When Thor (Chris Hemsworth) fails to defeat his older sister, the Goddess of Death named Hela (Cate Blanchett) with his powerful hammer completely crushed to smithereens, he ends up being banished to a planet called Sakaar along with Loki (Tom Hiddleston). From there, he forces to fight for survival as he encounters Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and meeting a new ally in the form of Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) before making way back to Asgard to save his people and stop Hela once and for all.
By now, most of you would be familiar with Marvel Studios’ unlikely selections of directors to helm their respective movies. Remember how they first chose Anthony and Joe Russo of TV’s Community to direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier three years ago? I’m sure not many of us saw them coming but guess what, they proved to be a surprisingly great addition as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) filmmaking team after all. In fact, they went on to struck gold again with last year’s Captain America: Civil War and anticipation have already mounting high for their next year’s Avengers: Infinity War.
Then, there is Taika Waititi. The acclaimed New Zealand filmmaker is, of course, best known for directing the 2014 hilariously deadpan vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows. Like the Russo brothers, Waititi also hailed from the comedy background. However, their similarities stop here. Whereas the Russo brothers proving their worths by mixing their comedy sensibilities with strong dramatic undertones in Captain America sequels, Waititi completely embraces his cheeky yet carefree approach in Thor: Ragnarok.
Unlike the previous two Thor movies directed respectively by Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor, Waititi’s take on the God of Thunder is never meant to be taken seriously. You can accuse Waititi of being a Guardians of the Galaxy copycat, but he sure knows how to deliver an ’80s intergalactic romp jam-packed with B-movie energy that instantly reminds me of Sam J. Jones-led Flash Gordon. Whether it was Thor and the demonic Surtur’s (voiced by Clancy Brown) entertainingly silly prologue or the extended sequence where Thor is facing all kinds of troubles in the colourful wasteland planet of Sakaar, Waititi’s signature stamp can be seen everywhere in Thor: Ragnarok.
Apart from his playful direction, Waititi is even bold enough to make fun of the superhero movie. In the beginning, I thought he’s running the risk of dividing the viewers with his irreverent nature of mocking and parodying the well-established Marvel formula. And yet, for all the rapid-fire humour and gags featured in this movie, he never loses focus on making his characters engaging and the story (well, most of it anyway) reasonably entertaining.
The cast, in the meantime, is one of the highlights in Thor: Ragnarok. It was a refreshing change of pace to see Chris Hemsworth letting loose as Thor, while it’s fun as usual seeing Tom Hiddleston’s irresistibly snarky charm on full display as Loki. Their love-hate brotherly relationship has again proven to be one of the most valuable assets in Thor movies. Adding zest to the characters here is Mark Ruffalo, whose delightful performance as Bruce Banner and especially playing his alter-ego as Hulk has never been this lively in his MCU appearances thus far.
As for the newcomers in the Thor universe, Cate Blanchett certainly has a field day hamming up as the Marvel’s first female villain, Hela while Jeff Goldblum delivers a wonderfully campy performance as the Grandmaster. Finally, Tessa Thompson gives a strong support as the fiercely independent Asgardian warrior, Valkyrie. Even minor characters such as Waititi’s motion-capture and voice appearance as the rock-made warrior Korg exudes enough deadpan charm playing the movie’s comic relief.
On the technical fronts, Thor: Ragnarok stays true to its colourful aesthetic of the 1980s B-movie sci-fi/space opera genre, complete with Mark Mothersbaugh’s synth-heavy score. Kudos also go to Javier Aguirresarobe’s vibrant cinematography along with Dan Hennah and Ra Vincent’s vivid production design for both intergalactic settings of Asgard and Sakaar.
As much as I enjoy most of the laughs (the hilarious callback relating to the first Avengers quickly comes to mind) and exuberant moments displayed in Thor: Ragnarok, Eric Pearson’s screenplay tends to slide into an all-too-familiar Marvel formula we have seen many times before. You’ll know it when you see some of the movie’s generic moments.
Despite its shortcoming, Waititi successfully delivers the most entertaining Thor movie to date in the MCU canon. Likewise, do not leave your seats yet as there will be a mid-credit and a post-credit teaser.