Jacob Richardson | 25/10/2017
While he can’t shuck the perennial villain problem of the MCU, Taika Waititi nails a hysterically funny take on the God of Thunder.
After Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are confronted by Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, who breaks Thor’s famous hammer, casting them into the vast cosmos. Thor lands on a garbage planet run by immortal The Grand Master (Jeff Goldblum), where he is captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and made to compete in the society’s regular and brutal gladiatorial contests, dominated for the past two years by the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Thor must find a way out of these contests, and off this planet, so that he can return to Asgard and save it from the destruction that Hela brings with her.
Taika Waititi is known for infusing humor in otherwise tense scenarios. As a director, he has seen incredibly successful with it. Hunt for the Wilderpeople brought levity and hysterics to what was essentially a story of mistaken kidnapping and a child dealing with the death of his maternal figure, while What We Do In The Shadows was the funniest movie of 2014, and also probably the bloodiest. Thor: Ragnarok is no exception. Here, Waititi brings his trademark wit and ridiculousness to what was originally the most noble and stoic character of all the Avengers (arguably), and in doing so he finds a tone that finally suits the demi-god.
Chris Hemsworth fully commits to Taika’s vision, and together they reimagine Thor as somewhat bumbling and self-obsessed, with a definite hero complex and an odd relationship with his hammer. It’s a refreshing take, doing away with all the seriousness that too muddled the prequels to this film. However, it only works because the script is so delicious and the cast assembled so perfectly suited to the material. There are a number of tremendous cameos, but the stand-out performer really is Jeff Goldblum, who is utterly mesmerising as The Grand Master. His every appearance will have you laughing uncontrollably - particularly his post-credits sequence appearance.
In fact, in terms of sheer enjoyment he is unmatched throughout the rest of the cast, except for maybe the new addition to the Marvel universe, Korg. Taika Waititi himself embodies this CGI rock monster, who was banished from his home planet to spend his life as a gladiator after he tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets. It’s silliness incarnate, but it is also the perfect foil for some of Thor’s more noble tendencies.
Unfortunately, the MCU still struggles with its villains, and nowhere more so than in Thor films, where Loki (the undisputed pinnacle of villain-writing in superhero films) is such a presence. While Cate Blanchett certainly looks cool as Hela, and brings everything she possibly can to the part, it cannot change the fact that it is a poorly written two-dimensional character of convenience. And while this may slide in a lesser MCU film, it’s tough when you are literally standing next to Loki to be an effective villain if you are not written well.
The plot, too, is nothing particularly special, with action for the most part having been seen before or being a vehicle for comedy. But Taika creates a spectacular final battle with some incredible imagery that gives us some tremendous hero moments for the main good guys, and it winds up being fist-pumpingly cool. At the end of the day, for the first two-thirds of its run time, Thor: Ragnarok functions better as a comedy than it does as an action blockbuster, and for a hero who is too often encumbered with too much self-seriousness, that isn’t a bad thing.
Thor: Ragnarok brings Waititi’s weird view of comedy to the MCU, and for the most part succeeds immensely, creating a fun, visually vibrant and exciting comedy-action picture that finally gives us a Thor we can like.