Review: Thor: Ragnarok is Marvel’s funniest film that can’t escape the usual problems
The God of Thunder finally gets a good film and we get the best character in the entire MCU, but it can’t escape the Marvel effect.
The Thor films have been one of the weakest parts of the MCU. They have always felt out of place, with the first one being a very stiff and formulaic story, and the second being just a messy attempt at a fantasy epic. Luckily, third time was actually the charm for this franchise, as Marvel decided to give its most ridiculous franchise (after that one with the walking tree) to a director who understands and loves ridiculous stories.
If you don’t remember what happened during Thor: The Dark World – and I can’t blame you for it – Loki managed to take over Asgard after he faked his death and then disguised himself as Odin, whom he made sure was no where near the throne.
Director Taika Waititi proves to be the very thing this franchise needed. From the opening scene alone we are shown how this will be a different kind of film. We meet the God of Thunder as he literally hangs upside-down in some alien version of Hell. Then, as the trailers hinted at, Immigrant Song starts blasting and the fun begins.
What makes Thor: Ragnarok stand out is Waititi’s style of comedic filmmaking that made his previous films – specially What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople so great. He knows how to capture the absurdity of a story without making fun of it. Ragnarok could have easily been Marvel’s darkest, grimmest film based on the subject matter, but Waititi understands that such a grand story can also be mined for comedy gold. And boy, does this film shine with gold! The comedy comes from everywhere, from the villain, to the unexpected cameos to the delightful banter between Hulk and Thor. Best of all is that for the most part the comedy feels natural. Even the comic relief-character – an alien made of stone and played by Waititi himself, fits perfectly into the film.
The performances in Thor: Ragnarok are great. Chris Hemsworth shows to have great comedic timing, as well as being able to do more serious scenes in this film as Thor faces incredible loss and growth. Mark Ruffalo proves once more he’s the best thing to ever happen to Hulk, and shows he’s not only a good Bruce Banner, but also does a great job as the green monster. Hulk actually gets to speak in this film and gets some much-deserved character development and emotional growth that actually makes you feel bad for Hulk. The film finds a smooth way to bring Hulk into the story, and his banter with Thor holds the film together. But the real surprise is Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, a warrior that sweats swagger and shines in every scene she’s in.
Then there’s Hela, played by Cate Blanchet. She looks like she is having the time of her life being deliciously evil while glooming over the entire film. She has an interesting and compelling backstory that connects to Thor’s story in a smart way. Unfortunately it ends up being the weakest part of the film and it hurts the film’s pacing with an underwhelming Asgard story. You will just seat there wishing they could just go back to Thor and Hulk.
The film’s biggest problem will not be a surprise to those familiar with the rest of the MCU. As funny as Thor: Ragnarok is, the story demands to be taken at least a bit seriously. Yet every time something dramatic is happening, a character cracks a joke and undermines the whole scene.
There’s also some surprisingly bad CGI in this film, with an overuse of horrendous CGI body-doubles that ends up looking like a low-budget TV show.
Thor: Ragnarok has some of the usual MCU problems, but the humor more than makes up for it. This is a really funny film that also has some gravitas. This is also the rare superhero film that actually shows consequence. Choices made throughout the film matter, and you see actual changes at the end of the film and it makes you excited about what’s next.