Thor: Ragnarok Review
By James Murphy
Thor has been having adventures across the universe, sitting out the Earthbound civil war to seek out an emerging threat to his beloved home realm, Asgard. Turns out the end of days is near, with both Satan and Death showing an interest in destroying worlds. Mighty Thor wants to intervene but matters are complicated when his Hammer is destroyed and he is exiled to a Prison planet. He must recruit a new band of allies and fight his way back to Asgard in time to confront and avert the titular ‘Ragnarok’.
THOR: RAGNAROK has been praised, universally, and rightly so. This is among the funniest and boldest movies I have seen this year. That it still gives one a comic book adventure film, with the usual personnel and trappings is a bonus. That it manages to unite those usually contradictory aims with an irreverently daring method is the film’s greatest strength.
Critically, THOR RAGNAROK is unafraid of delivering an old school, family friendly, inspirational morality myth. This is Good vs Evil, pure and simple. And there are clear and unambiguous messages about heroism, sacrifice and family.
The film shows heroes reaching a team building consensus /compromise, without ever giving up on who they are or where they are from, whilst embracing change and development to hono(u)r those motifs. For too long now, Hollywood has failed to provide such old fashioned idealism but here Marvel have struck back for the good guys once and for all.
What is doubly interesting is that dark, demonic and deadly things DO happen here. No spoilers but we see a LOT of loss in the film. The clue is in the title: end of days! And Thor’s mission is NOT to necessarily avert that event, because it is, by its nature, in any mythology or religion, an inevitability. It is more about HOW one navigates that destiny.
And as Thor himself says ‘Heroes do not run away from their problems: they face them!’. What a refreshingly clear and inspirational message, to children and adults alike. How reassuring to find a hero who relishes his quest rather than shuns it in an era whereby we have been conditioned to avoid duty and yet whereby we NEED heroes and leaders more than ever.
On that note? It is a testament to the strength and genuine ethos of the film that those entrusted with its stewardship are themselves great leaders both on and off-screen. Jeff Golblum is nominally a villain here but one cannot help liking and laughing with him. In real life? He could not be more charming and decent and academic; it’s a joy to see him back in big blockbusters, between this and the forthcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Mark Ruffalo, as most know, plays HULK in this and also Dr Banner and he is hilarious: warm, funny, complex and likable, perhaps reflecting his extra curricular everyday activity as one of the most caring and decent of Twitter activists.
Cumberbatch’s Dr Strange cameo proves yet again both how and why the BBC Sherlock star and consummate actor is now a Hollywood name. More please and soon. I’m a recent convert: forgive my past doubts as to Benedict’s appeal. I have a dearly cherished friend (Vicar bloke) who attended the movie with me. He and his wife concur with my theory that the Vicar is in fact the real Dr Strange and looks kind of like a Cumberbatch. Spooky. Uncanny.
Cate Blanchett is divine, quite literally, in her role: a compelling villain and a joy to watch. Tessa Thompson also excellent: a real stand out performance, full of complexity, whilst adhering to kick ass comic book credentials. These are studied, layered, equal characters, who happen to be women. What a joy to behold and embrace. No reduction to mere love interest or damsel in distress.
So: an ensemble piece. And yet? Well, it is a ‘Thor’ film so, in essence, the piece’s weight rests on the man carrying the part. Chris Hemsworth has flawless comic timing; he is convincing in every action scene and he conveys, instantly, the dynamics of the character. Yes, he is ‘funny’ but never compromising the essential nobility, strength and powerful drive of our God of Thunder. Beyond the screen? An exemplary person, too. Husband. Father. Conservation champion. A craftsperson who hones each performance and grows in star power with each film. He’s just 34 and already so distinguished. An inspiration. I actually look forward to watching his career advance both through and beyond the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As in corporate work, so in film: a weakness is an overdone strength. This is THE funnest Thor film and possibly the funniest Marvel movie (thanks largely to Taika Waititi as both Director and the voice of an endearing rock creature /inter-galactic bouncer). Consequently, that sometimes dethrones the more dramatic moments, images and motifs.
No spoilers, as agreed…but..well..people die in this film. And BIG COSMIC RELIGIOUS stuff happens. Somewhat underscored /undercut by an upbeat tone and undervalued by a surprisingly, sometimes, slow-ish pace.
I mentioned an ensemble? Well yes. But drawback there is even the best can get lost in the noise. KARL URBAN! IDRIS ELBA! ANTHONY HOPKINS! Those giants alone would make a movie worth a watch. Here? Well to be frank, though great, their screen-time is pretty small and they therefore don’t shine quite as brightly as otherwise they might.
I’m also alone, it seems, in my love of Thors 1 and 2? So it’s a shame to see the worlds they built up all but ignored here. Yes, this is full on cosmic and supernatural Marvel, unfettered by the ‘it’s science dressed as magic’ mantra (defined this universe post Iron Man; but now anything goes, post Doctor Strange and the impending Thanos invasion for Infinity War next year).
I just miss that connection to Earth and humanity that was brought by the likes of Kat Dennings. And yes it can be cannon and comic-centric whilst still having a reality of sorts to the piece, given the Thor of cartoons and certain Marvel issues even had a ‘Dr Donald Blake’ second life, did he not??
Ok, ok. I just liked The Dark World and thought it underrated. Ok. I just miss Kat Dennings! But hey: Ragnarok does at least restore the Patrick Doyle Thor theme at the end (though Brian Tyler’s Dark World score also excellent). Here? The score is very electro synth 80s and yes we get Immigrant Song in all its glory. But that operatic, epic, orchestral beauty is much missed.
In short: not QUITE the original epic SOME are making out. Indeed, Thor: Ragnarok is quite derivative. Flash Gordon, Doctor Who, He-Man, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Gladiator. And every comedic style. And Shakespeare. All here. But all GOOD. All done so very WELL. And with a refreshing swing in its step: an unapologetic, unambiguous mission statement that might not always cohere, but entertains, amuses and above all: inspires.
Recommended. With minor reservations. But without the slightest of hesitation. An absurdly amusing and warm hearted experience at the Cinema.