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FILM REVIEW: Thor Ragnarok

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FILM: Thor: Ragnarok

DIRECTOR: Taika Waititi

YEAR: 2017

SYNOPSIS: Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.


A Shiny New Spin on the Classic Superhero Genre

Review by Melissa Lee.

Fun.

That’s the keyword that comes to mind when trying to describe the experience that is Thor: Ragnarok. It pops up over and over in one’s head all throughout watching the movie, while walking out of the cinema, even while thinking about the movie the next day or two afterwards.

To be completely honest, it’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed a Marvel movie with this much joy. Spider-Man: Homecoming was much more of a coming-of-age story, and Ant-Man, while a respectably solid offering, was essentially a showcase of star Paul Rudd’s easy likeability more than anything.

Compared to these and the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Thor: Ragnarok reads much more like The A-Team in tone, rollicking confidently along at a less breakneck pace, given its comfortable 130-min runtime. Every second of that is well spent, alternating deftly between story, vibrant action scenes, and some welcome room to breathe in the form of light-hearted comedy that neither tries too hard nor comes off feeling like cheap throwaways. (On that note, I must say it’s about time Marvel hired directors and writers that fully understand and appreciate just how dang funny Chris Hemsworth can be. Up until now, the man has been criminally wasted.)

While Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in the way of plot, it makes the most of character work and histories to keep the audience engaged from start to finish. Across the MCU board, the Thor movies have easily had the least compelling cast of characters compared to the likes of Captain America and Guardians of the Galaxy. But Ragnarok hits something of a reboot switch, moving everything off the familiar grounds of Asgard and Earth and onto the brand new planet of Sakaar — a planet designed and literally described as a “garbage world”.

Beyond that, the film’s premise repositions both Thor (Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in genuinely interesting ways, careful to keep from bogging down its rhythm by going subtler on the brothers’ longstanding rivalry. Besides a familiar face from the Avengers movies (Mark Ruffalo returning as the Hulk), audiences can look forward to a slew of new, legitimately interesting characters: the headstrong, rebellious Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), the delightfully wacky Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), and the thrillingly fiendish Hela (Cate Blanchett). It might be a lot to take in for any other established franchise, but the new additions fit seamlessly into the colourful new world created by director Taika Waititi, playing their already well-written parts with unabashed gusto. It’s hard to tell who’s having more fun — the weird and wonderful Goldblum being allowed to go full Goldblum on everyone while decked out in garishly golden floor-length robes, or the naturally commanding Blanchett grandly strutting about in her most commanding fashion, striking fear into the hearts of full-grown Asgardian warriors left and right.

All the brilliant performances counted, the MVP of Thor: Ragnarok could very well be Thompson. She morphs effortlessly from brash, swashbuckling mercenary to troubled, wayward loner with no one and no place to call home, and then right back around to fearsome, legendary warrior, her sense of belonging and purpose reignited. Valkyrie is just as much a lead character as Thor is, neither subservient nor superior to him, and it’s a wise choice on everyone’s parts.

Even so, Thor: Ragnarok is far from just a showcase of good acting. There are really good character beats for all the main cast, beats played particularly well by Hemsworth. Having spent two years losing himself in the search for the Infinity Stones, Thor now goes on his own journey of rediscovering who he is as a son of Odin, the god of thunder, and a son of Asgard. Themes of family, self-identity and patriotism unravel and intertwine, anchoring the movie to solid ground.

It’s a wonder that the film doesn’t feel overstuffed, considering just how much was managed to fit into just 2h 10m of screen time — and that’s a huge credit to director Waititi. Waititi has clearly never suffered from the all-too-common superhero movie director syndrome of taking oneself too seriously, to the point of stifling one’s cast and crew from flexing their creative muscles to the best of their abilities. He has an undeniable feel for taking scenes from play-acting to the level of full-fledged entertainment, and it elevates writer Eric Pearson’s sparkling screenplay to the heights of its potential with sure vigour.

In summation, Waititi’s natural flair for interesting storytelling injects some much-needed colour into the Thor franchise, and I very much hope that Marvel sees fit to invite him back for more MCU installments.


ABOUT THE WRITER

Melissa Lee is a communication graduate with an enduring interest in film and TV and a deeper, more concerning interest for the Wikipedia and IMDB Trivia pages that accompany them. Her spare time is usually spent in a movie theatre or in front of a TV/computer with Netflix going at full speed. She also likes to think she’s an avid reader, but, alas, moving pictures on a bright screen are far more engaging for those individuals blessed with the attention span of a five-year-old, such as herself.

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