Thor: Ragnarok Review
Thor: Ragnarok swallows up the seminal Planet Hulk story and spits out Thor: Rock Star.After Thor introduced us to a whole new word, Guardians of the Galaxy expanded that to an all-new galaxy and Doctor Strange showed the potential that the Marvel Cinematic Universe could offer, Ragnarok starts to bring it all together into one unified whole in anticipation of the upcoming Infinity War. With the out-of-this-world colour and funky soundtrack of a Guardians movie, the hard-hitting ground-pounding of a Hulk movie, and the epic swords and shields scale of a Thor flick, Ragnarok delivers a perfectly-balanced blend of humour, action and impact, completing Thor's journey from within a much more extensive, expansive story of epic proportions.In much the same way as Captain America: Civil War took the epic comic book story arc of Civil War and injected it into Cap's franchise to book-end his character's journey across the three films, and Iron Man III borrowed largely from the Iron Man: Extremis and The Mechanic comic book tales, Thor: Ragnarok not only takes from its own heritage but also borrows heavily from one of Hulk's best comic book tales - Planet Hulk - giving us likely the best, albeit very limited, glimpse at the universe that seminal story offered (what with Marvel Studios prevented from making a solo Hulk flick) and making Thor's galaxy-hopping journey home all the more epic.
Seeking help from Doctor Strange to find Odin, his missing father, Thor discovers a far greater evil looming - Hela: The Goddess of Death - but, before he save the people of Asgard, he finds himself literally crash-landing on a strange new planet where he's captured and forced to battle in a Gladiator-like contest against the reigning champion, a certain Angry Green Man.
New Zealand director Taika Waititi's Hollywood debut may well still be a Marvel movie through and through, but it's also got a blisteringly colourful identity of its own, imbued with much of the same curious, offbeat humour and undeniable heart of the director's earlier, unexpectedly warm The Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Waititi brings a fresh style to the Thor franchise after Dark World, capitalising on the bookended use of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, whilst giving the whole Planet Hulk element its very own 80s videogame score. Apparently he wanted Queen, but not without Mercury, and Mark Mothersbaugh's score (he's the man behind most of the seminal soundtracks to Wes Anderson's greats, including The Life Aquatic) is definitely Queen-inspired, by way of Jean-Michel Jarre's synthesiser, giving large swathes of the film the fun feel of Flash Gordon. It's quite a surprise for not only a Marvel film - but a main Marvel film (i.e. core Avengers characters, not Guardians) to be this much... fun, and it definitely follows on well from this year's colourful Guardians sequel.
Ragnarok is easily the best Thor movie
Waititi tells an epic tale across his two-and-a-quarter hour runtime, bringing many of the elements from Planet Hulk to life - many of the characters - although, disappointingly for fans of the story, not the same stakes. Instead the desert world of the comic book's Sakaar is swapped out for something that looks more inspired by Luc Besson's The Fifth Element, and the evil Red King turned into Jeff Goldblum's eccentric little Grandmaster, who enjoys playing his electric keyboard whilst talking to his enemies. If this had been a Hulk movie, it would have been a devastating diversion from the game-changing, and tragic, tale (imagine injecting full-on comedy into Ridley Scott's Gladiator) but this isn't a Hulk movie, and the twist on Planet Hulk is fantastically fun and entertaining, giving us more fish-out-of-water hilarity from Thor, more brilliant banter between him and Hulk, and room for Tessa Thompson to shine as the Marvel universe's loud-mouthed and least likely drunk heroine. Indeed all the bit characters shine - from Elba's fugitive freedom fighter, Heimdall, to Hiddleston's trickster Loki (although the other actor who 'plays' Loki was a great, hilarious surprise). Cate Blanchett also channels Angelina Jolie's Malificent to great effect (and looks surprisingly like Evangeline Lilly's Wasp belying her pushing-fifty age) as the horned Goddess of Death, and whilst her path is almost side-lined for the Planet Hulk sequences, she makes for an effective opponent and catalyst to Thor's character development.
And it is a Thor movie through-and-through (arguably moreso than Civil War was a Captain America movie), with Hemsworth on superbly witty (although strangely CG-bulked-up) form as the Norse God with attitude. The opening confrontation sets the tone - as a chained-up Thor frustrates his Big Bad opponent's grand speech by literally twisting in the wind - and you're guaranteed a wildly fun, wildly colourful rollercoaster of a ride from then on out. Prepare for something very different, because that's what Waititi has given us. Not just another great Marvel chapter, but - surprisingly - one of the funniest Marvel entries, and easily the best Thor movie so far.
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