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Thor: Ragnarok – Movie Review

Thor Ragnarok (poster)You know, if you had asked me at the beginning of the year what my most anticipated superhero movie of 2017 was, my answer might have surprised you. No, not Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, the most obvious choice considering how fun the first film was. Neither was it Spider-Man: Homecoming’s triumphant return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And, as for Wonder Woman, I would’ve merely been satisfied with it not being terrible, considering the reputation of the DCEU thus far.

No, my most anticipated superhero movie of 2017 was Thor: Ragnarok. Why? Because I freaking love the director Taika Waititi.

(As for Justice League? Pfft.)

Now, if you’re not familiar with the New Zealand comedian, actor, and director, I would recommend you change that post-haste. The guy has already directed several delightfully movies, such as the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows or his most recent coming-of-age (kinda) adventure feature Hunt for the Wilderpeople and I was most definitely interested in seeing how his quirky comedic sensibilities would meld with the greater Marvel blockbuster machine.

The answer, it turns out, was really damn well.

There’s no other way of putting it, Thor: Ragnarok is delightfully fun from beginning to end. The Thor movies have always felt a bit like the black sheep of the MCU, not as enormous popular as Iron Man, nor as strong a platform for complex storytelling as the Captain America films. But Waititi seems to have finally hit that sweet spot for the character, a melding of colourful visuals, great action, cool sci-fi settings, quirky humour, yet all with a strong undercurrent of excellent writing and interesting characters tying it all together.

(Also, it uses “Immigrant Song” really damn well. So that’s a plus.)

Thor Ragnarok (screenshot)

The story itself follows our titular blond-haired muscle-bound Asgardian (with Chris Hemsworth really showing off some of his comedic chops that have felt underutilised in previous movies) as he tries to deal with the malevolent Hela (played with glorious hamminess by Cate Blanchett) and prevent Ragnarok, the end of Asgard. Hela doesn’t quite break out of the Marvel movie villain curse, being a bit one note, but she’s entertaining enough and Cate Blanchett is clearly having a ball with the role, which makes all the difference. Malekith this certainly is not.

KorgAnyway, after Thor proceeds to get his royal ass royally kicked, he ends up on Sakaar, a garbage planet (both literally and metaphorically!), where he is promptly captured as a potential gladiator for the whims of the Grandmaster (played with devilish delight by Jeff Goldblum). To escape, he must call upon the help of a significantly more verbose Hulk, the hard-drinking Valkryie (who is probably one of the standouts of the film) and, of course, the ever treacherous and lovable Loki. Oh, and Korg. Korg is just the best, you guys.

Anyway, as I was saying, a large part of what makes this movie work is how just unabashed it is about having fun with itself. It’s a weird movie, set in a weird world and is more than happy to just play with that. The action is light and breezy, the setting a Technicolor delight and each character gets to show off a lot of their comedic chops in a way that feels mostly natural.

And yet it’s still perfectly able to deliver the dramatic goods when needed. There are some great little emotional moments throughout, from Valkyrie’s tragic past, to the small character arc of minor villain Skurge to the ever-entertaining relationship between Thor and Loki, one of the series’ strongest relationships. This movie in particular takes some interesting paths with it, neither mired in open antagonism nor quite trusting each other either. It’s one aspect of the Thor movies that has always been great and this movie only adds to that.

Loki and Thor

Now, are skeptics of the MCU going to be won over? Probably not. Even with all of Taika Waititi’s wackiness and fun, it is still clearly a Marvel movie, for better or for worse. And there are some problems here and there. The Sakaar storyline and the greater Hela/Ragnarok story feel a bit too separate from each other (to the point when I momentarily forgot Hela was even a part of proceedings) and a couple of emotional beats fall a bit flat. But, to be honest, those are fairly minor flaws in the grand scheme of things.

The fact of the matter is, whether you approve of the way Marvel does stuff or not, this movie is still great fun. It’s light, colourful, funny as all hell and definitely the thing to fight off those winter frowns. It’s everything I was anticipating and so much more. I will admit to very slightly preferring Wonder Woman in the grand scheme of things, if only because of that movie’s strong thematic storytelling, but this a very close second and yet another smash hit from a studio at the very peak of their prime.

Now if only I had as much faith in Justice League

Thor Ragnarok by Dan Mumford (detail)



  1. Avatar James says:

    Going into the year Star Wars was my most anticipated movie…..that is until the first Thor ragnarok trailer dropped and was possibly the best trailer I’d ever seen. Every trailer promised an amazing movie and somehow it even eclipsed Star Wars in my anticipation. And it delivered. Oh it delivered.

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