With the DC Extended Universe continuing, despite a pretty decent Wonder Woman movie, to flounder in the wake of Marvel’s massively lucrative and consistently lauded success; you can almost sense the panic over at Warner Bros as the Disney executives gather and laugh as they pull frivolously entertaining movie smash-hits out of thin air like a smug clown unfurling a length of multicoloured cloth from a sparkled top hat.
The third in the Thor series of movies continues, and perhaps even perfects, the tried-and-tested Marvel formula of keeping the product light, fresh and enjoyable. Whereas DC appear to have painted themselves into a turgid, joyless corner with their attempts at “thinking man’s comic book movies, the suits at Disney have previous in pushing joy upon their customers and cultivating an atmosphere of “the happiest place on Earth”. They’ve distilled that unchecked sense of playfulness with Thor: Ragnarok, a massive, colourful superhero romp through space that calls upon the deadpan wit and invention of Kiwi director Taika Waititi.
Thor: Ragnarok is a somewhat baggy, choppy mess, with a script that feels cobbled together from a couple of different movies; but it’s also consistently hilarious, with a bizarre, psychedelic aesthetic and a performance-of-the-decade from Jeff Goldblum.
Loosely incorporating events from the Planet Hulk storyline, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) begins proceedings on the trail of the Infinity Stones that have cropped up in previous Marvel movies and acted as MacGuffins. An incident sees Hela, the Asgardian goddess of death (Cate Blanchett) return from many years of exile to take control of the realm, while the Thor finds himself held captive on another planet, forced to compete in gladiatorial combat for a strange ruler known as The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).
Undeniably there are moments, not insubstantial ones when little of consequence seems to be happening. Long-ish scenes seem to follow each other in which characters stand around indulging in deadpan, pointless conversations, achieving nothing except frustration. The narrative is choppy, hopping back and forth between a couple of storylines that feel like half-formed ideas from other movies; and yet Thor: Ragnarok is so consistently entertaining and relentlessly enjoyable, that almost any deficiencies are papered-over.
Waititi’s previous work on What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople showcased his penchant for dryly amusing, deadpan, meandering comedy. It’s on display in abundance here, with the colourful settings and outlandish characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe providing a unique counterpoint and helping to exaggerate the bizarre comedy.
Often wandering and occasionally bogged down as this sometimes feels, the consistency of the comedy makes this warmly amusing and familiar. Like hanging out at the pub with your mates; one of whom happens to be to be the God of Thunder.
Chris Banks | [rating=4]
Action, Sci-fi, Comedy | New Zealand/USA, 2017 | 12A | 24th Ocotber 2017 (UK) | Marvel Studios | Dir. Taika Watiti | Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson