It’s the third Marvel movie of the year 2017 and the third entry in the ‘Thor’ series. With New Zealand director Taika Waititi at the helm, we hoped to see a further lightening of tone as opposed to the first two instalments as well as treading fresh ground in terms of narrative structure. Thankfully, Thor: Ragnarok delivers on both counts.
The screenplay by Eric Pearson (who wrote for the Marvel ‘One-shot’ vignettes), Craig Kyle (the writer/co-producer for an array of “Marvel DTV & Television” entries) and Christopher Yost is one of the smoothest to come out of the MCU – the segments are connected well, supplemented by an easy- to-comprehend central plot and packed with sufficient élan. Much of the dialogue seems to have to been improvised on set as the chemistry between the ensemble shows – a witty jab here, a neat pun there and a sweet slur too, somewhere in between.
The cameos and Easter eggs in fact, warrant reviews of their own. Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) shows up quite early on in a scene that ties his character in close proximity with the Avengers; The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is present in almost two-thirds of the flick and this time around, he speaks (not just when he’s Bruce Banner, although the Banner bits are ‘vintage-Ruffalo’). The ‘Tony Stark’ references (‘Point Break’ was hilarious!) are sprucely inculcated. Unseen MCU characters such as Ares, Man-Thing, and Beta- Ray are also nimbly referenced (in the form of stone-busts). If you’ve got a good eye (for Hollywood), you could observe Sam Neill, Matt Damon and Luke Hemsworth in minuscule roles as well (wink). Oh, and not to forget, Stan Lee’s cameo as the ‘barber’.
The chief villain(ess) in the movie is Hela, the God of Death and Thor’s sister, played by Cate Blanchett, who manages to ‘steal the thunder’ from both Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) whenever she’s on screen. While it is appreciable to see a female main-antagonist for the first time in the MCU, there is very little fleshing-out done for her character (which hopefully, will be rectified in later entries).
What’s great about ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is how the film all of a sudden deviates from the core, about 30 minutes in, and yet manages to keep its viewers thoroughly entertained. Hiddleston and Hemsworth (with great comic timings themselves) are aided by Jeff Goldblum who plays a completely madcap Grandmaster and the host of the ‘Contest of Champions’, Tessa Thompson donning the role of a bad-ass ‘Valkyrie’ who relishes her alcohol intake (and comes across mildly as a Norse version of ‘Sarah Connor’) and a CGI ‘Korg’ (voiced by Waititi – he reserves some of the best lines in the movie for himself, and makes sly references to his earlier ventures). The set-pieces themselves are a treat for the eyes, hallmarked by Led Zeppellin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ (the original version and not a cover) that has its roots firmly planted in Norse mythology. The absence of Jane Foster & Co. was hardly felt.
Waititi’s attempt falls more in line with James Gunn’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films than the previous two ‘Thor’ entries. Even when comedic efforts fail to hit the intended mark on a couple of occasions, the film is clever enough to quickly hop on to the next running-gag. As with ‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’, every single character has a bit of eccentricity attached to them which they showcase in their own distinct ways. My pick among the set-pieces would certainly have to be the impressive ‘Valkyrie flashback’ which was shot using a technique known as ‘Dynamic Light’. The climactic showdown is well-executed too: the apparent ‘reincarnation’ of Surtur being the cherry on top of the cake.
The director has also ensured that franchise-regulars Odin (Anthony Hopkins in a cameo), Heimdall (Idris Alba) and Skurge (Karl Urban, excellent as always) made their presence felt. Loki is at his zany best all throughout and often towers over his brother, in terms of frivolity. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is by all means, exactly what the doctor prescribed in order to impart much-needed rejuvenation to the Thor franchise. Make sure you stay for the mid-credits (the post-credits really didn’t add much) at least.
Verdict: Seventeen films in, the MCU still has got what it takes to raise the excitement-levels of fans and casual viewers. ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ in particular, makes the titular character again feel integral to The Avengers, and teases ‘Infinity War’ in an amusing way.