Director: Taika Waititi
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson
The post-credits sequence in Marvel movies is now its own mini-event. We all excitedly sit through the end credits to see what extras will be revealed. As I waited in Thor: Ragnarok, I started to study the end credits. I was stumped by the gargantuan size of the machinery behind the film – the massive teams of visual artists and assorted technicians. This wasn’t a film crew. It was an army. The miracle is that despite the industrial dimensions, Thor: Ragnarok has a personal voice and a distinctly loopy personality. The stakes are high – superhero movies are always about the end of the world, which incidentally is what Ragnarok means – but there is a generous dose of silliness. Thor: Ragnarok is genuinely funny. Which makes it brilliant.
This genius off-kilter sensibility is the work of New Zealand director Taika Waititi and screenwriters Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost. The irreverent tone is established from the first scene and it doesn’t let up as the story careens from Thor’s home planet Asgard to Sakaar where he is taken prisoner and forced to become a gladiator. Who does he fight? Our favourite green monster – The Hulk. Thor’s sister also shows up – Hela, the goddess of Death, played by Cate Blanchett. Wearing an antler-shaped headdress, Blanchett looks like she’s having the time of her life – Hela is vicious, murderous and superbly slinky. Thor also has to manage his wonderfully whiny and malicious brother – Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston. The great thing about Loki is that he is instantly relatable – every family has one member who is greedy and selfish but eventually comes through.
And the gallery of colorful characters doesn’t end there. Jeff Goldblum shows up as the Grandmaster of Sakaar – a gaudy despot who keeps the populace happy with sadistic entertainment. Tessa Thompson is Valkyrie, a great Asgard warrior now turned into an alcoholic bounty hunter who serves the Grandmaster. And there’s Waititi himself voicing an eccentric, lovable rock monster who speaks in dry tones about revolution – one apparently failed because they ran out of pamphlets.
It’s this idiosyncratic voice that fuels the film. Chris Hemsworth as Thor is a terrific fit because he is an impossibly handsome man who also manages to be both relatable and funny. He’s playing a god but with tongue firmly in cheek. There are some wonderful scenes between him and Mark Ruffalo. At one point, the Hulk slips back into Bruce Banner. Thor must convince him that he likes him more than Hulk but a wounded Banner complains that Thor is just using him to get to Hulk.
Eventually Thor: Ragnarok must succumb to the third act CGI overkill where creatures great and small, including a very large dog, go at each other. The action is not particularly elevating. But even here, as weapons are plunged into bodies, the goofiness remains intact.
If you like your superhero movies to be grim and gritty then this might not work for you. But if, like me, all you are looking for is a good time, then get to a theatre right now. Because Thor: Ragnarok is a hugely enjoyable roller coaster ride.