Imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, Thor finds himself in a gladiatorial contest against fellow Avenger and former ally; The Hulk. Thor must fight in order to survive and escape in a race against time to save Asgard from Hela, The Goddess of Death from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.
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You’d think that a franchise releasing its 17th instalment would have run out of steam at least 13 films ago. Releasing its slate of films in phases, The Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently in its third phase of films and they show no sign of slowing down as they have yet another hit on their hands with Thor: Ragnarok directed by New Zealand filmmaker; Taika Waititi. I have always enjoyed the Thor films but audiences seem to disregard these films in favor of the Iron Man and Captain America movies instead. Whilst I enjoyed the previous two films directed by Kenneth Branagh and Alan Taylor, compared to what else we have on offer in the MCU they do appear lacklustre, their problem being that they take themselves too seriously.
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Enter Taika Waititi, who brings his wacky and zany style of filmmaking to reinvigorate a franchise in danger of falling flat. When he was announced as director of Thor: Ragnarok, I have to admit that I hadn’t heard of him. In fact a lot people still haven’t. However, after watching his previous work, What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and The Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016), I quickly became very excited about what he could bring to the MCU. His style of directing brings a fresh feel to the Marvel universe, as many that came before clearly stick to the rulebook and script. According to Waititi, Ragnarok is 80% improvised which allowed filming to flow freely and also to bring a “loose and collaborative mood” on set. This is self-evident and it’s clear that the actors on screen are having a lot of fun being in the film.
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When it comes to the comedy in this film, it is genuinely funny and it didn’t overdo any jokes until the point they fell flat. (Dare I mention the ‘Taser Face’ joke from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?). Every few minute’s moments in Ragnarok made me smile or genuinely laugh out loud. Surreal humour abounds from the get go and was right up my street. It was applied well to every character, particularly Thor himself: Chris Hemsworth has never looked more at home as the titular god. Ditching the Shakespearean haminess he puts in an excellent performance that is accompanied by brilliant comic timing. This new dimension proves to be something that he excels at greatly and in hindsight, this would have made the previous Thor films much more enjoyable. Normally, it is Tom Hiddleston as Loki who acts as the sole scene-stealer in these films albeit with tangible on screen chemistry with Hemsworth’s Thor. However in this film, it is split between the supporting characters, particularly Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and Taika Waititi as Korg. These two had me in hysterics throughout the film, particularly Hulk who can now talk but has the vocabulary of a grumpy three year old. Jeff Goldblum as Grand Master as well is also a sight to behold, however I doubt there was much acting as I think he was just being himself, another absolute joy to watch in the film.
While there is plenty of comedy, there are still some pretty heavy themes throughout the film focusing on slavery, genocide and the literal end of everything, this helps keep the film anchored so it doesn’t lose itself too much in the laughs. While he doesn’t feature much in it, the scenes with Anthony Hopkins as Odin help bring a serious tone to the film and keeps, if only a little bit, down to earth against the cosmic rollercoaster that is this film. The action is great and the special effects are phenomenal. Cate Blanchett is the films big bad; Hela, The Goddess of Death who brings wanton death and destruction to Asgard, while quite hammy she is one of the more formidable villains Thor has come up against in his trilogy and also puts other villains in the MCU to shame. She poses a huge threat throughout the film and is the perfect match for Thor and is another factor in keeping the film grounded. Another character introduced is Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, a welcome addition to the Thor family and in the MCU as a whole; she bounces off Hemsworth well with her surly persona and is one of the best parts of the film.
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In conclusion, Thor: Ragnarok is an explosive cosmic adventure. It’s exciting, funny but most importantly, fun. Bolstered by great character moments and a very…Strange cameo, it sets a new standard for the franchise, and becomes one of the best films in the MCU. In a world of dark and gritty blockbusters, it’s nice to see a film not take itself as seriously and throw on the disco lights for one hell of a party. This film well and truly, RagnaROCKS.