Director: Taika Waititi
Runtime: 130 minutes
Earlier this year, I cited Hunt for the Wilderpeople as the best cinematic offering of 2016. Since I watched that film, I took it upon myself to dive headfirst into everything director Taika Waititi has ever done, and have adored most of his films. When I found out that he was taking the director’s chair for the third Thor film, I was incredibly excited. As more marketing materials were being released, I felt myself being swept up more and more in the hype. When I actually got the chance to watch the film, after seeing Waititi in person at the Gold Coast premiere, I was full of a brimming childish excitement. After the film, that feeling never left me.
Thor: Ragnarok centres around our favourite Norse God/superhero (Chris Hemsworth) as he battles to save Asgard from Hela, the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett). Joined by a group of ragtag misfits, including his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), a big green guy (Mark Ruffalo), and a Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor embarks on a high-octane space adventure. The plot is simple but packed with an abundance of absolute glee. There are hilarious cameos, surreal moments, and action sequences that squeeze the most out of every frame. Waititi influence in the film is strong; this is less of a big-budget box-office tentpole than it is a man who loves comic books getting to play with some toys for a couple of hours.
The film is close to being too much fun. While there are emotional beats, they don’t really seem to last long. From the first shot to the last, Waititi has thrown everything he possibly could at you. Woman with horns? Check. Big lava monster? Sure. Hulk fighting a giant wolf? Hell yeah! Notice how I said close to being too much fun. In an era where comic book films are a dime a dozen, we begin to see formulas seeping through the cracks of their aesthetics. In this one, none of that matters. Events from the last film are addressed, but barely. The impending spectacular event that is Infinity War is hinted at, but more as a knowing nod to the audience than it is a set-up. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is put on the back-burner to make room for Waititi’s vision, and it is incredibly refreshing to see.
The main strength of this film is in its characters. Hemworth has proven that he has some great comedic chops, and this is the first MCU film that has made him a contender for ‘favourite superhero ever’ status. Mark Ruffalo does a fine turn as the Hulk, and Loki’s character moves from being a dark and brooding tragedy to a little brother that is just a little bit of a prick. Valkyrie is probably the best female character in the MCU, being a mix of badass, charismatic and engaging. Jeff Goldblum is… well… Jeff Goldblum. Every actor is having an absolute blast in their roles, and the enthusiasm ends up infecting the audience.
Thor: Ragnarok is the epitome of a spectacular popcorn movie. We get to spend time with the characters we enjoy, listen to some classic rock, and watch a fantastical film full of comedy, action, and character. After a disappointing second venture with Thor: The Dark World, it seems Waititi has saved a superhero that was struggling to find his place in a, frankly, more interesting MCU ensemble. Seriously, if you want a great time, see this film. It’s just plain fun, and after watching it, I realised that after the events of Civil War, I’m neither Team Iron Man or Team Captain America. I just want to hang out on the Commodore with Thor, and have a great time while doing it.