There seems to be a very clear divide forming in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most of the early films are grounded in some sort of half explained reality. Sci-fi but still existing on earth. By the time the first Avengers film came around, aliens had been introduced but it wasn’t until the success of “Guardians of the Galaxy” that the studio fully embraced the more fanciful elements of their endless supply of source material. While “Civil War” didn’t work for me, Marvel seem to be embracing the outlandish with “Doctor Strange”, “Guardians Vol.2”, and here with the return of the God of Thunder.
Taika Waititi is the newest director to benefit from Marvel’s new found mindset, as he imposes his unique sense of humour as seen in “What We Do in The Shadows” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” to great effect, and he also relishes in completely, and in some cases ruthlessly, resetting the Thor universe. Elements of the Thor character are completely removed from the equation (as seen in the trailer), prominent supporting characters are despatched without fanfare, and plot points from previous films are nullified in one line of dialogue. Having the shackles removed gives Waititi free reign to make his own movie while keeping things square with the MCU at large, but not beholden to it as with “Age of Ultron”.
In its most basic form, the plot is this: Hela, the goddess of death, returns to wreak havoc on Asgard while casting Thor out in the process. Thor ends up on an alien world where he encounters some old friends and some new ones, and plots how he’s going to save his home.
The cast here are all excellent. Cate Blanchette brings some real menace as Hela, and Tom Hiddleston’s presence as Loki is always welcome. The biggest benefactor from all the changes above is Chris Hemsworth. He had previously shown good comic timing (“he’s adopted”) but here he’s given a lot more to do in that department and it all plays really well against his co-stars, such as his scenes with Mark Ruffolo as an out of his element Bruce Banner, and new characters like Valkyrie, who is an excellent addition to the series and is brilliantly portrayed by Tessa Thompson. Honourable mention must go to Waititi himself who plays the CG rock monster Korg, an hilarious character that feels like a dig at Fox for their stubbornness in retaining the Fantastic Four. Oh, and Jeff Goldblum has a blast just Goldbluming about the place.
Mark Mothersbaugh brings something different to the table in the music department, eschewing the usual symphonic score for something more electronic in keeping with his own musical background. To his credit, he also reuses some of the themes from the previous Thor movies keeps things consistent.
It’s not without its flaws though. In an effort to establish the new rules of the Thor universe the opening twenty or so minutes moves incredibly fast, sometimes jarringly so. Some of the effects are a bit sketchy at times, and there seems to be a good few changes made from the trailers.
All these things are only minor issues though, as this proves to be another winner from Marvel who seem to have taken previous criticisms on board and finally let the directors they pick do what that do best.
“Thor Ragnarok” is now available to buy at goldendiscs.ie.
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