While we love the Marvel movies and each one is now a massive cultural event, the ugly stepchild of the universe were the Thor movies. Not that the character was bad or even that the movies were that bad, they were just a step below the rest of the series. Thor was fun but in the end it was part of that initial batch of Marvel movies that were mostly fine. And Thor: The Dark World is possibly the worst MCU film because of how forgettable it is. So that means the people making this one have a chip on their shoulder to make sure it is as good as the rest of the MCU. Is Thor: Raganarok then good enoug to banish that chip?
Due to visions he has had predicting it, Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Snow White and the Huntsman) has been travelling the universe trying to find a way to stop Ragnarok. However when he returns to Asgard, he discovers his thought-dead brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager) has taken the throne and that his actions have inadvertently released the God of death Hela (Cate Blanchett, Carol) who wants to take control of her old homeland.
When looking at what to focus on, director Taika Waititi (What We Do In The Shadows) has decided that the stuff that dragged down the first two Thor movies was all the stuff on Earth and is making this movie all about having adventures in space. So say goodbye to Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings as they are gone, replaced by weird aliens and Jeff Goldblum (The Grand Budapest Hotel). I thought that this was going to be a mistake as I preferred the Earth based stuff because it was grounded in something real while the Asgard scenes never really hit home. However this time I’m wrong because just going with space has made it brilliant. This is now a 1980s sci-fi movie, packed with creativity and as many mad ideas that the creative team can pack in as possible. It has bright colours, it is meant to be fun above all else, it’s a refreshing movie because of that.
So how does it do that? Well we start off with a great script that gives you everything you want in this sort of film. It is one of the funniest Marvel things made so far, which is saying something considering the ones that have gone before, with you being far more likely to laugh at this than whatever comedy was released in cinemas this week. Pretty much every line that was meant to be funny delivers and gets a laugh because the performers are game and it’s a crazy enough world where the daft things that happen for a quick laugh do seem realistic. Thor has always been a funny character, especially in the Avengers movies, but here he isn’t just the fish out of water. It’s another string to the bow of Hemsworth and proof he isn’t just playing a one dimensional character.
What makes the movie though is some of the side characters that are introduced. First let’s talk about the director Waititi putting himself in the movie. If you have seen any of his other movies you’ll already know the character he plays because that’s all he does here. Except this time he’s a rock man called Korg. It’s just such an odd contrast to see a big rock guy have just a sweet voice and temperament as well as a polite want to have a revolution against the people who have enslaved him. We could all do with a bit more Korg in our lives. And then there’s Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, the man who runs the huge fighting arena that Thor ends up in. Basically, same deal was Waititi. Playing the same character he has in the past but turned up to the max. And it’s wonderful. Goldblum is always a marvel to watch and how he’s never been a bizarre sci-fi villain before is a mystery that will never be answered.
Not that this is just a silly sci-fi movie. When it wants to, it can get seriously awesome as well with some of the most metal images ever put on screen in the MCU. For instance, this movie has the image of Karl Urban (Star Trek) jumping out of a space ship while dual wielding machine guns so he can kill an army of skeletons. If that’s not the most metal thing you’ve heard this week, you live a cooler existence than me. Actually scratch that, you almost certainly live a cooler existence than me without knowing about Karl Urban dual wielding machine guns. There’s also a giant wolf which makes everything more metal and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight) also starts a fight with a giant fire demon. Basically, Waititi has stolen the concept art for metal band album covers and put it into action scenes which I completely approve.
There are very few problems with this movie but the special effects can be a mixed bag at times. I am nitpicking here because for most of the movie it looks amazing because of all the colour and epic settings that are on screen, but at times things look a bit naff. Inside the arena it does look like it needs a bit more polish to make it look more real and that army of skeletons do seem to be pulled right out of World of Warcraft with that era graphics as well. For the most part the movie looks stunning which it needs to be considering how much they lean on the CGI. But there’s times where it looks hokey and not in a good way.
Thor: Ragnarok is an absolute blast and was the best MCU movie of 2017. It is such a fun movie that’s only aim is to make sure you have a goofy grin on your face for the two hours it has you. And it definitely succeeds in that. It has big over-the-top characters who you delight in seeing on your screen, villain or not, a really good story and some really fun action scenes. And I’ve barely been able to mention it here but Hela is a fantastic villain and one of the best the MCU has done. This is a must watch.