Review: Giving Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) a Marvel gig is indeed the studio’s biggest game-changer, even bigger than Guardians of the Galaxy. After 17 films in some candy-colored superhero action mode with high-dose of witty comedy, the NZ director finally drops the bass and turns the table—making Thor: Ragnarok a.k.a. God of Thunder’s third tenure an exact opposite of Marvel’s procedural film: a full-time comedy with high-dose of action.
From the first scene where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) ‘infiltrates’ the lair of evil Surtur, a demonic presence prophesied as the bringer of Ragnarok a.k.a. Asgard’s apocalypse, it’s apparent that Ragnarok—despite bearing ‘apocalypse’ in the title—is never a grim story. It’s a story of siblinghood and friend-from-work-hood delivered as high octane hilarity which loves to have fun with typical CGI-laden blockbuster spectacles and Marvel-induced Norse mythology. However, even with the laughing-gas injection prescribed by Waititi, Ragnarok still ends up being that Marvel film.
Stripping off the Shakespearean panache from the first film and the faux-dark style of the second film, the third film brings a helluva absurdity as we follow a more confident Thor who returns to Asgard following his departure from Age of Ultron. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is missing and Thor must reunite with that brother of his (also that Taylor Swift’s ex) to find the all-father; yet, unbeknownst to them, their evil emo sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett, terrific), stands before them to throw down Asgard’s throne. The confrontation with the wicked sister leads the brother to a garbage planet named Sakaar, where an eccentric Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) rules and occasionally amuses himself with some kind of gladiator match. That’s where Thor assembles his own ‘Revengers’ with a cocky friend from work (Mark Ruffalo), who used to be calm and moody; a stranded Asgard’s Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson); and some ‘gladiators’, including stone-skinned Korg (Waititi in CGI) and Miek.
While the plot is straight-forward enough, the execution isn’t. Ragnarok enjoys straying from the main plot and takes its time to get convoluted. Waititi loves to have fun with Marvel’s properties as he throws some superhero party with vibrant colors, synthesizer scores and frenetic performances from the cast. As if the top-billed cast isn’t enough, Waititi brings along some larger-than-life cameos to make Asgard a host to Saturday Night Live, if not Jurassic Park reunion. Yet, even with all creative control Waititi channels in every possible way; there’s no way he can override Kevin Feige in making sure that this film is another piece of the cinematic universe. The result is rather conflicting, like the goofiest person in the class tries to finish his assignment, but that one does it perfectly.
It’s indeed super fun as it breaks all the image of Thor shaped in the first two films. It’s having too much fun that sometimes it forgets that it has a super depraved femme fatale as villain, which could have been Marvel’s most intricate bad guy by far. Again, watching Thor and his new alliances kick some arses with Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song in the background and party rock for the whole 2 hours might be a super exhilarating experience; but, again, it’s the same ol’ Marvel flick after all.