So far, reviews, from users and critics alike have said that Thor: Ragnarok is the “most hilarious,” “most fun,” “most thrilling,” and “most exhilarating” Marvel movie yet. That’s not necessarily saying a lot. Which of the Marvel movies have not been at least ‘fun’? That’s like saying you went to Disney World and got on a ‘fun ride’.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Thor was a good movie, quite impressive too. It’s the first Thor movie I did not feel was merely a placeholder for the next AVENGERS movie or whatever is the next high point in Kevin Feige’s Marvel Cinematic Universe dream. In its own right, it is a remarkable movie.
Thor is the fifth movie in the MCU’s third phase and the 17th in the franchise overall so far. That’s why it is important to keep things fresh, a fact Oscar-nominated director Taika Waititi recognises by bringing his own (superb) brand of humour, goofiness, eye for imagery and all-round badassery to the movie. This he does without compromising on the “soul” or formula, depending on where you fall on the MCU fandom spectrum. He does well enough from behind the camera that it is almost easy to forget he had an acting role in the train wreck that was 2011’s Green Lantern. Of course, he has other impressive entries on his resume like last year’s Moana and even has a small role in Ragnarok too.
Ragnarok, as a movie is a fun, colourful, cosmic wonder fest with impressively written new characters. The supporting cast can be described as sensational, albeit overqualified at a glance. The likes of Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba and Karl Urban are of course, along for the ride. I mean c’mon! Chris Hemsworth is more relaxed, more laid back and more self-deprecating, more humorous (basically the best version of himself), which is awesome if you consider how it takes away the blandness that characterized him in the previous movies.
This time around, things move along much more quickly thanks to the chemistry between Thor, Hulk and Valkyrie (terrifically played by the stunning Tessa Thompson). Their everyday humanness warms up the sheer CGI spectacle deployed for this instalment in the Thor franchise.
Rating the action sequences, it’s easy to say they were executed with some aplomb. The fight scenes are flawless, the visuals are spectacular.
However, I feel that Marvel has to find the balance between humour and severity. I get what they’re doing with the fun and the light-heartedness and the irreverent humour, but I feel like an overly humorous, sometimes even corny villain, doesn’t make the stakes feel as high as they should be. Consequently, the superhero’s triumph doesn’t feel as, uhmm, triumphant.
I’m not saying the villain, Hela, played by the terrific Cate Blanchett, was corny in this – she was awesome – it’s just that things don’t come across as serious when you tell too many jokes. It almost feels like there’s an insidious attempt to paper over the cracks with excessive laughs.
I really liked the first Ironman movie and more recently Spiderman: Homecoming primarily because the villains were severe. Not Christopher Nolan severe, but severe enough to cause our hearts to beat just violently enough in our chests. Not every character or the bulk of characters have to be either goofy or wise-cracking.
If you go into this Thor movie expecting suspense, surprise and high stakes, you will be disappointed. However, if you go in expecting to be amused and highly entertained, you will be very pleased. All the hits are there: great new characters that add to, rather than weigh down the plot; lots and lots of witty quips and great comebacks; uber-goofy humour; a Stan Lee cameo. Everybody is lighter, funnier, and much more human including the Hulk! Loki is delightful also. Of course.
In essence, it is truly is a fun movie. But it is a Marvel movie so you know exactly what to expect.