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[Joint Review] – ‘Thor: Ragnarok’

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 3 November 2017 [USA]
 
Director: Taika Waititi
 
Writer: Eric Pearson - Craig Kyle - Christopher Yost
 
Cast: Idris Elba - Mark Ruffalo - Chris Hemsworth - Tom Hiddleston - Cate Blanchett
 


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Posted October 21, 2017 by

 
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Katie’s Perspective:

Taika Waititi, director of indie gems Eagle vs Shark, Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, and last year’s glorious Hunt for the Wilderpeople, may have seemed like a rather left field choice to helm this third outing for Marvel’s Norse deity. But the New Zealander’s bold decision to make Thor Ragnarok an all-out comedy has resulted in the freshest, funniest, most interesting movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The disappearance of Thor’s trademark blonde locks has been well-publicised, and his newly shorn look is nicely symbolic of Waititi’s desire to shed the burden of all that’s gone before and make this movie something totally different. Gone too is Natalie Portman’s rather insipid Jane Foster, replaced with a potential new love interest, Tessa Thompson’s hard-drinking Valkyrie. Anthony Hopkins returns as Odin and, having let his adopted brother believe he was dead at the end of Thor The Dark World, problem child Loki is back and on fantastic form.

Set some time after Age of Ultron, Thor’s apocalyptic visions lead him back to Asgard, where, after defeating the demon Surtur, he discovers Loki has tricked his way onto the throne and banished Odin to a retirement home somewhere in the USA. With a little help from a familiar face, the brothers find the All-Father, who reveals that he will soon die, unleashing a destructive force like no other upon Asgard. This cataclysm appears in the form of Hela (Cate Blanchett, resplendent in goth eyeliner and antlers), Goddess of Death, Odin’s long-incarcerated first-born, and secret sister of Thor and Loki.

Unable to defeat her, and with the mighty Mjolnir out of commission, the brothers find themselves blasted across the Universe, stranded on the junkyard planet of Sakaar, where silver-tongued Loki finds favour with the Grandmaster (a sublimely ridiculous Jeff Goldblum) while Thor is forced into gladiatorial servitude. Luckily for Thor, Grandmaster’s fighting champion is old pal and fellow Avenger, The Hulk. Unluckily for Thor, after a couple of years of fighting aliens and monsters in an arena, Bruce Banner is well and truly at the mercy of his ultra-violent alter ego, and unwilling to break free of his enslavement. What follows sounds like pretty formulaic fare: a struggle to assemble a rag-tag band of comrades, followed by a high-octane race to get back to Asgard before Hela slaughters the entire population of their planet.

But while the plot may be relatively simple and familiar, nothing about Thor Ragnarok is ordinary. Waititi’s fondness for improvisation elicits authentic belly laughs. Chris Hemsworth is a natural comedian, given free rein here to play up Thor’s pomposity which belies the God of Thunder’s deep-rooted insecurities. Tom Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo both have ample chemistry with him, as well as plenty of opportunity to show off their own comedic chops. Tessa Thompson is fantastic as the flawed, deflated warrior turned salvage merchant, who conveys a sense of being the most capable being in the room at all times, even half cut. Cate Blanchett has less irreverent lines to deliver, but is marvellously camp and deliciously evil as the necromancer Hela, whose daddy issues and black sheep status make Loki seem well-adjusted by comparison.

Waititi himself delivers a scene-stealing turn as Korg, a huge creature made of rocks with the jarringly gentle voice of a “Maori bouncer from K’ Road in Auckland”. It’s also great to see Rachel House (the ferocious welfare officer, Paula, from Hunt for the Wilderpeople) make an appearance as Grandmaster’s right hand woman.

Much of the humour is derived from surprise cameos, knowing, self-referential gags, and an air of revelry in the sheer absurdity of the superhero genre. Often when a film contains this much fan service, there’s a danger of it seeming over-egged or condescending, but that’s never the case here. There’s a pervading sense that Waititi truly understands fandom and how to make his audience feel in on the joke. It’s deft character work which makes Ragnarok so compelling, but the balls-out action and epic themes essential to the genre are also handled with outstanding confidence.

The gorgeous palette of bright candy colours, which recalls the comic book style of Jack Kirby, kitsch, retro production design, and a mix of stadium rock and prog synth (scored by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh) gleefully pay homage to sci-fi romps like Flash Gordon. But Ragnarok is not merely a send-up of the franchise, it’s a full-throttle action movie which really delivers on explosions, battles, spaceship chases, and huge CGI monsters. And while the jokes come thick and fast, they don’t undermine the emotional weight of the story.

There are moments of real pathos, although Waititi foregoes hand-wringing and sentimentality for a more subtle approach. One such moment happens between Thor and Loki, with the actual act of affection between the two men kept off-screen. Yet the preceding lines of quiet dialogue are arguably more moving than Thor’s histrionics over his fallen brother’s body in The Dark World. Mark Ruffalo also gets the chance to explore the inherent tragedy of Banner’s predicament, and shows us a more evolved and articulate Hulk, lending him a vulnerability we’ve not seen before.

It’s not perfect. Karl Urban’s wavering henchman has little to do, and the peril of the Asgardians under the protection of Heimdall (Idris Elba very much playing the straight guy here) is often overshadowed by the more engrossing action over on Sakaar. And while Thor Ragnarok works superbly as a standalone feature, essentially razing everything that sucked about its predecessors to the ground, it remains to be seen how well it will slot into the MCU, given its self-deprecating tone. There are also a few plot holes and contrivances which may irk the more avid movie-goers out there, but frankly, when a two-hour movie flies by this fast, and is this much fun, they seem of little consequence.

Marvel’s risky and unorthodox gamble in hiring Waititi really has paid off. Thor Ragnarok is as electrifying as Odinson himself, and anyone who doesn’t leave the theatre with a huge grin on their face must have an icier heart than a Frost Giant.

Written by:

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 11.57.13

Katie Young
@Pinkwood
Katie Young – Author
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Movie Metropolis Perspective:

Taika Waititi has revitalised Marvel’s flagging Thor franchise with his first big budget feature, Thor: Ragnarok. Assembling a cast that includes veterans like Anthony Hopkins and Cate Blanchett alongside series favourites, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston was never going to be an easy task, but he’s done it.

This beautifully shot film works best when all the pieces are brought together and our ensemble are fighting as one unit against a huge evil. The always effervescent Jeff Goldblum is an inspired casting choice and he steals every scene he’s in, naturally.

Sure it’s not perfect; it’s almost too funny in parts and some of the more emotional sequences lack resonance because of this, but as a daft, throwaway addition to the MCU, it really is wonderful. Bring on Infinity War!

Written by:

Adam Brannon
Movie Metropolis
‎@MovieMetropolis
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