Thor: Ragnarok is a masterpiece of postmodernity; a marvellous and bizarre mashup of Hunt-for-the-WilderMjolnir and What We Do in the Shadows of Hela. Think “space vikings”. Anything’s possible in director Taika Waititi’s eccentric, unpredictable drive-by across the Marvel universe, which is as unique and charming as one of his romper suits… if indeed you get his sense of humour.
Marvel movie fans will want to know that this edition comes two years after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron and therefore four years after the events of Thor: The Dark World. The story incorporates elements of the popular Planet Hulk comic run, and references the legendary artwork and colour palette of Jack Kirby. Everybody else will want to know WTF that means.
Ragnarok – which denotes the Twilight of the Gods – represents a prophesied apocalypse that could bring about the deaths of deities like Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins, perspiring in QLD), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth). We open with Thor – who is rather defenceless without his super-hammer, Mjolnir – held captive in Shibari-like bondage. The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) was last seen hurtling into space in Tony Stark’s Quinjet and could be anywhere by now. Meanwhile, Thor’s brother, Loki, pathological narcissist, is lording it up in Asgard… where some epic darkness is brewing in the form of the enigmatic and malignant Hela (Cate Blanchett).
Unexpectedly, this is a comedy.
How will Thor escape his bondage and regain his mythic hammer? How will he search out a band brave enough to take on a battle of legendary proportions in defence of Asgard? How did Jeff Goldblum’s “Grandmaster” come to rule over a disco trash planet obsessed with alien gladiators? If Thor fought the Hulk, who would win?! Only the film’s audiences will know the answers…
As usual, the magnetic Cate Blanchett wipes the floor with everyone else in her incarnation as Hela, a kind of Gothic Knife Midas: everything she touches turns to sharp. Hemsworth, Hiddleston and Ruffalo turn in the consistent characterisations that fans love, albeit this time with a Twist of Waititi (tastes like Lemon & Paeroa). Benedict Cumberbatch briefly does his supercilious thang as Doctor Strange, and Kiwi Karl Urban, disguised as the disloyal Skurge, introduces us to his mates, Troy and Des. Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie delivers both a deft touch and some serious asskicking (and alcoholism), and Idris Elba again brings elegance and gravitas to his portrayal of the Asgardian warrior, Heimdall. The scenery budget for this film must have been astronomical, given how much of it Jeff Goldblum chewed.
Waititi himself voices Korg, a knucklehead made of rocks who is an ally to Thor. According to the director, Korg talks like a Polynesian bouncer from Karangahape Road in Auckland. How this will be received by U.S. audiences is anyone’s guess but I hope they find it as quirkily funny as I did. Waititi, (a Maori from the Te Whanau-a-Apanui tribe) is the first indigenous person ever to direct a superhero mega-blockbuster. Korg is a kind of litmus test for how Waititi’s whole directorial approach will go down with viewers: will the antipodean auteur’s whimsical but incisive voice translate for international audiences?
While lurching from one Kirby-inspired action sequence to the next, the story touches upon themes of slavery and captivity, memory and loss, loyalty and deception, and the meaning of “home”. Even if the gags sometimes destabilise dramatic or emotive moments, it’s pure of heart and absolutely bonkers. This ridiculous and adorable $180M experiment is peppered with cheeky cameos (Clancy Brown‘s voice? Sam Neill? Matt someone?) and awesome ‘Easter Eggs’ – including a deadly spacecraft that resembles the Aboriginal Flag.
Jump on board and hold on tight.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material. It opens on October 26 in Australia, and November 3 in the US.
Reader Rating3 Votes
As much a comedy as a superhero movie
Taika Waititi's direction is creative, bold and unique
a Love letter to Jack Kirby and comics of that age.