Upon returning to Asgard after having searched the galaxy for infinity stones, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is quickly face-to-face with the incredibly powerful and dangerous goddess of death Hela (Cate Blanchett), who destroys Mjolnir and casts both Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) out to a strange new planet, where Thor is captured and made to participate in a gladiatorial grudge match against the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). With Hela threatening the lives of the Asgardian people, growing stronger by the minute, Thor must build up a team, escape the planet and prevent the seemingly unstoppable Hela from unleashing her evil across the nine realms.
The plot and story of Ragnarok is certainly the most fun and adventurous one that we’ve seen in the Thor series so far (though that’s perhaps not actually saying much) and for the most part, it manages to be loads of fun, letting Taika Waititi put his own unique spin on things while at the same time, expanding greatly on the history of Asgard and letting us see more of the colourful alien worlds that lie in some of the other realms. Even though it starts off a little bumpily, as well as having a bit of a start/stop approach throughout, the film maintains an overall good balance of action/adventure as well as Waititi’s own brand of wacky comedy and, though I think that it’s still the humour that we’ve seen before in other Marvel films, albeit in a noticeably larger amount, it all fits in perfectly well, never getting too ridiculous, silly or crass.
As you’d most surely gather, even before watching, this film’s defining feature is its bright, vivid design – standing out a great deal from the other Thor films, as well as most other films in the MCU, by including practically every known colour in the visible spectrum. At this point in time, it’s a joy to see a Thor film with actual colour as Ragnarok is a veritable barrage of bright greens, reds, blues and purples, though it’s never overwhelming or tacky. The film also appears to have a certain 80s influence and vibe, judging by that retro logo as well as the closing credits/music. The film delivers on the spectacle front as it showcases plenty of exciting, ambitious set pieces; the much anticipated Thor/Hulk fight as well as the finale (Led Zeppelin, anyone?) are the feature’s big, impressive showstoppers, though some of the effects in the film are a little bit dodgy here and there – in an early sequence set in Norway, as well as certain others scattered throughout the film, the use of green screen is a bit too obvious, disappointingly taking us out of the experience a little bit.
The cast of Ragnarok all get to let their hair down and they all have fun playing their roles in this crazy adventure; Chris Hemsworth gives us possibly the most light-hearted version of his character so far, dishing out a fair share of jokes and zingers, appearing more like Tony Stark in his very first scene with a certain dismissive, sarcastic attitude in the face of potential danger. But of course he also gets to kick ass and take names as well, especially with a newfound ability that grants him even greater power. The returning cast also have plenty to do: Tom Hiddleston gets to prove his worth in battle scenes, Mark Ruffalo spends much more time (and actual dialogue) as Hulk than Banner (though Hulk’s physical appearance is a noticeably very different from when he was in the Avengers films – they keep on changing him!), Idris Elba’s Heimdall (looking suspiciously like that guy from the opening of X-Men: Days of Future Past) gets a few more different things to do, and Anthony Hopkins is wonderfully regal and majestic as Odin, getting to also have a bit of fun at the beginning.
It’s a real shame that Lady Sif isn’t in it though.
As for the newcomers, Cate Blanchett is a good sport and has a ball hamming it up as the wickedly evil Hela; she’s kind of that “world domination villain with an undead, cannon fodder army” (as well as a pretty enormous wolf!), and how she escaped her imprisonment is never explained, but there’s plenty of motivation behind her actions and Blanchett is, as you would surely expect, a magnetic, commanding screen presence. Karl Urban is alright as the Asgardian caretaker who becomes Hela’s lackey, Waititi inserts himself well into the Marvel universe by humorously voicing the rock-covered gladiator Korg, and War on Everyone‘s Tessa Thompson handles herself well in the big action scenes, although she doesn’t pull off the hard-drinking mercenary character well enough and isn’t quite likeable enough to be part of the ally team.
But Jeff Goldblum was my clear favourite; as the colourful, egocentric, larger-than-life Grandmaster, he is a fun addition to the film and, with that incredible Goldblum speech pattern, he hits all the right quirky, comedic notes and wonderfully has a blast throughout.
Additionally, there are a couple of fun appearances from some Hunt for the Wilderpeople alumni, a Hemsworth brother, and another important Marvel character who appears to have gained a few unexplained abilities – a bit inconsistent, I’d say!