THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS
First off, it needs to be said, that as of writing this, I have just returned from seeing Avengers: Infinity War, and therefore, my thoughts are currently trying to decipher what I just saw, whilst also focus on writing this.
After the mixed receptions to Thor, and its sequel, Thor: The Dark World, Marvel decided that a change was needed, and therefore, they hired Taika Watiti to direct the threequel, Thor: Ragnarok. Anyone familiar with his work on films such as What We Do in the Shadows, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, know that Watiti has a very distinct, humourous tone. His hiring drew ire from some fans, concerned that his style of filmmaking was unsuited for a Thor film, whilst others praised his appointment as bold and courageous on Marvel’s part. For me, I think there is a valid argument to be made that both were right.
Thor: Ragnarok continues the story of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who returns to Asgard, only to find his brother on the throne and his father missing. However, that proves to be the least of his concerns as the mysterious Hela (Cate Blanchett) arrives to claim the throne for herself.
Taika Watiti’s DNA is all over Thor: Ragnarok. The use of vibrant colours and excessive comedy is vintage Watiti. He clearly decided that the film needed to abandon its Shakespearean elements to focus on simply being a loud, hilariously fun adventure. This is where Ragnarok succeeds the most. It is ridiculously fun. No other film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has put as much emphasis on fun as Ragnarok has, not even the Guardians of the Galaxy films. He handles the action elements well, with the sequences feeling like something straight out of an over-the-top 80’s action film, (possibly starring Arnold Schwarzenegger).
The cast is all brilliant and handles the change in tone with ease. Chris Hemsworth gives what is easily his greatest performance as the ‘God of Thunder’ in the MCU. It is obvious from watching his performance, and that of the entire cast, that everyone enjoyed the filming process. Mark Ruffalo also delivers a great dual performance as both Bruce Banner and the Hulk. However, its safe to say that the film is at its best when Ruffalo is the Hulk rather than Banner. As you’d expect, Tom Hiddleston has fantastic chemistry with Hemsworth, with the interactions between Thor and Loki remaining the highlights of the film. There are several new cast members that standout as scene stealers in a film with great performances all around. The first is director Taika Watiti, who did the motion capture and voice-work for Korg, and from the fan responses, it is clear that Korg is the fan favourite from Ragnarok. He perfectly reflects the overall tone of the film with his humourous, sarcastic nature and every scene he appears in is a joy to watch. The other standout newcomer is Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. Badass, rude and with a devastating past, the character is the most interesting addition to the MCU in a while, and I can’t wait to see what Marvel does with the character in the future.
Hulk has never been better. Fans were shocked when it was revealed in the marketing that Hulk could talk in almost-full sentences, and were rightfully expecting many hilarious interactions between the big green monster and the God of Thunder. Thankfully, the film, with its emphasis on comedy and fun does not hold back in this regard. There is a real sense of a child-like innocence to Hulk, who throws tantrums and is chased around like a curious toddler throughout the film. As for the fight between Thor and Hulk, that the marketing was so reliant on, well it’s short but brilliant. Hopefully, we’ll get ‘Round 3’ in a future film.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is hilarious. It is the funniest film in the MCU by miles, with every single joke landing with great effect. However, some have criticised that Ragnarok is too funny for its own good. Having rewatched the film several times, there is definitely an argument to be made for this. Considering that Ragnarok is an apocalyptic storyline, and the amount of death that occurs in the film, it’s disappointing that none of it feels important in the least. This is all down to the fact that the film barely goes two minutes without a joke that, despite landing well, still feels forced. Thor loses so much, including his friends but doesn’t even seem to care because he never stops cracking jokes. The film never takes a moment to linger on the ramifications of what happens. As the Asgardians watch Asgard be annihilated by Surtr (Clancy Brown), it should be a sombre moment, instead, it acts as the signal for more jokes. There are several supposedly major deaths in the film, but as a result of the film’s handling of them, the audience is left to question whether we were ever supposed to care about them. This is especially true for The Warriors Three: Fandrall (Zachary Levi), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson). All three are eliminated in seconds and there is never any emotional reaction from anybody. Their deaths actually end up distracting, and it may have been better to completely remove the characters from the film.
A major issue with the film is that despite being marketed as the main villain, Hela is barely in the film. Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is the real villain of Thor: Ragnarok. I have been trying to figure out just what went through the heads of those in the writers’ room to actually think this was a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, I love Jeff Goldblum as much as the next guy. That being said, there is no acceptable excuse for the Grandmaster being in the film more than Hela. He imposes no threat to the characters, whilst Hela was beginning to shape up into a genuinely great villain. Cate Blanchett gives a good performance and it’s just frustrating that she is relegated to the sidelines for the majority of the film. Can you imagine if, in Guardians of the Galaxy, Ronan (Lee Pace) was still the main villain, but The Collector (Benicio del Toro) had more screentime than Ronan? It’s a pretty ridiculous idea, and yet Thor: Ragnarok does this with the Grandmaster and Hela. If I had the opportunity to ask Taika Watiti one question, it would be: “Why on Earth was the Grandmaster in Thor: Ragnarok more than Hela”. I’d love to get an answer to that because it is really boggling my mind.
The actual script is all over the place. The film spends mere minutes with Hela and the underused new character, Skurge (Karl Urban), before returning the focus to Thor for a significant amount of time, before returning to Hela briefly, seemingly picking up moments after the last time we saw her. It is so disjointed that I found myself getting worked up over the convoluted storytelling technique that Watiti chose to follow.
Unfortunately, Thor: Ragnarok falls victim to the mixed visual effects of the MCU. Granted, some shots are stunning, with the city of Sakaar looking especially spectacular. However, there are far too many effects, that despite the film being less than a year old, already look dated. The excessive green screen backgrounds are incredibly distracting and disappointing, considering the film’s $180 million budget. The film is too reliant on CGI which will make the film look pretty pathetic, from a visual standpoint, in years to come.
In the end, Thor: Ragnarok is an extremely fun, hilarious film in the MCU. The film could easily be considered as too unique with its overuse of comedy and disregard for the past, however, that does not stop it from being a complete blast.