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Until now, Thor has been an underrated Avenger. His first two solo films failed to garner a significant fan base in the way that Iron Man did, with audiences preferring Tom Hiddleston’s trickster Loki to his more serious big brother. However, third time’s the charm (quite literally, with a cameo from a certain someone) with Thor: Ragnarok. Rather than taking itself too seriously – one of the failings of Dark World – Ragnarok takes a different path, embracing its absurdity.
The film is at its best when it’s fully tongue-in-cheek. Its self-conscious parodying of more serious superhero movie tropes, such as the ‘this is what heroes do’ speech interrupted by a well-placed flying object to the head, is when Ragnarok really shines. This is due in part to its director, Taiki Waititi. The New Zealander brings a light-hearted tone to the script, skilfully injecting humour into what could have otherwise been an overblown pantomime. Continuing his tradition of appearing in the films he directs, Waititi takes the role of Korg, the alien rock creature who wanted to start a revolution but didn’t print enough pamphlets. Loved by audiences, there is already talk of Korg and his sidekick, Miek, appearing in future films.
Most of the cast also seem comfortable in this humorous setting. Hemsworth is particularly impressive, having wetted his comedic chops in Ghostbusters and Vacation, and delivers a Thor that seems closer to the style of Guardians of the Galaxy than the seriousness of Captain America.
These parallels with Guardians of the Galaxy are found throughout Ragnarok. With its technicolour setting, crazy characters and rag-tag ‘Revengers’ coming together on Sakaar, it seems very close to GOTG. Whole chunks are lifted from James Gunn’s 2014 film, with Ragnarok’s ending mirroring GOTG’s almost word for word. It seems that Marvel have found their new formula, and, with some minor variations, are planning on sticking to it.
Beyond its humour, the film does have some disappointments. Kate Blanchett’s Hela fails to carry as much heft as the rest of the cohort, particularly Tessa Thompson’s new character Valkyrie, who fits in well with the new Revenger squad and delivers a solid performance. Rather than creating a truly chilling character, Blanchett seems content to stride around Asgard with some avant-garde headgear, shooting swords at anyone who opposes her. The bad guys as a whole are a let-down: Blanchett’s army of green-eyed zombies are less terrifying and more tired superhero movie staples, and Karl Urban’s Skurge has already ‘des’ and ‘troy’ed any chance of unexpected character development as soon as he is introduced. Hiddleston’s Loki remains enjoyable, but is too ambiguous in Ragnarok to be truly cast in with the villains.
Overall, Thor: Ragnarok remains a lovable romp, packed with enough humour to offset its unconvincing villains. The question remains, however, how this new, light-hearted style of Marvel film will mesh with the dark gravitas of Captain America et al when they unite in the forthcoming Infinity War.