Thor: Ragnarok left me conflicted. While the film kept me thoroughly entertained for the entirety of its roughly two-hour run time, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of disappointment. As with many of Marvel’s recent offerings, Thor: Ragnarok is very formulaic, providing no real surprises in its story. This doesn’t make the movie bad but you can’t help but see a lot of wasted potential. That said, there is still a lot to like in Thor: Ragnarok.
Marvel knows how to cast a film by this point and Ragnarok is no exception. Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and Tom Hiddleston all reprise their roles once again, to great success. Hemsworth, in particular, finally feels truly comfortable in his role. Gone are the days where Thor just felt like a bad Shakespearian actor, ditching the hamminess for a more nuanced and dynamic character. Marvel newcomers Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum are also welcome additions. Blanchett is striking as the film’s main villain Hela, though more often than not her character’s scenes just feel like an unnecessary distraction. This is more a fault of the writing as opposed to that of Blanchett’s, largely due to the villain once again getting very little in terms of character development, as with almost every superhero movie ever.
It is Goldblum who really stands out as the Grandmaster. Bringing his usual quirky eccentricity, Goldblum is an absolute joy to watch on screen. His character also happens to benefit from a lack of development as there’s a constant cloud of uncertainty surrounding him.
Visually, this is one of the most striking films to come from Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (MCU) yet. Director Taika Waititi successfully uses colour schemes to create visual contrasts between the two main settings of the film. The bright neon cyber-punk world of Sakaar wonderfully stands out against the neutral, mythic appearance of Asgard. In addition to this, there are certain shots employed at epic moments which feel as though they could be straight out of a beautiful Norse painting. It’s rare that you can pick out moments of great cinematography in superhero films like these.
Waititi brings his trademark offbeat comedy to what is certainly the funniest film in the MCU. Jokes come fast and loose, almost always managing to land perfectly. There are occasions, however, where the film’s narrative gets more serious only to have the mood shattered by a joke. It is at times like these where you can feel the conflict between the world ending story the film wishes to tell and the light hearted, family friendly audience it wants to appeal to. This is largely due to the restrictions being a part of the MCU imposes on a film such that they remain light and enjoyable enough to attract more casual cinema goers.
It’s these restrictions, however, that really hold the film back. Actions often feel like they carry little to no weight. Not every film needs to be dark or serious but seventeen movies into Marvel’s universe, events still feel like they carry little consequence in the grand scheme of things. Considering that the title of the film, Ragnarok, literally translates to ‘twilight of the Gods’, there is little that happens which feels like it will have any significant impact on the MCU as a whole.
Thor: Ragnarok does not break any new ground as a marvel movie but director Waititi manages to inject a fresh burst of energy into a franchise that is slowly going stale. As the climactic Avengers: Infinity War looms, Thor: Ragnarok does very little to build up to this event or effect the world it inhabits in any way. What results is the funniest Marvel film yet, with a story that feels all too familiar.
Film reviewed at Cineworld, Edinburgh.
Image: Film Frame / Marvel Studios