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Film Review: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
December 1, 2017
Freeing Thor from his staid first and second instalments, Kiwi director Taika Waititi finds fresh humour and heart in the valiant god of thunder (from Down Under) in Thor: Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth returns as the mythical Norse prince who, in his quest to protect the nine realms under Asgardian rule, must prevent the prophesized destruction of his home world. When his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) passes away, Thor and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are diverted to Sakaar while the powerful goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett) takes over Asgard. In Sakaar, Thor encounters the hedonistic Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) and rogue Valkerie (Tessa Thompson) and reunites with fellow Avenger the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in a gladiatorial battle.
The story of Ragnarok is simple and pared down (i.e. save the world from destruction), allowing the charms and talents of the actors to take centre stage. Hemsworth balances the good-natured, slightly imprudent, man-of-action personality of Thor with his earned maturity after multiple instalments of on-screen heroic capers. His renewed dynamic with his mischievous brother Loki grows, as does his relationship with the brutish (and now talking!) Hulk. Having escaped the somewhat petty problems of defending Earth, Thor joyfully flexes his muscles in new worlds, although bereft his beloved Mjolnir. Blanchett as Hela proves to be a formidable (and very stylish) villain, bringing extra family drama to the Asgardian throne. Goldblum is, of course, an absolute scene-stealer as the eccentric Grandmaster. His impish expressions and melodious blatherings are a joy to behold. Valkerie is also a very welcome addition to the franchise as Thompson has instant chemistry with everyone.
Ragnarok is full of jokes, epic musical cues, and over-the-top visuals. The film and its characters are less self-serious than other Marvel flicks thanks to a healthy dose of irreverent Aussie and Kiwi humour. Thor’s overconfidence is played for easy laughs. Low-key comedic genius Waititi inserts himself into his own film as a chirpy but not-too-bright warrior who looks like a blue pile of rocks. A few other surprise cameos are dropped early on in the film. Audio and visual gags find their accompaniment in the crowd-pleasing soundtrack and stunning, multicoloured, intergalactic background. A perfectly paired Led Zeppelin song pops up twice during the biggest and flashiest fight scenes. The carefully calibrated swagger and hamminess of Hemsworth, Blanchett, Goldblum, and Thompson mesh well with the ostentatious imagery of Asgard and Sakaar. The entire film is pure entertainment.