Thor: Ragnarok is by no means the finest Marvel movie, but it does a fine job of keeping up with the pack.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
If there is one thing true about the Marvel Cinematic Universe it’s that Thor is about as interesting a movie hero as the dried up skin flaking on my heel. It’s the failing of any mythological figure – they are bound by the limitations of their respective traits. Medusa cannot do anything other than turn infidels to stone. Ares knows only how to wage war. No matter how many family squabbles you throw at him, Thor can still only command lightning. So what do you do? Run with it and make it as much fun as possible, I guess.
Thor: Ragnarok is a delightful step up from the first two movies because it proves Marvel is capable of running self-diagnostics. Thor and Thor: The Dark World were horrendous. You don’t take a boring mythical juggernaut and dump him in New Mexico. That’s like trying to treat depression with Schindler’s List. As a result, Ragnarok is damage control. Its director, Taika Waititi, whose What We Do in the Shadows had me guffawing like a buffoon, is the emergency physician. His remedy is simple: Thor is a hulking lug without brains or a character to develop, so I shall construct around him a world that is infinitely more exciting. And it is.
This is the kind of movie that knows precisely what it is and what it isn’t, what it can and cannot do. For example, it can deliver amazing action set pieces and some truly beautiful imagery, but cannot be as deep or insightful as Batman Begins or Captain America: Civil War. Waititi’s approach is fundamentally helpful. He doesn’t try to beef up the lousy characters or outdo more successful superhero films but simply lets the chemistry of his cast flow with the outrageous dialogue.
Thor is once again played by Chris Hemsworth. This time, his home of Asgard is under threat of destruction by Hela (Cate Blanchett), another mythic figure bound to her eternal moniker of “goddess of death”, which is unfortunate because no matter how hard she may try, she cannot play anyone else but the villain. Thor, meanwhile, is stranded on a faraway garbage planet, ruled by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum in Goldblum overdrive), who enjoys pitting superheroes against each other as some kind of intergalactic blood sport. So you can imagine Thor’s consternation and beastly grunting when the Grandmaster forbids him from saving his home.
Let’s face it, this isn’t a compelling plot, least of all because Asgard as a fantastical ethereal paradise looks more like the blown up internal mechanisms of a wristwatch. Hela’s dialogue is all exposition and snark and very little intelligence. The scenes on the garbage planet are colourful and alive, but after you’ve seen one fight-to-the-death arena presided over by a psychotic dictator, you’ve seen them all, especially if the movie’s trailers have already given away all the best bits.
So the plot is merely serviceable. We know the characters are thin soup. And yet I had a really good time with this. I appreciate an action movie that can make me laugh earnestly, that doesn’t betray the idiosyncrasies of its quirky director, that adopts an approach and sticks with it for better or worse. I can’t recall a single memorable quote (except perhaps “the devil’s anus”) but I remember laughing a lot, being impressed by the quality of the entire production, and thanking the Norse gods for finally giving Darcy the day off.
Thor: Ragnarok is available in Australian cinemas from October 26
Image courtesy of Marvel Studios 2017