Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarok (Spoiler-free)

If you’ve been losing sleep these past two years wondering what happened to Thor and Hulk, and why neither of them appeared in last year’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, get ready to plump up that pillow because THOR: RAGNAROK answers that burning question and a whole lot more.

When we last saw the crown prince of Asgard (in the 2015 film, AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, in case you forgot or didn’t know), he was on his way back home after the Battle of Sokovia. It turns out, however, that Thor (Chris Hemsworth, GHOSTBUSTERS (2016)) went on a bit of a detour and ended up as a prisoner of Surtur, the fire demon. Now that Surtur is one angry dude! It seems that he intends to fulfill the prophesy of Ragnarök, which will see the end of Asgard as both we and Thor know it. Fortunately, Thor has other plans and, with his trusty Mjolnir, he gets away and makes it back to his home world. However, when he returns, he finds some changes have been made in his absence. His adoptive brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, KONG: SKULL ISLAND), has dispatched their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins, NOAH), to Earth and is now ruling the land while posing as the old man. Thor does find Odin eventually (with the help of a character familiar to those who follow the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU for short) and, through Odin, Thor learns that his older sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett, CAROL) will soon be released from her prison and will return to Asgard to claim the throne in her name. Hela, who is the goddess of death, doesn’t intend to make nice with anyone who stands in her way of intergalactic domination and that includes her jovial, flaxen-haired brother. After a brief reunion of sorts with Hela, Thor and Loki end up on Sakaar, a junkyard planet that is ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). There, Thor is forced to fight against in the Grandmaster’s grand champion of gladiators, who just happens to be Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, SPOTLIGHT; BEGIN AGAIN). Yes, Hulk has been on Sakaar for the past two years. With the help of a Groot-like rock giant named Korg (director Taika Waititi pulling double duty), Thor, Hulk, Loki and a woman named “142” (Tessa Thompson, CREED) manage to get away and hightail it back to Asgard for the final showdown against Hela and her minions.

THOR: RAGNAROK certainly covers a lot of ground and, at times, it can get a bit head scratching trying to keep up with the action, but it is the most fun a Marvel film has had since GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 1. Waititi, who perhaps is best known for co-writing and co-directing the brilliantly witty 2014 mockumentary, WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, has finally found a place in the MCU for a character that up until now had been struggling to build a following. Wisely, the film takes on a similar tone to the GOTG series to the point of being delightfully campy. I would bet that if you saw the original script and compared it to the final product, the two wouldn’t look anything alike. It’s obvious that Waititi let his actors riff off of each other and ham it up wherever possible. Both Hemsworth and Ruffalo show great chemistry here, and their scenes together play much like an old Jack Lemmon/Tony Curtis comedy… or perhaps Tony Curtis/Marilyn Monroe with Hemsworth being the Monroe character by nature of his pinup good looks and charming awkwardness. As enjoyable as the two are to watch though, it’s Cate Blanchett who takes the crown — or perhaps the antlers (have you seen that headpiece she wears?) — as she completely vamps it up as Thor’s evil sister. I’m sure she took inspiration from the likes of Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. If THOR: RAGNAROK should cop an Oscar nomination for acting — and it might just happen — it will go to Blanchett. But let’s not sell Jeff Goldblum short, as he is equally up to the task with his glittery green eye shadow and guyliner. This is also the best work he’s done in quite a while.

For fans of the MCU, and I confess that I am not one of them, THOR: RAGNAROK has plenty to keep them busy with Easter eggs galore. There are a number of characters and objects alluded to and even glimpsed at that will keep fanboys and fangirls staying on chatrooms for hours on end debating what could be in store for Thor and the others in adventures still to come. The good thing about this film though is that even if you know nothing about the franchise, you’ll be fine here. Sure, you won’t understand all the nuances but you’ll still enjoy the film just as much. Like any MCU film, there are a number of cameos. Some, like Marvel creator Stan Lee (which is excellent) are expected; others are not. As for the ones that are not, they are a delight!

In this season of Oscar hopefuls filling our cinema screens, Disney has gambled big and won. And for Taika Waititi, he has cemented his place in cinematic history as a franchise saviour.

Definitely go see this film! I saw it in IMAX 3D, which was good, though I’m not convinced it really added anything to the experience.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, November 2nd at 8:30 am HK time!

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