Thor: Ragnarok – movie review

by Russell Baillie / 05 November, 2017
RelatedArticlesModule - Thor: Ragnarok movie review

You don’t have to be a Marvel devotee to enjoy this cosmic romp.

Clearly, Taika Waititi didn’t get the memo – the one that says making superhero movies is a serious business. The New Zealand director’s fifth feature, Thor: Ragnarok, may be his entry into the Hollywood big-budget big-time after his brilliant run of home-grown hits.

It’s also the 17th entry in the ever-expanding and increasingly exhausting “Marvel Cinematic Universe” of connected superhero movies. Most of the previous 16 have conformed to a Marvel house style that has resulted in films that felt not so much directed as administered.

Ragnarok, however, has Waititi’s fingerprints and funny bone all over it. And his voice. He gives himself plenty of screen time as Korg, a scene-stealing CGI character resembling a pile of gravel. One whose Kiwi accent and laconic delivery bring light relief to a film that is already positively loopy.

For the most part, Ragnarok makes you forget you’re watching yet another instalment of the biggest film franchise of the 21st century. It’s quite a shift in tone from the grim, boring previous standalone Thor-flick, 2013’s The Dark World. It’s much nearer the space opera playfulness of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy films.

Other than saving Thor (Chris Hemsworth in fine goofy form) from unintentional self-parody by making an intentional one, letting Waititi loose on Ragnarok and making it a DayGlo, 80s-influenced sci-fi fantasy comedy, rather than another earnest superhero slog, has some logic.

The punchlines provide a diversion from a script (by a team of Marvel house writers) that really doesn’t offer much of a story to sustain its two hours 10 minutes.

Despite some apocalyptic action and long gymnastic fight scenes, nothing too much feels at stake as Thor and his treacherous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) find they have a big sister, Hella (Cate Blanchett), who is intent on returning Asgard to its galaxy-conquering glory days.

Playing the spiky, slinky goddess of death is certainly a chance for Blanchett to give herself a break from all those years of elegantly restrained screen performances.

She’s a sort of anti-Galadriel in a movie that, possibly care of Lord of the Rings production designer Dan Hennah, certainly resembles Middle-earth in many of its Asgard sequences.

But the film is at its most entertaining on another planet, Sakaar, where it appears the wreckage from all those other Marvel movies ends up, mostly via a wormhole charmingly named “the Devil’s Anus”.

It’s on Sakaar that Thor reunites with the Hulk, who has become a gladiator in stadium games presided over by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum, who has clearly been given the direction: could you be just a little more Jeff Goldblum?).

The pairing of Thor and the Hulk (and alter ego Bruce Banner played by Mark Ruffalo) brings its own spark to a film that is the best screen outing yet for both characters. But you don’t have to be a Marvel devotee to enjoy this cosmic romp. Waititi’s humour is the real superpower here.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★★

This article was first published in the November 4, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

Latest

The enduring sandwich: What's not to like about bread and fillings?
94342 2018-09-23 00:00:00Z Food

The enduring sandwich: What's not to like about br…

by Margo White

Despite an apparent backlash against bread – against carbohydrates and gluten – the sandwich endures.

Read more
Humanity is on 'the highway to digital dictatorship', says Yuval Noah Harari
96527 2018-09-22 00:00:00Z Social issues

Humanity is on 'the highway to digital dictatorshi…

by Andrew Anthony

The author of worldwide bestsellers Sapiens and Homo Deus says our free will is at stake. We talk to Yuval Noah Harari about his new book.

Read more
Why there's no 'clash of civilisations' between Islam and the West
96558 2018-09-22 00:00:00Z Social issues

Why there's no 'clash of civilisations' between Is…

by Yuval Noah Harari

There is just one civilisation in the world, writes Yuval Noah Harari, and the West and Islam are joint participants in it.

Read more
The Kiwi cicada expert who's just 11 years old
94985 2018-09-22 00:00:00Z Science

The Kiwi cicada expert who's just 11 years old

by Ken Downie

Hamilton entomologist Olly Hills isn’t in high school yet, but he’s already a world expert – and he wrote a book.

Read more
Thackeray's Vanity Fair gets a clever update for the millenial age
96633 2018-09-22 00:00:00Z Television

Thackeray's Vanity Fair gets a clever update for t…

by Russell Brown

A new TV version of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 19th-century satirical novel taps into today's celebrity-Instagram culture.

Read more
The debate over the Serena Williams controversy was a dialogue of the deaf
96659 2018-09-22 00:00:00Z Sport

The debate over the Serena Williams controversy wa…

by Paul Thomas

Serena Williams’ US Open outburst was unbecoming but the umpire made a mess of his response.

Read more
The classical blokes saluting unsung women composers
96670 2018-09-21 14:16:06Z Music

The classical blokes saluting unsung women compose…

by The Listener

The suffrage celebrations get a soundtrack from all-male ensemble NZTrio.

Read more
Labour MPs stand behind Jacinda Ardern's action on Meka Whaitiri
96630 2018-09-21 07:31:30Z Politics

Labour MPs stand behind Jacinda Ardern's action on…

by Gia Garrick

The public will have to wait to see a report into an assault claim against MP Meka Whaitiri, who was yesterday stripped of her ministerial portfolios.

Read more