VOD film review: Thor: Ragnarok
Ivan Radford | On 25, Apr 2018
Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum
Watch Thor: Ragnarok online in the UK: Disney+ / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
Don’t you hate it when you wake up on the other side of the universe hanging from the ceiling only to find out that your home is about to wiped out by Hela, the ruthless goddess of death? That’s the age-old situation facing Thor in Thor: Ragnarok, and if that sounds like a lot of serious drama, you’ve missed the most important name on the poster: director Taika Waititi.
Ragnarok, which means the end of days, may be the title of the movie, and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) may be the Marvel icon destined to stop it, but Waititi is the real hero of this story. Fresh from Hunt for the Wilderpeople, he brings a hilariously light touch to the delightful romp, which rivals Iron Man Three for self-aware humour and Guardians of the Galaxy for sheer style. Like both of those films, this sequel finds its strength in the way it allows its helmer to leave their fingerprints all over it: this feels more personal than a mere entry in a billion-dollar franchise – “I don’t hang with the Avengers anymore,” quips Thor, at one point. “It all got too corporate.” – and more recognisably Waititian than Marvel-esque.
From Boy to What We Do in the Shadows, the director has always specialised in undermining manly male men, whether they’re fathers falsely idolised by their sons or vampires who are far from threatening. He’s the perfect fit for the script, from Logan and Agent Carter veterans Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, bringing together Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Thor for a macho double-act, then spending the whole film teasing out their insecurities. It’s a natural step for the God of Thunder, a figure so theatrically masculine that his softer, neurotic side is begging to be let from under his crimson cape – and Hulk’s dual personality is ideally suited to Mark Ruffalo’s dishevelled comic timing, turning his character into the most rounded we’ve ever seen him.
“We’re the same, you and I. Just a couple of hot-headed fools,” muses Thor. “Hulk like fire, Thor like water,” grunts the green rage-monster. “Well, we’re kind of both like fire,” offers the Asgardian. “But Hulk like real fire,” sighs back Hulk. “Like… raging fire.”
Add in Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and you’ve got a dynamic trio of characters, sparking with tension and testosterone. Throw in Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, the self-serving coward who rules the planet Sakaar with a rod of propaganda and a crop of colourful facial hair, and you have a rollicking time full of delightful silliness.
But Thor: Ragnarok succeeds because Waititi lets those men take second place to two phenomenal women. The first is Cate Blanchett, who relishes the chance to villain it up as Hela, the slinky, sinister, scarily powerful goddess. Watching her put Asgard in its place carries enough nastiness that it balances out the jocular japes elsewhere. Those, meanwhile, are delivered in abundance by Tessa Thompson, who steals the whole show as Valkyrie, an Asgardian warrior who drowns her PTSD and guilt in alcohol. Mean in a fight and even meaner in an argument, she’s Marvel’s swaggering, drunk answer to Han Solo that you never knew you needed in your life.
Waititi balances all of that with his own cameo as Korg, a rock monster who’s deceptively fragile, not to mention a beefed-up part for Idris Elba’s Heimdall and Karl Urban as Faustian henchman Skurge. The result is a vibrant, vivid tapestry of unique creatures whose powers lie in their individual eccentricities, a blockbuster that blows things up with a nudge and a wink. With all the Infinity War build-up weighing down on some parts of the MCU, this is a joyous reminder that superhero movies can simply be a whole lot of fun.
Thor: Ragnarok is available on Disney+, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription or a £59.99 yearly subscription.