Thor: Ragnarok FILM REVIEW
Director: Taika Waititi
Screenplay: Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher L. Yost
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum Idris Alba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Taika Waititi
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material
Running Time: 2 hour 10 minutes
**** out of *****
Photo: Marvel Studios
A gladiatorial battle to the death is just one obstacle Thor, Son of Odin must overcome in THOR: RAGNAROK.
It's crazy to think that it was just over a decade ago that comic-book fans got a hint of just what may be coming their way in the yet to be released Paramount films based on Marvel characters. In 2006, producer Kevin Feige laid out the groundwork for what would ultimately lead to an AVENGERS film. 11 years later the Marvel Cinematic Universe now features seventeen films, thus far, a new studio, Marvel Studios, and no apparent end in sight. In Phase One, phases typically lead up to and include an AVENGERS film, the God of Thunder, the Mighty Thor, was introduced. This property would prove to be a litmus test to see if fans were ready to embrace off-world beings in what had thus far been a fairly grounded in reality, Earth-based endeavor. Fans were ready to accept this alien being from Asgard but unfortunately of all the Phase One characters Thor's films have been the weakest in the group. THOR and THOR: THE DARK WORLD were good but simply never reached the level that the other films did, well they were certainly better than IRON MAN 2. The quote "third times a charm" is rather hackneyed but it certainly applies to Taika Waititi's THOR: RAGNAROK which sends the Son of Odin on an out-of-this-world, charming, funny and highly enjoyable adventure.
With the release of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, Marvel was in a position where they could play around with their winning formula and inject things that may not have been as prevalent. The first GUARDIANS film was a resounding success mostly in part to its charm and humor. Comedic elements were certainly present in films like ANT-MAN and 2017's GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 and SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING. However, comedy has never been a genre exploited by Marvel let alone applied to an already established character and franchise. Screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher L. Yost give the THOR franchise a tonal shift for the better. While still presenting the epic adventure Marvel fans desire they inject ample doses of comedy which not only allows the character to loosen up but also gives Chris Hemsworth a chance to tap into his seldom used comedic talent.
Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor and it looks like he's having the most fun he's ever had playing the character. Hemsworth has been great as the character and in previous films much of the humor was derived from "fish-out-of-water" comedic beats and he played them well. However, in the new film not only does he get to perform the best incarnation of the character we've seen thus far but is also having fun, being self-deprecating , laying on the charm and kicking ass; sometimes all at once. Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki and is ever as enjoyable and like Hemsworth gets to play up some very funny comedic moments. Cate Blanchett appears as Hela, the Goddess of Death and plays her with menace and a sly yet smug sense of humor. Jeff Goldblum appears as the Grandmaster and really plays up his idiosyncrasies to great comedic effect. Tessa Thompson also stars as Valkyrie and, in terms of action and physical comedy, delivers a pretty entertaining performance. Mark Ruffalo returns as Bruce Banner/Hulk in what is easily the most well-rounded character arc we've seen since he came into the role. The most notable new character in the film is that of Korg played by Taika Waititi. His motion-capture character is very funny, endearing and worthy of his own spin-off or Marvel One-Shot. The films also stars Karl Urban, Idris Alba, Anthony Hopkins and Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange and some unexpected cameos.
Directing his first big-budget blockbuster Taiki Waititi assuredly handles that daunting task as though he's done this countless times before. The comedic sensibilities he brought to WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS are on display in this new film and it greatly benefits from it. The look and feel of the film is decidedly different from previous THOR films and certainly feels like it exists in the GUARDIANS universe; which it technically does. The comedy hits more often than not and never detracts from the action in any way. Speaking of the action there are a number of great set pieces that look like they are straight out of a comic book. Of note, the film looks great when seen in IMAX which features select scenes in the large format.
THOR: RAGNAROK works well as both a comedy and science fiction adventure film. Much like James Gunn's films, RAGNAROK is a fun ride that respects the characters while putting them in humorous situations. It proves that when given the right material and talent an established character can break formula and appear in a different light. It is easily the best of the three stand-alone films and is definitely Hemsworth best turn as the title character to date. Waititi has proven to be an exceptional talent who knows how to tell a story regardless of size or budget and will hopefully return to the MCU either as a director, as Korg or as both. THOR: RAGNAROK, like previous MCU films, features a mid-credit and post-credit scene so don't go running for the door when it ends.
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal