Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy

Directed by: Taika Waititi

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Mark Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson

It’s been nearly ten years since Iron Man first blasted onto the scene and Marvel studios have become one of the dominant forces on the blockbuster landscape. For better or worse, that would be up to you as an individual, but for this reviewer, Marvel have been highly consistent in their output. So consistent, in fact, with their rigorous adherence to their own formulations and larger grander designs, that more often than not (especially with their lesser offerings) their movies can be too rigid in their adherence to formula, straying too far into the realm of the generic; something that’s proved to be a hindrance on more than one occasion. When a Marvel film does stand out amongst its predecessors, (the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie for example), it is often guided by an offbeat hand; storytellers who are willing to embrace the eccentricity of the universe and the characters that populate it, allowing themselves the freedom and the pleasure of having a little more fun in the rigorously maintained Marvel sandbox.

Taika Waititi, director of What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, is one of those storytellers. You’d be forgiven for fearing that the Marvel machine might in some way nullify Waititi’s signature sense of humour and offbeat style. I mean, who wouldn’t? But thankfully, within five minutes of Thor: Ragnarok, I found myself breathing a heavy sigh of relief. Bright, colourful, and never taking itself too seriously, Thor: Ragnarok is near pitch perfect blockbuster entertainment. Yes, it may still be formulaic at times and yes, things may still be a little too pedestrian and probably won’t convert any of the Marvel naysayers, but in the end, the film is such a blast that any flaws will quickly be forgiven.Two years after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor returns home to Asgard after failing to locate the missing infinity stones. There, he discovers that Loki has disguised himself as Odin and is currently enjoying his time as ruler of Asgard. As is the way with these two, Thor and Loki quickly put aside their differences and go searching for the missing Odin. Things quickly go sour when their long-forgotten sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), is finally released from her dimensional prison. Naturally, being the goddess of death, Hela’s intentions to have dominion over the universe doesn’t sit particularly well with our mighty hero. Unfortunately, Hela proves herself far deadlier than your average foe when she quickly dispatches of Thor’s famous hammer and whisks Thor and Loki far across the cosmos to the planet Sakaar, an unforgiving junk filled planet, ruled over in tyrannical fashion by The Grandmaster (Goldblum). Thor is captured and forced to do battle in a gladiatorial contest against the Grandmaster’s champion. A champion who turns out be very big, very green and very, very angry.

For a film that invokes a word that basically means the destruction of everything in its title, Thor: Ragnarok is funny as hell. The screenplay – credited to writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost – is filled with a terrific blend of one liners and humorous interactions. Couple that with Waititi’s great eye for comedy and the cast’s willingness to throw themselves into anything, and the film is quite often laugh out loud funny. Chris Hemsworth revels in the chance to explore his comedic chops with Thor, something that has only been hinted at in the past. Here, he’s given full reign to let loose and he’s a blast. His interactions with the Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk/Bruce Banner are also great to watch, and one can’t help but wish that the film was much more of an intergalactic buddy-comedy involving these two.The rest of the cast, old and new, seem to be having a great time as well. Tom Hiddleston is superb – as always – as Loki, whilst Jeff Goldblum is brilliant as the wildly eccentric Grandmaster, bringing an arrogant pomposity to the role that is wonderfully offbeat and charming in the way that only an actor like Goldblum can deliver. Cate Blanchett, dressed like Maleficient’s much cooler hipster sister, is equally great as Hela, but like most Marvel villains, she isn’t really given much to do beyond raising a faceless army, making evil proclamations and delivering the occasional clunky ream of exposition. Which is a shame, because she’s really rather good. For me though, it’s Tessa Thompson who is the real standout. As the last surviving Valkyrie, Thompson is tough and wildly magnetic, offering a strong argument for her own spinoff solo movie.

I know that I’ve made a lot about the humour within Ragnarok, but this is still a Marvel film. So of course, we get great big CGI superhero antics, with Thor and Hulk battling each other in a truly epic gladiatorial fight and a final show down that is quite literally electrifying. With its off-the-wall comedy, vibrant set design, and a willingness to embrace the sheer wackiness of its own universe, Thor: Ragnarok has more in common with James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies than it does in previous Thor efforts. Hell, it’s even got its own signature tune in Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’.

It’s doubtful that Thor: Ragnarok will win any new converts to the Marvel bandwagon, but for the rest of us, this is an absolute delight and stands high as one of the best Marvel efforts in their tenure. It most definitely ranks as the best Thor movie. If something can make the apocalypse look this fun, then you’d be silly not to buy a ticket.

★★★★

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