"Be weird. It’s more fun". Either I read that of a t-shirt or I will do soon. We all need something quirky in our lives whether that’s a random friend, an unpredictable life or maybe even just the occasional brilliantly weird film. New Zealand director Taika Waititi had the latter fix well and truly covered last year with the insanely enjoyable Hunt for the Wilderpeople (it’s on Netflix if you missed it). It was packed full with the kind off-beat humor that we don’t see enough of in the bigger blockbuster films. That’s why I was happier than Star Lord with Spotify when Marvel announced he would be directing their 3rd (and presumably final) Thor solo movie. The prior 2 Asgardian adventures have shown that their characters have great comedic assets, and if this Kiwi can do a James Gunn and get himself across through the requirements of the Marvel blockbuster, we could have something really special on hammer-wielding hands, and indeed we do. Thor: Ragnarok is the most outright fun and hilarious Marvel film to date. See it and laugh ‘till something pops.
After the exiled Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett - LOTR) returns to claim the throne of Asgard, a defeated Thor (Chris Hemsworth - Rush) finds himself banished to the fighting pits of Sakaar. After a surprise reunion with a big green friend (Mark Ruffalo - Spotlight) and with the help of his treacherous brother Loki (Tom Hiddlesdon – Kong: Skull Island), Thor sets out to take back his home.
I really hope James Gunn treats this as, “challenge accepted” for Guardians 3 because Thor: Ragnarok has well and truly stepped up to the plate with a fun roller-coaster science fiction fantasy. There probably is a little too much going on for one film but like the best Buckaroo players, somehow Waititi makes everything balance. The first act moves at a quick pace in picking up from Dark World and Age of Ultron to depositing its leads into the subsequent makeshift Planet Hulk section, yet everything is easy to follow and if doesn’t let up on the action or gags. There are some sections where the story slows or feels like its being wrenched back towards titular Ragnarok story instead of further exploring the new, interesting location of Sakaar (it’s like a cosmic Room of Requirement). Then, there’s Hela. She’s awesome, full of character and one of Marvel’s better villains but between her initial takeover and the big showdown final act, the story seems constantly grasping for something to do with her. Yet many of the smaller squeezed-in elements are brilliant. As teased in his 2016 debut, Doctor Strange features, hilariously dominating the screen for a few minutes before disappearing like magic. The opening Sutur sequence is both a mini-action movie and really sets the film’s tone with a few well-placed gags.
Then there is Sakaar.... pretty much everything makes you want to smash the glass and jubilantly shout, “another!”. It looks fantastic being part junkyard, part vibrant colourful city. It comes with its own soundtrack of eerie and edgy electronic that you could happily leave on repeat for the entire house party. It provides great action spectacle with the much hyped Thor Vs Hulk gladiator fight and an impressive air combat sequence. Yet the real magic of this section and really the entire film is the new characters it provides. First, there’s Jeff Goldblum’s laid-back but apparently tyrannical Grand Master running the show. It’s like Goldblum took a long look at his performance in Independence Day: Resurgence and said, “right, next time I’m having some fun”. He’s clearly given free reign over his character and wonderful to watch as a result. Then there’s Tessa Thompson’s (Creed) Valkyrie who becomes a great parody of alcoholic ex-warrior with a killer first entrance, and if they want to develop her as new love interest for Thor, I’m all on board with that. Waititi even fits in Wilderpeople’s stern faced Rachel House as Goldbum’s assistant but every single one of these people pales in comparison to Korg; a rock man motion-captured and voiced by the director himself. His every line is dripping with dry New Zealand wit and frequently becomes the satirical towards genre troupes. Yet his routine never gets old throughout as even his final line will reduce you to hysterics. I don’t care when or how, the MCU needs to see more of Korg.
There is a flipside to such joyous madness as for some, this will be too much of a departure from what they’ve come to except of a Marvel movie. Or those that like a film to occasionally take itself seriously for dramatic investment. Even those in love at first Korg may still get the odd moment of feeling that it’s getting too silly. Ultimately, Thor: Ragnarok is like the most imaginative and vivaicious five-year-old you’ve ever met; you can be mesmerized by it for hours but every now and then, it becomes a danger to itself. Then there’s its use of The Hulk in his continual “No Banner” state. That will likely be divisive among fans. In conversation/non-action scenes, he comes as very childish in way really contradicts his prior Avenger incarnations. Rather than being the tortured monster of age he’s meant to be, he’s shown more like a stroppy toddler. Although to the film’s credit, Hulk gets probably the best emotional moment in the entire film when Banner finally makes a comeback, and Ruffalo’s Banner scenes are all great. Then there’s dressing up Odin like The Walking Dead’s Hershel - nobody needed to see that.
Of course, there are post-credits scenes. It’s what’s now become the norm of a mid-credits scene teasing a future film and a final coda catching up with someone from this film. It doesn’t have the best Stan Lee cameo but you won’t care following a certain actor’s appearance much earlier. If you want Marvel movies to be more serious, you’ll leave Ragnarok wishing it was the end of the world but if you love their typically fun approach, this will become one of your favourites. Thor: Ragnarok makes it very clear that this is the last Thor solo movie of this incarnation but Asgard goes out with a bang.... and yes, it Ragna-rocks!