“Let the Games Begin”
Directed by Taika Waititi
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins
In pursuit of his visions in Age of Ultron, Thor (Hemsworth) winds up in Muspelheim, where he breaks out of captivity to defeat Surtur, greatest of the Fire Giants. Taking Surtur’s crown seemingly defers Ragnarok, the long-prophesied fall of Asgard, but Asgard is on the skids. With Loki (Hiddleston) ruling in disguise and gatekeeper Heimdall (Elba) replaced with slacker Skurge (Urban).
Thor and Loki seek out their father, Odin (Hopkins) on Earth, with the help of a cameo from Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), only for Odin to die and, in dying, release his firstborn child Hela (Blanchett) from… somewhere. Vastly powerful, she pushes the brothers out of the Bifrost before wrecking up Asgard, recruiting Skurge as her executioner, and polishing off most of the supporting cast of the last two movies.
Meanwhile, Thor and Loki wind up in a cosmic junkyard, at the mercy of tyrant and showman the Grandmaster (Goldblum). After clashing with both the Hulk (Ruffalo) and a hard-drinking ex-Valkyrie (Thompson), Thor leads a breakout and starts a revolution. Loki betrays him, more or less from habit, and everyone ends up on Asgard to evacuate the surviving Asgardians and face off against Hela, an army of the undead, and her colossal wolf Fenris.
What’s wrong with it?
With the director’s reins passed to New Zealand director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows), the third movie in the Thor series takes a lighter tone, perhaps deliberately mimicking that of Guardians of the Galaxy. The problem with this is that Waititi never breaks from the lighthearted mode to allow those moments of true pathos that made Volume 2 so successful. The deaths of the Warriors Three are practically a side note, and Thor is never even told that three of his four oldest friends have been killed by Hela. Even the final destruction of Asgard, Ragnarok itself, is undercut with a gag.
There are just way too many dick jokes.
What’s right with it?
Ragnarok is a glorious ride for, like, eighty to ninety percent of its run time. Asgard is glorious, Sakaar a magnificent hot mess of tastelessness. The set piece conflicts are impressive, and for the first time we get to really see the Asgardians as actual gods rather than just aliens with fancy tech.
The film is undeniably funny, and in the parts where being funny works, it really works.
The quasi-80s aesthetic is working hard, and the use of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ truly worthy of Guardians.
How bad is it really?
Thor: Ragnarok is genuinely very nearly the greatest MCU movie to date, but it shoots itself in the foot by matching its epic scope with a stubborn refusal to be taken seriously. Characters we have known, worlds we have known for three movies are tossed aside, and then we get a dick joke, and it’s a real shame because there is awesome there.
Best bit (if such there is)?
The centrepiece of the movie – in terms of timing as well as theme and impact – is the gladiatorial clash between Thor and Hulk. It’s an epic smackdown, with just the right mix of humour and horror, and features the first showcase of Thor’s internalised power.
What’s up with…?
- Loki’s reign? It was said in the previous films that he had much more the temperament for rule than Thor, but instead he’s just declining into decadence.
Production values – This is one of the shiniest of a very shiny set of movies, creating two convincing, if rather small, alien worlds to fill in for the fact that Earth barely gets a cameo. 4
Dialogue and performances – The performances are universally excellent. Hemsworth and Hiddleston could do this in their sleep by now, but don’t, and Thompson provides a coarse, muscular presence in counterweight to Thor’s not inconsiderable machismo. The script is more of a hit and miss affair, however, with too much crude humour and far too much bathos. 11
Plot and execution – There is a lot going on, but the film maintains a good pace throughout the action. Where it falls down is in sustaining the pay-off of the action. It may be the first MCU movie to act as if it is ashamed of being a sincere superhero movie, and that robs it of its greatest impact. 12
Randomness – Dick jokes. 8
Waste of potential – This film is not bad, but it had the potential to be so good. 15