By Jack Martin
The term “Superhero movie” does not do Thor: Ragnarok, the new movie released earlier this month and the newest offering from the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, enough justice. Ragnarok is not your average cape and tights film, but a bold, epic, and absurdly hilarious spectacle that stands tall as the most one of a kind blockbuster of 2017.
The film picks up after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, reintroducing us to the superhero Thor, the norse god of thunder (played by Chris Hemsworth), who has been traveling across outerspace attempting to prevent Ragnarok, the prophesied end of days for the gods of his home city of Asgard. However, he is quickly forced to face a new threat from Hela the goddess of death (Cate Blanchett), who has escaped from millennia of imprisonment in the underworld and is now bent on conquering Asgard and the rest of the nine realms of the universe.
During their first battle, Hela beats Thor and banishes him to a planet where he is enslaved by the mighty Grandmaster (brought to life spectacularly by the one and only Jeff Goldblum) and forced to fight in gladiator battles for the amusement of the population. Now Thor must team up with his trickster brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), a hard drinking former warrior of Asgard, and his old ally the Incredible Hulk (played with motion capture by Mark Ruffalo) to escape the planet and stop Hela before she destroys everything.
If the plot of this movie sounds insane, that is because it is, unapologetically so. Clearly inspired by the success both Guardians of the Galaxy movies were by embracing the wackiness of this universe, Thor: Ragnarok, goes all in on delivering a wild spectacle with alien gladiator fights, spaceship battles, and a fight between gods for the fate of a mythical golden city. It is a testament to director Taika Waititi (who up until now, had only directed low budget indie films), that the movie does not fall apart under its ambition, but instead actually gets better the more it leans into its inherent silliness. The plot of the film races along at breakneck speed, as though eager to show you all its fancy toys, however it never feels rushed, striking a nice balance of big budget action sequences with smaller character moments.
The humor of the film is without a doubt its strongest element. It is stuffed with quirky and cleverly written jokes which are set up in rapid succession and delivered flawlessly by a pitch perfect cast all of whom are bringing their a-game. Chris Hemsworth is a standout. His Thor has finally allowed to shake off his stoic Shakespearean persona and be more lighthearted and goofy. Thor still is the same heroic character from the previous films, but he is a bit more cocky, and a bit more of a lug head, allowing Hemsworth to showcase his mastery of physical comedy, timing and delivery.
Meanwhile, two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett gives Hela gravitas with a sinister and merciless presence and gives this powerful film an equally powerful villain. Yet ultimately Jeff Goldblum steals the show as the Grandmaster fully embracing that quintessential Jeff Goldblumness that has made him a cult figure (according to press interviews, the director encouraged Goldblum to engage in improv on set in order to make the role even more like himself which he clearly relished).
Ragnarok feels like the kind of film that appears rarely, a big budget tentpole movie that is trying to deliver something audiences have never seen before. With a story that never feels like it’s playing it safe, a director with a unique vision, and the budget that can bring whatever insane visual asked for, Ragnarok is setting our expectations high for the one that comes next.