Sunday, 19 November 2017

Thor: Ragnarok - Review

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Finally, a studio film that makes a point of acquiring a fantastic director, with no prior work in the genre,  for a project - one which admittedly had taken a hit after the second entry to the franchise (sorry Thor: The Dark World).  Ragnarok barely feels like the third entry in a trilogy, more so as the first Thor film that really feels like you're watching the God of Thunder rather than just a norse-inspired superhero who can fly and hit things really hard. When a director like Taika Waititi gains control of a universe, you're right to be excited. Waititi once said:

"I've become more like water, I'm more relaxed and I'll say, "Okay, let's just completely change it and do it that way"

He changed Thor's direction and did it that way. The opening of the film is brilliant, not only does it introduce the narrative in this almost conscious fable like context but has Thor break the chains of expectations that you'd be furiously thrown into a Thor vs grunts action scene. Sure, he fights a bunch of dudes but only after crucial narrative foundations are laid - which is kept very under-the-radar because of the comedic direction of the encounter.  Although I would argue this only gives strength to the film. Demonstrating just how Waititi can manifest such powerful effects within his unique grasp of comedy. Thor literally flies away from a space dragon with some absolute 80's filth (in a good way) playing over the encounter, before being teleported to Asgard, leaving behind the title text in the dust. Up there with one of the most memorable and satisfying opening sequences to a comic book film.

It's so evident that Waititi and Chris Hemsworth's comedic characters flourished within their collaboration and the same can absolutely be said about other actors involved like Jeff Goldblum and Mark Ruffalo. I think Ruffalo's performance is in danger of being overlooked considering the films' immediate success as he plays counter-part to the you won't like me when I'm angry - and green... and immersed within a society that is wholly accepting and in support of Hulk's power. Without Bruce Banner, it's quite sad to think that Hulk would have potentially remained a blissfully ignorant slave or prisoner with a job so his individual narrative is a substantial tale in itself. Thor & Hulk: Ragnarok may have sounded too much like a disaster rom-com, so I understand why Thor is the centre piece but when Ruffalo is unleashed in the second act the chemistry is tantalising.

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Thor: Ragnarok's art direction is arguably the strongest component of the film working in harmony with the comedic tone with a very serious tonal backdrop. Having such a classic Thor story with the prophesied fall of Asgard, there's even the small but substantial Idris Elba/Hiemdall plotline which has some real Lord of the Rings vibes going for it. The style remains colourful, like a constant cosmic festival combined with an 80's inspired score and soundtrack that truly makes you feel like you're among the stars. Ragnarok feels nostalgic even though for most people, including myself, it has no reason to feel as such - Waititi is a wizard.

My only qualm with Ragnarok is that the female characters are few and far between and certainly at times seem to lack substance. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) was interesting as she's an LGBT character but that side of her story isn't that transparent within her flashbacks and you could definitely watch the film without ever realising. Not my main problem, it's her role as an alcoholic - and the way her alcoholism is handled seems almost slapstick comedy which seemed a shame considering the rest of the film. Hela (Cate Blanchett) is great in her role but her direction lacks a little something something at times, spamming knives from thin air gets a little dull and doesn't really encapsulate the title God of Death to quite the extent perhaps some will hope for in her character.

Thor: Ragnarok stands as a satisfying action driven film and holds itself tall as an unforgettably inspired comedic venture to worlds uncharted. I've said it a few times here, but this film is satisfying. It's a word that's thrown around very easily to enjoy something but there's such a pure sense of satisfaction felt from viewing this movie that cracks a smile on your face and warms your heart. Oh, and if more than anything watch this film for Korg - who is without a shadow of a doubt the best character addition to the Marvel cinematic universe.

P.S - Can we please petition a Marvel TV series for Korg and Meek? It would complete me.

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