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Released: 24th October 2017 (UK)
Length: 130 Minutes
Director: Taika Watiti
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, Karl Urban and Mark Ruffalo
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a near unstoppable juggernaut but for all its successes, the Thor films are typically viewed as the weaker entries in the franchise. With a new director onboard, the trilogy ends with Ragnarok, a real step up from its somewhat underwhelming predecessors.
Serving as a sequel to both Thor: The Dark World and Avengers: Age of Ultron, the hammer wielding god continues his search for the Infinity Stones, only to be faced with a new threat. It’s the end of days for Asgard as Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, easily beats both Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and begins laying plans for her galactic conquest. From the offset, Ragnarok marks itself as very different from the first two films; it’s more laid back in tone and the central hero is a lot less serious than he was before. With an added dose of humour and a more charismatic narrative, the film is immediately more attractive to audiences. On top of that, the stakes feel a lot higher, with the God of Thunder out of his depth and forced to partake in a gladiator arena on a far-off planet, he’s got a lot more to overcome. While it takes place a great distance from other entries in the MCU, there’s also a couple of cameos to keep building connecting the dots; you already know about the Hulk making an appearance after two years of absence but there’s another I won’t spoil here. Some of the best comedic moments come through call-backs to previous films, especially 2012’s The Avengers. For all the plot’s strengths though, the first act is a bit lacking; it opts to rush through character moments without giving much build up to Hela’s first appearance; she just pops up out of nowhere. Outside of that though, the second and third acts move at such a wild clip that you’ll hardly mind too much.
Having softened since his debut in 2011, Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is incredibly likable and when paired up with his brother Loki, there’s some brilliant back and forth banter between them. The cast grows organically over the course of the film and while some of the side characters receive more screen-time than others, the central team formed to take on Hela has a strong helping of camaraderie, almost to the point of becoming a second group of Guardians. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie works to deepen the lore of Asgard further and Cate Blanchett is wickedly evil as Hela, her design and mannerism looking especially sinister. I was surprised to see Jeff Goldblum make his debut in the MCU as the Grandmaster of the backwater planet; his strange, kooky performance had me cracking a smile at several points. Rounding out the cast is Mark Ruffalo, whose dual performance as the Hulk and Bruce Banner is again excellent; placing him on a planet so far away from Earth also results in plenty of challenging moments for the character. The bond between him and Thor is strong here, showing how far they’ve come since their original brawl five years ago.
Imbued with a sizzling techno style straight from the 80s, Thor: Ragnarok is a huge and ultimately welcomed departure from the first two films from an aesthetic standpoint; the bright colours of the second act go a long way towards diversifying the colour palette, reflecting the wilder personality of the narrative. The action is appropriately destructive, with many of the backdrops being laid waste to other the course of the film; a confrontation with a fiery demon is a highlight, but the film also leverages its sci-fi setting to deliver some more extravagant space shooter sequences, bringing it more in line with a certain other set of Marvel heroes. The heavy use of electro-synths for the soundtrack is dazzling enough but the use of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” (which has some roots in Norse Mythology) that plays at both ends of the runtime is even better, bringing a real weight to the action scenes. It’s topped off by a blasting light show as the titular hero unleashes his power in a ferociously entertaining climax; special effects matched by the great-looking art-style make Ragnarok a superb leap forward.
It doesn’t have the best opening act, but Thor: Ragnarok is leaps and bounds above its predecessors; picking up the torch left by Captain America: Civil War, the film delivers another strong third entry while getting another Marvel hero into place for the next grand get-together. You won’t be disappointed by Thor’s third chapter.
Rating: 4/5 Stars (Great)