Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back for his third standalone film and fifth appearance within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Once again he finds himself attempting to restore balance to the nine realms as Loki (who assumed the identity of Odin at the end of Thor: The Dark World) has allowed them to descend into anarchy and chaos. Once balance is restored Thor and Loki finds themselves facing a greater problem than as the outcast goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett), the first born of Odin, returns to reap destruction on Asgard and the worlds beyond.
Taika Waititi takes up directorial duties for this instalment of the seemingly never ending Marvel tale and turns Thor and his surroundings into an intensely colour laden world where humour can be found in everything and everyone even amid Hela’s villainous intentions.
This combination should lead to something new in the MCU, a standalone Thor movie with everyone’s current favourite director at the helm should finally freshen up this faltering character. Thor has always struggled to ascertain the love and affection of fans in comparison to the cavalcade of characters around him.
In this installment our hero is much more loveable, particualrly with his newly found inflections of humour, but sadly the Marvel template remains firmly in place and unshaken. Over the years th template is clear, our heroes never truly feel in peril and face once more an underwritten villain whose inexplicable actions amount to havoc wreaking because what else is a villain to do! Cate Blanchett however is clearly enjoying herself immensely in the role of Hela and is very watchable but again I found myself wanted more from her goddess of death.
Many have praised the film for its 'wonderful sense of humour' but I found myself increasingly irritated by the incessant need to land zinger after zinger of wit rather than focus on story. Several of the jokes I found to be infantile and on a couple of occasions in poor taste in a cinematic universe that prides itself on its family appeal. I would have happily given up 50% of misfiring gags in exchange for the development and 'fleshing out' of some of the characters we encounter on the way.
I fully appreciate humour being present within the Marvel Universe, particularly when compared to the bleaknes sof the DC films to date. However often in Thor: Ragnarok it felt that jokes were forced into the film rather than being earned. Ultimately a less is more approach to the jokes would have worked more effectively for me. I always felt that Thor was at his funniestdoing fish out of water type gags in the first film, asking for horses in pet shops, whereas now he is fully acclimatised to earth and taking selfies with fans for audience amusement.
To be more positive though, there were elements within the film that I enjoyed. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie character was a great addition and one that I hope we see more of in the future films. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is always a roguish joy and easily the most watchable character within the Thor stories, in fact I always feel most comfoftable when the Thor films examine the family dynamics between the brothers whose affection for each other runs deep and yet ultimately find themselves in opposition to each other.
Threads of bigger ideas exist within this story but never fully face examination. There are questions raised about the stories/myths we are told, how we believe the narrative we are given and how this relate to the actual truth of events. The world of Asgard and what this ‘heavenly realm’ actually represents and stands for is teased in the final CGI throws of the film but again never fully explored. These are threads of thought that, if pulled, could lead to bigger questions being asked of an audience; however, the major concern wihtin Ragnarok is to be that next stepping stone to bring the audience to the next MCU chapter.
Without question this is the best Thor movie to date, but sadly there is not much new to be found here. Praise should be given to what Taika Waititi has tried to achieve, the world of Thor has certainly become much more colourful and indeed some characters have broadened their rangeand yet Thor: Ragnarok feels all too familiar within the Marvel mould.
Thor: Ragnarok is in cinemas now.