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Thor: Ragnarok – Movie Review

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Thor: Ragnarok – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

At this point, it’s clear the Marvel Studios films have a specific template. Usually, directors are hired to slightly spice up the proceedings, but there is a specific formula that is fairly obvious now. Thor: Ragnarok’s strengths come from the humour characteristic of Taika Waititi’s other works. He treats this superhero spectacle like a buddy comedy and that helps it leap above the predictable story beats. Humour has been a defining element of this year’s crop of Marvel movies and that’s hardly a negative. It’s good these films are able to mix the effects-driven action with solid comedy chops. However, some further experimentation and invention would be appreciated in the future.

A surprisingly large amount of time in Thor: Ragnarok is spent with Thor in captivity on an alien planet and it’s a large reason for the on-screen enjoyment. Chris Hemsworth is comfortable in the role and Waititi allows him to play show more of the character’s sillier elements. The Shakespearean brat introduced in the first film is long gone, replaced with a charming and goofy hero. There’s a simple arc of Thor losing his beloved hammer, but it’s mostly there to add a bit more conflict with the central villain. Whether big and green or played by Mark Ruffalo, Thor has strong chemistry with the Hulk and there’s definitely a comical dynamic the film takes full advantage of.

Jeff Goldblum gets a chance to fool around and Waititi even provides a hilarious voice role as a rock alien. Cate Blanchett’s villain is fairly standard with the expected “take over the world” plot. Hela manages to avoid being as boring as previous Marvel baddies by having Blanchett be as over-the-top as possible. She clearly relishes the chance to go all out and chews the scenery in a way she obviously isn’t allowed to in her more serious projects. Yet her scenes still feel disconnected from the larger story happening with Thor. However, the star of Thor: Ragnarok ends up being Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. From the second she confidently walks on screen, Thompson steals the entire film from under Hemsworth’s feet. There are moments when she is merely making a facial expression that generates giggles. Valkyrie gets a lot of moments of awesome heroism that will certainly serve as fodder for inspirational GIFs in the future.

Taika Waititi directs the action with the expected stylish energy and more than handles the extensive work that goes into a massive special effects production. One merely wishes more of his voice had come through. These big-budget Hollywood franchises don’t allow for the same freedom that would afford a director on an independent film like What We Do in the Shadows, but it would be nicer if this was a Taika Waititi film produced by Marvel rather than a Marvel film directed by Taika Waititi. One cameo from another Marvel hero stops the film in its tracks and feels like a pointless way to connect Thor: Ragnarok to the larger universe. With Hulk playing a significant role, we don’t need more connective tissue beyond that and the requisite Stan Lee appearance.

For as much as Thor: Ragnarok retains a made-by-committee feel in its writing and the visual look isn’t that far removed from what James Gunn did on Guardians of the Galaxy, the humour and lovable characters gives this film enough of an energy. It does feel distinct from the previous Thor movies, going for a lighter approach than their serious tone. Jane and Darcy are even thrown to the side and with Valkyrie wielding a sword and trading quips, they are hardly missed. Honestly, if Thor: Ragnarok then gives Taika Waititi the chance to get any original comedy of his financed, its existence will prove even more rewarding.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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