The Thor series has always been seen as Marvel’s fifth wheel so to speak. A warm and sweet, if a tad slight, origin movie and a pun-filled role in The Avengers were followed by lacklustre sequel (surely Marvel’s weakest movie) and a convoluted sub-plot in Age Of Ultron.
Where the God Of Thunder’s “work buddies” were nailing their respective trilogies (Cap more than Iron Man if anyone’s counting) Thor was somehow still in the B squad.
Well, now thanks to Taika Waititi, New Zealand God Of Awkward Comedy, we can draw a line through that statement.
Hela, The Goddess Of Death has escaped imprisonment and intends to rule Asgard. Thor, recently reunited with his shifty brother Loki is waylaid on the distant planet of Sakaar were he has to fight in an intergalactic area to gain his freedom and try to save his home in time.
Finally dropping the crustiness of it’s previous instalment, yet remaining surprisingly true to the continuity left in it’s predecessors wake, Thor: Ragnarok proves to be the best outing yet for our returning characters and a great launching point for new ones.
Chris Hemsworth, finally given free rein to deploy his considerable talent for comedy, hams up fantastically every look and deed he does, whether skewering Thor’s own machismo by screaming at the thought of a haircut to gleefully pratfalling at any opportunity.
Tom Hiddleson is still hissably snide as Loki and all the new characters make their mark (although some more than others).
Jeff Goldblum is almost as Jeff Goldblum-y as a screen can hold as full time galactic despot/part time DJ The Grandmaster, Tessa Thompson as Valkarie is a drunken brawling treasure and the director himself pops up via mo-cap as Korg, a stone man gladiator who steals most of his scenes.
And then there’s The Hulk….
Thor: Ragnarok’s no-so secret weapon is most likely his best appearance to date, his constant childish bickering with the Odinson almost making him MVP of this outing. Call him Bruce Banter. As a permanently freaked out Bruce Banner, trapped for two years inside The Hulk’s brain, Mark Ruffalo is also great.
For Thor aficionados there is a huge wealth of material drawn directly from the comics. Story points and designs from everyone from Jack Kirby to Walt Simonson to the Planet Hulk series is gleefully referenced to the delight of OCD comic nerds everywhere. And the sheer craziness of the set design and the films whole willingness to embrace it’s Flash Gordon level of knowing camp silliness eclipses even Guardians Of The Galaxy.
If there’s any negative issues here, it’s once again the villains. There’s no actual problem with Cate Blanchett’s Hela, she gives great vamp, swanning around, sneering at virtually everything and gleefully leaking playful evil, but that’s all she does. It’s the same with Karl Urban’s Skurge, he’s perfectly serviceable but again, hardly memorable.
But the true star of the show is the utterly relentless procession of laughs the film pumps out, less of an action comedy than an actual comedy, the chuckles land at a dizzying rate. Anyone upset at Marvel’s habit of keeping things light isn’t gonna be happy here, everything is styled out in bright pop art colours (thank you Jack Kirby) and pretty much every scene ends with a belly laugh.
Pesky complaints aside, Thor: Ragnarok is immense fun and moves the whole Marvel Universe forward in delightfully unexpected ways.
Thor may lose his hammer, but he’s gained his best film by far.