If any more proof was needed that Marvel have their superhero formula down to an exact science then ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ provides it. While their biggest rival DC continues to struggle with consistency the House of Mouse owned MCU is unshakably reliable, in fact the connected cinematic universe is bordering on consistent to somewhat of a fault. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is just as bright and sparky as what’s come before it, perfectly blending together big blockbuster moments with beloved characters and a well-oiled scripted tying the whole thing together but the sense of familiarity about the piece is unavoidable.
Ragnarok itself is a prophesised doomsday that will wipe out Thor’s homeland, so naturally the movie opens with the long-haired hero thwarting the incoming apocalypse at the hands of a giant-sized fire demon. The first act is a brisk and eventful first thirty minutes, but it’s also extremely poorly paced. Containing an enjoyable cameo from Doctor Strange, the introduction of the film’s antagonist and even a major character death, far too much happens in such a short space of time. The lack of breathing room robs these moments from having their intended impact as there’s no time for the audience or the characters on screen to absorb them.
Thankfully once Thor (and Loki) find themselves stuck on the planet Sakaar, a sort of Junkers paradise, the film settles into a pleasing groove. The quest quickly becomes a struggle to get back to Asgard and stop the reign of the Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett). On this planet, the film’s best characters are introduced from the kooky tyrant of Sakaar, The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldbum), who isn’t a traditional Marvel villain and far more fun to watch on screen for it, to the star of the show Korg, a GCI rock creature motion captured by director Taika Waititi who makes a strong claim for the funniest character in the whole MCU.
Thor also has a run in with the Hulk here, at first being forced to fight in a gladiator duel before predictably getting back on the same page and working together. Their fight is easily the best action sequence of the film, and it manages to be both extremely fun but have some genuine tension. The inclusion of Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is another master stroke, much like in ‘The Avengers’ the Hulk works extremely well in an ensemble piece. There’s a couple of heartfelt character moments between Thor and Banner and their banter is always worthy of a chuckle.
Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is very much a known quality three solo movies in but he’s given some scraps of development that Hemsworth feeds off nicely. In this third sole outing for the hero the focus is taken away from his relationship with Loki which is a nice change up. Loki, Tom Hiddleston, has often stolen the show from his older brother but that’s definitely not the case here, his endlessly trickery is boring at this point and the way Thor continues to trust him again and again is getting harder to rationalise even if they are brothers.
Cate Blanchett’s villain is more than a little menacing but unfortunately by the film’s climax she has devolved into the typical throwaway MCU villain mould, much more could have been done with this character and the strong actress portraying her. The female talent in ‘Ragnarok’ is unfortunately short changed across the board, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, a former elite Asgardian warrior now living on Sakaar, is also undeveloped and outside of action sequences offers very little to the film. In a film with such a strong supporting cast Valkyrie is just not given the spotlight long enough to shine like the others do.
Tonally ‘Ragnarok’ very much takes after ‘The Guardians of the Galaxy’ films, it’s a constant stream of quips and jokes that impressively practically all land. Director Taika Waititi has a strong hand on proceedings and injects not just fun into the Thor universe but a big dose of colour as well, the film while in keeping with the established Marvel atheistic can be a treat to look at. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of ‘Ragnarok’ however is that the movie actually has some consequences, these obviously cannot be discussed without spoilers but with so many arcs in the MCU being neatly wrapped up in two hours it’s refreshing to know that the events of ‘Ragnarok’ will continue to be felt in the movies to come.
'Thor: Ragnarok’ is without a doubt the strongest Thor solo effort to date, injecting a much-needed sense of fun and a splash of colour that was sorely lacking in the previous two films. There’s definitely a sense of familiarity to the proceedings, sooner rather than later the MCU is going to need a film that dramatically shakes the formula up but ‘Ragnarok’ is not the film that does this. While it may not reinvent the MCU wheel, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is another strong outing from a franchise that appears to be unable to misstep, fans of the superhero series are going to be very pleased.
Score - 7.0