Review: Thor: Ragnarok

I saw Thor Ragnarok on the 28th of October at Vue Omni, I am a big fan of Taika Waititi, the director of Thor: Ragnarok, so I have been excited to see where he was going to take the Thor franchise next. I don’t feel that he disappointed, but I am already a fan of Taika Waititi’s humour and that is the direction that the director took Thor in, in a film series already known for it’s witty one liners and visual humour Waititi took it a step or two further, to the point where the film felt more like a comedy than an action film. Bringing in actors whose comedy credentials are well established such as Jeff Goldblum making a brilliantly off hand and gaudy Grand Master of a planet of trash and Waititi himself taking a turn as a rock monster whose passions never sound more exciting than if he was talking about a shopping list was a good move. The comedy timing and delivery was completely on point. Actors better known for their Oscar winning delivery such as Anthony Hopkins and Tom Hiddleston also showed off their acting range by taking on a more comedic slant as Odin and Loki. This film was the first time I’ve seen Anthony Hopkins play a humorous character in fact, sadly only briefly. Usually he plays Odin straight but having Loki take over Odin’s identity gave him a chance to play a different take on the character. Also a brief appearance from Dr Strange played by Benedict Cumberbatch served to create another great comedic skit as the actors got to riff off the interaction of their various powers, abilities and personality traits.
The story was enjoyable to watch and never seemed to lose pace, which might be why I didn’t particularly mind the one glaring plot hole, the whole story hinges on a prophecy that states that great monster called Surtur would destroy Asgard but also the Goddess of Death Hela, whom only Odin was strong enough to keep contained. Thor easily, although temporarily, defeats Surtur at the beginning of the film. He reluctantly unleashes Surtur at the end of the film when he realises that the combined might of himself, Loki, the Hulk and a Valkyrie as well as the whole army of Asgard cannot bring Hela down. The confusing part is how Surtur would pose any kind of threat to Hela, who can’t be defeated by all of the above.
The Thor series has always been a slightly different animal to design for within the Marvel universe incorporating as it does Norse mythology and legend. Asgard as designed by Dan Hannah certainly looks incredible, with shining towers and arches and architectural flourishes in all directions with the natural beauty of the world surrounding the city allowed to flourish. Asgardian men and women though appear to have more in common with the Romans than the norse, with elaborately coiffed hair pulled over structures at the front of the head and layers of flowing robes for both men and women. The costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo inherited the look of the Asgards from Alexandra Byrne, the costume designer for Thor as well as the costume of Dr Strange, but the place where you can see the hand of Rubeo really having fun is the trash world whose strange and varied inhabitants are from all over the universe and the costumes are as varied and strange, odd aliens rub shoulders with humanoids with never seen before fashions. Although those fashions mostly seemed to reveal themselves as strangely structured hairstyles, and some pretty extravagant hats. Nevertheless the overall look is pleasingly anarchic with The Grand Masters costume being the ultimate expression of the trashy and over the top feel of the whole planet. His colours are primary red and blue in small touches against a cheap looking gold fabric coat. The coat is cut in flowing kingly style and complemented by a couple of structurally hair-styled languishing attendants at all times. The other new costume element that Rubeo could get stuck into was the costume of Hela the newly returned Goddess of death, Thor’s sister, played with relish by Cate Blanchett. She wears a beautiful black body suit with applied green panels and strips which evokes armour without really being particularly protective, this seems to be a common path for recent superhero costumes to take, keeping the comic book style skintight costume but adding texture that suggests technology or material that might be protective in some way, but is beyond our current knowledge. I really like this trend, it manages to stay true to the look of the comics but gets rid of the lycra and stretch materials of early superhero films that made this type of film exaggerated and ridiculous. While fun, the hero genre certainly has more to offer than just silliness. This film is certainly an example of the hero genre finding a middle ground between fun and silly and genuinely good story telling, acting and design.
The other element of Hela’s costume that should be talked about is her horns, these amazing black CGI elements could be part of the costume or part of Hela herself. It’s a great example of costume and CGI coming together to create a look that is truly magical. The appearance and independent movement of the horns changes Hela’s character from human to other and shows just how important costume can be to characterisation.
The structures in Asgard are all extravagantly over sized to match the godlike status of the inhabitants, I had assumed that Asgard encompassed a whole world, but as the Asgardians flee the combined wrath of Hela and Sutur, it turns out there’s only a few hundred of them. This might make sense given how long lived they are since presumably they’d have fewer children, but it ended up looking more like they’d run out of extras.
Overall though it was a fun film which never lost its pace and kept my interest all the way through.