The third part of the Thor franchise has hit the theaters last week and is considered a huge box-office success. While its predecessors were underwhelming, to say the least, Thor: Ragnarok is supported by a great cast and sublime leadership by the director Taika Waititi.
In the opening sequence, the movie makes unmistakably clear what kind of tone the audience can expect from this installment. We are presented a funny, sarcastic, teasing Thor like we’ve never seen before. The exposition is kept short and precise and the previous installments are basically disregarded throughout the whole film. Ragnarok, Armageddon, the end of the world, is a tale as old as time and functions as a framework to put the characters into the places we find them in. Besides establishing the movie as comedy first and explaining enough of the plot, the initial minutes also include a banging fight while Led Zeppelin is playing. This is how you start a movie, folks!
Taika Waititi is a name that gets more and more recognition – as it should. His particular style of comedy combined with his preference to incorporate a lot of improvisation and ad-libbing are a mixture to be reckoned with. Personally, I often feel that comedies are not suitable for a 90+ minute format because they often don’t succeed in keeping the momentum going. However, under the guidance of Taika and with their natural hilarity, the cast excelled at never letting the movie fall flat. Chris Hemsworth possesses some serious comedic chops and Mark Ruffalo as both Hulk and Banner was extremely entertaining. There were some characters who stood out to me: the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) was perfectly cast and every scene with him was a pleasure to watch. And, voiced by the director himself, Korg delivered some of the funniest lines in the movie.
“Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Korg. I’m kind of like the leader in here. I’m made of rocks, as you can see, but don’t let that intimidate you. You don’t need to be afraid, unless you’re made of scissors! Just a little Rock, Paper, Scissors joke for you.”
One of the major points of criticism that Marvel has received over the past years is that their villains were lacking depth and personality. In this movie, the protagonists have to fight against the Goddess of Death, Hela, played by Cate Blanchett. After, what unfortunately was quite a short appearance, Odin is gone, his first-born and Thor’s sister Hela wants to take over Asgard. Her character was both simple and complex enough to be engaging. On the one hand, her ultimate goal and iconicity was death and destruction. On the other hand, her motivation came from being rejected by her father after a sudden change of mind on his part and being conflicted with the jealousy and pain of being considered second to a creation she detested so much, namely humans. All of this, reflected in the sheer mania and longing in Hela’s eyes, was what made Blanchett’s performance outstanding.
Another character that was newly introduced and quickly welcomed as one of the most interesting personalities was Valkyrie. Her inner conflict revolved around the fact that she had lost everyone and everything while still remembering her oath and moral obligation to help those in need. Presumably, she quiets any thoughts on this issue with alcohol. Lots of it. Collider wrote that after Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie) confirmed that her character was bisexual, Taika Waititi explained that a scene was cut which would’ve shown Valkyrie with a female partner. His reasoning of not wanting to forcefully telling the audience that this is part of the character while sacrificing the coherence of the film is plausible. You can either read it into her character or you don’t but it doesn’t have to be in there just for the sake of it. To me, Valkyrie was a badass character with drive and depth and power and I don’t really have to know about her sexuality.
While some characters truly shined, some were not utilized enough. Anthony Hopkins as Odin was barely in the movie, which is always a shame. He was also one of the few characters that brought some emotional grounding to the story. And while these moments were extremely necessary, due to the heavy focus on comedy, they felt cheesy at times. Idris Elba as Heimdall could do with a little more screen time as the unwavering protector of Asgard. And lastly, while there’s no lack of appearance, Loki had to take some serious crap in this movie. Tom Hiddleston really sold me on this character in the first Thor movie and, as they did with some of the other figures, Loki went into a different direction here. Constantly humiliated and trumped by Thor, it becomes clear that he is no longer able to better his brother. And talk about interesting dynamics! Those two shared comical, touching and treacherous moments all in the same movie.
Thor: Ragnarok accomplished to avoid the curse of sequels and actually put forth the third installment in line, crushing the other two easily. With Taika Waititi’s comedy and charm, the wonderful cast, and really amazing visuals, this movie is a success from beginning to end. New Zealanders rock and Marvel really knows how to re-vamp sub-par franchises! Bravo!