinity Stone) and Thor’s character development (especially his relationship with brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Neither Thor (Chris Hemsworth) nor Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) were featured in Captain America: Civil War (Joe and Anthony Russo, 2016), much to my own dismay. So all that was required of this film in regards to the meta-narrative, was to explain why Thor and Hulk were absent. And man, do we get a hell of an explanation.
Set after Avengers: Age of Ultron (Joss Whedon, 2015), Thor, the God of Thunder, must save Asgard from Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, his estranged sister who was banished by their father for her insatiable blood-lust. The film had the potential to be a serious, almost like an Ancient Greek story of war and sibling-hood, but what we get is a camp buddy movie that is an unprecedented sensory delight. The film opens with Thor trapped in a cage in a fiery cave, filling the audience in on his search for the Infinity Stones in a “previously on” sitcom style, which perfectly sets up the tone for the remainder of the film. Thor: Ragnarok’s director is new cult legend Taika Waititi, who rose to fame in 2014 with his quirky mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. Fans were initially apprehensive about the studious decision to hire him, but I think he pulled it off.
Thor is much funnier in this film, moving away from the stoic Norseman we’re so used to seeing. Tom Hiddleston has returned as Loki, whose performance is not only funny but exceedingly charming and clever. There are new newcomers to the franchise: Tessa Thompson, who plays the alcoholic Valkyrie, more than holds her own in her scenes opposite her bigger co-stars. This bisexual character is a tough-talking warrior, and her friendship with The Hulk is as endearing as it is amusing. We are also granted a fantastic performance from Jeff Goldblum. He owns this role as The Grandmaster. Sauntering around with blue mascara and a kitschy 1970’s alien overlord costume, he is droll, intellectually detached, and wonderfully sadistic in much the same way as a teenage girl. The most colourful scenes take place on Goldblum’s planet, and I cannot explain what a delight it is to watch. Cinematographer, Javier Aguirresacrobe and Production Designer, Dan Hennah used inspiration from camp television like Adam West’s Batman, and pop-art comic books to create the oversaturated world of The Grandmaster.
The standout performances for me are from Mark Ruffalo and Cate Blanchett. Ruffalo’s Hulk is more articulate than the previous films, which builds on Banner’s internal struggle with his ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality problem. It begs the question of who is at the wheel: Hulk or Banner? The juxtaposition of the separate personalities is executed wonderfully by Ruffalo, and both personalities bounce off Thor in hilarious, but personality-appropriate ways.
Cate Blanchett’s performance is fantastically wicked. This film isn’t so much about the sophistication of its plot but about its performances, and Blanchett’s scenes steal the show. Standing in stark opposition to The Grandmaster’s camp planet, Blanchett takes over Asgard in Thor’s absence in a psychotic, all-consuming warlord way. Her husky voice spills heavy threats, and her green and black costume oozes power. Before she attacks she sprouts antlers, which are not only threatening due to their sharpness and sheer size, but in mythology stags are understood to be the king of the forest, so perhaps this was the costume designer’s subtle way of presenting Hela’s position as the rightful heir to Asgard. But just because you’re the ‘rightful’ heir, does that make you the ‘right’ ruler? Certainly not. Finally accepting his role as Asgard’s protector in a selfless way, Thor’s arc in this film concludes with an amazing show of his true powers. I will not go into detail because I don’t want to rob you of the experience, but I will say that I was cheering so damn loudly in my head that I had to mentally slap myself to return to the on-screen action.
Overall, Thor: Ragnarok is a funny, quirky and deliciously camp. It’s unlike any Marvel film we’ve had before, and I’m glad. Oh, and one last thing; the music is on point. Lose yourself in the rock-opera soundtrack, and enjoy this spectacle of colour and character.
Director: Taika Waititi.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston and Cate Blanchett.
Runtime: 2h 10m