Now if there was ever a film that was ruined by the trailers, with all the best gems packed into two and a half minutes of promotional footage, Thor: Ragnarok wasn’t it. Though I feared that would be the case as the trailers painted a picture of an amped up, high-stakes, laugh-out-loud adventure, the trailers only hinted at what Thor: Ragnarok had to offer.
Directed by critically acclaimed director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople), Thor: Ragnarok is the latest instalment of the Thor films, which sees our favourite Norse God (Chris Hemsworth) hunting for the elusive Infinity Stones, of which there are six in total. Whoever possesses all six Infinity Stones will wield unprecedented power and knowledge, and Thor’s search for them sets up events for the anticipated Avengers: Infinity War.
After being held captive by the fire demon Surtur (Clancy Brown), who predicts that destruction (or Ragnarok) will rain down on Thor’s home planet, Asgard. The death of Thor’s father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) sets a series of events in motion that turns Surtur’s prophesy into reality, releasing Odin’s firstborn, the bloodthirsty Hela (Cate Blanchett) from her own captivity so she can begin her reign of terror on Asgard. To make matters worse, she destroys Thor’s infamous hammer and casts Thor and his treacherous adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) into space as they attempt to flee to Asgard. Unfortunately for Thor, he crash lands on Sakaar, and is forced to compete in a megalomaniac’s (Jeff Goldblum) gladiator style game.
With Ragnarok being Hemsworth’s third solo outing as Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the visual style, characters, and interweaving storylines in the MCU are all well-established. The cast are clearly loving their roles, and such infectious chemistry and camaraderie is instantly reflected on the screen, almost Avengers-esque in its sense of kinship. Loki’s lies and betrayal pales in comparison to the brotherhood and boyish banter that define Thor and Loki’s relationship, whilst the teasing exchanges between Thor and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) are hilariously reminiscent of brothers bickering.
A lot of the humour quickly stems from excellent comedic timing, which is delivered-to-the-dot. A great example is when Thor is tied up in chains by the demon Surtur, who prophesizes the destruction of Asgard. The film continues to be comedic from scene to scene, although some of it does feel slightly hamfisted and forced, to the extent where it becomes obvious that Thor can’t just replace his hammer at a local B&Q. Even the death of Odin is glossed over, but he is continually depicted as a motivational figure, continuing the trend of a wise, older character such as Dumbledore or Gandalf.
Just as the comedy feels a little feigned in some areas, so is the power and depravity of Hela. I’m sorry but any villain who has to declare “I’m not a Queen, I’m not a monster, I’m the Goddess of Death” is trying a little too hard and, quite frankly, the crown/helmet she sports starts to resemble a messy bird’s nest. The film does, however, successfully portrays its different female characters. From near-naked, Asgardian women who serve as pretty faces to Skurge (Karl Urban), the acting guard of the Bifrost Bridge, the gateway between Earth and Asgard, to the spirited and sassy warrior/bounty hunter, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and the fearsome and formidable villain Hela, all shades of femininity are depicted.
Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t disappoint in the visual effects department with the devastatingly dazzling CGI, with the effects being almost a visual assault. I saw the film in 2D, with the intricate detail of Jeff Goldblum’s The Grandmaster’s palace being superbly presented in all its golden glory. In terms of continuity, Marvel brilliantly develops its expansive universe. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) appears via video link, Tony Stark (Iron Man) is referenced frequently, as The Hulk and Thor fly a ship built by him, and even Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) makes an interesting appearance. It’s interesting in that when Thor crosses paths with the sorcerer, his character appears to have become somewhat cocky as he nonchalantly interrupts his captor Surtur in the opening scene. Still, the idea of a Doctor Strange/Thor coming together feels like a potentially lethal but intriguing combination.
The plot is laced with the emotive theme of redemption rather than the drive for revenge that most superhero films predictably play with. From Skurge wrestling with his torn conscience as he turns his back on his own people, becoming Hela’s ‘Executioner’, to the ever-scheming Loki and the tormented Hulk, each character is on their own individual journey to absolution.
Despite an ending that unfortunately falls a tad flat, slow-motion filming made the exhilarating and explosive action that level of ‘awesome’ we’ve now come to expect from Marvel. The side-splitting lines and constant comedic delivery from The Hulk (who his perhaps his most outspoken ever), and Korg, (Taika Waititi) an amusingly well-spoken and polite gladiator, the relatable themes of brotherhood and second chances make Thor: Ragnarok yet another win for Marvel.