Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taika Waititi, is… a Marvel film. It is fun, entertaining and had me laughing along and enjoying the spectacle of it all. It seems that thanks to other Marvel films, they’ve finally found the voice and tone of a Thor film and they capitalise on that find well. The film is also aided by the comically inclined joy of director, Taika Waititi who guides the film on a journey filled with jokes. If I’m begin honest, this review will pretty much be more of the same when it comes to talking about another Marvel film but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things worth saying… I think. Anyway, on with the review.
Hela, the goddess of death – played by Cate Blanchett – is released from her prison, thanks to the earlier actions of Loki – played by Tom Hiddleston – and all hell breaks loose. Thor – played by Chris Hemsworth – is stranded on a planet and forced to fight to the death. He needs to rally a team behind him and return to Asgard, where he will hopefully save his people and defeat the evil that seeks to bring doom to the entire galaxy.
So what I’m beginning to realise when it comes to reviewing Marvel films is that due to them following a pretty similar structure and never deviating from a type of experience, it is getting really hard to find new and interesting things to say about them. I’ve already reviewed, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming this year, plus quite a few others in the previous years and I genuinely feel that I’m running out of things to say that hold any weight.
If you boil Thor: Ragnarok down to its most basic components, it is simply another Marvel superhero film where the world is ending and the only way to fix any problem is to fight your way through it.
There are some individual elements that make up the film and some of them are good for the film, while others are problems that seem to have infected every Marvel film and will continue to.
This is now the third standalone Thor film and I think that we can all agree that the Thor films have been some of the worst in MCU. But at last! After building the character through many different films (the Avengers films primarily) they have found the tone and the voice of the Thor films and the character of Thor himself, and have now delivered what is absolutely the best outing for the character yet.
Work done in the previous Avengers films where Thor was less of a shouty, bratty child and more a comic-relief character who made each scene more fun because of how out-of-touch he was, and with the clear influence of, The Guardians of the Galaxy films, Thor: Raganrok feels like the culmination of a lot of experimenting and the payoff is an entertaining film that has fun with everything at its disposal, rather than taking everything so seriously.
Director, Taika Waititi (whose film, What We Do in The Shadows, is still one of the funniest films I’ve seen in years) was a perfect choice for this film, as much like what James Gunn did with the Guardians films, Waititi has infused his sense of humour directly into Ragnarok. Not just a handful of times but on multiple occasions is the film funny – the kind of funny where you make an audible sound and not just push air out through your nose. Yes, the film almost tries too hard to make jokes sometimes, and it definitely prioritises comedy over plot (though at this point, plots in Marvel films are secondary focuses at best), but this is still probably one of the most consistently funny Marvel films I’ve seen.
But of course, the films push to have a more comically fuelled tone does end up harming the film in one particular way: tonally the film isn’t able to move smoothly into another scene with a different mood and have it work. To go from a slap-sticky scene filled with jokes, to then a serious one where the characters are having an emotionally charged moment, simply doesn’t work. I knew in the very next scene there would be an influx of jokes again and the serious moment that they had tried to emit, would now be trampled over for jokes and action. I doubt it’s an issue that most audience members will notice or care about, but for me it made for a jarring experience at times. To see a tone so poorly handled is distracting.
And then when it comes to the characters, it’s your usual mixed bag. Every actor must have had an absolute blast when making this film. Many of them get the chance to chew up scenes with over-the-top characters that spout dialogue that is either open for experimentation – which can make for a fun filming environment – or they are given large, authoritative dialogue proclaiming world ending things or life altering situations. The fun that the film exudes comes mainly from the characters and the fun they themselves seem to be having. That fun of course makes its way into us, the audience, and makes for a very enjoyable time.
But of course, you have your usual failings when it comes to particular characters – the villain to be exact. Cate Blanchett as Hela really does seem to be having fun with the character she is given, and she is certainly able to elevate her into an enjoyable devious character to watch. But no amount of fun makes up for the total lack of depth to the character. Hela is evil for the sake of being evil. Her motivations don’t make her an interesting character. There is no layering to her that makes her anything more than a purely bad person who does bad things. She never grows beyond that. It’s your typical underserved Marvel villain – as barebones as can be.
As usual, it is the protagonists in the film that are serviced with development. Bruce Banner/The Hulk – played by Mark Ruffalo – continues to be best utilised in a supporting role, rather than in a film of his own. I always like getting a little bit more of the character. Thor has at some point become one of the characters in the MCU that I look forward to seeing appear. I don’t know when that happened, but that certainly didn’t used to be the case. And then the introduction of, Valkyrie – played by Tessa Thompson – offers a character that I enjoyed watching, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in future films. But all of that frankly doesn’t matter because my main man-crush, Jeff Goldblum (who plays The Grandmaster) is in the film and I now demand that he be in every film going forward. He steals every scene he’s in – as usual – and he’s an absolute joy to watch. I’m in no way biased and everything I have just said is fact (*winks*).
Side-note – The fact that both Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill are in the same film, makes by little Jurassic Park-heart jump with joy… Anyway, back to the review.
While the film is very giving in terms of the characters and the humour and just the general levels of fun it has coursing through it. There is still a very basic plot that doesn’t ever go beyond being another world ending disaster that must be stopped or a bunch of no-name people will die. It isn’t anything that ever holds your attention and on more than one occasion I forgot what the actual driving force for Thor was. It’s background noise – something to give the film purpose but it’s not that important. It’s purely set-up for another film that is to come (more than likely, the next Avengers film).
When I consider the 3 Marvel films I’ve seen this year, Thor: Raganrok is the one I think I enjoyed the most. It knew exactly what it was and it played greatly with what it had. Sure, it has all the failing s that every other Marvel films has, but for me, this one gave me the most amount of enjoyment.
I’m going to recommend, Thor: Ragnarok. It’s funny, it’s certainly entertaining and if you enjoy going to see Marvel films, then this one won’t disappoint you. However, if the fatigue of superhero films has gotten to you, then this won’t change your opinion of them. It is very much more of the same, so take that as you will. But if you do see it/have seen it, I hope you enjoy yourself!
I’d love to know what you though of the film and my review, so please leave any opinions, feedback etc. in the comments section down below. May I also suggest following both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. But I’ll bring this review to a close now by thanking you for your time and wishing you a great day.