The collective roar of rage from Marvel fans when the first images from Thor: Ragnarok were released back in March was likely to have deafened even the God of Thunder himself; “What’s happened to his hair? Where’s his hammer? Why does he have swords? What’s with all the Day-Glo colours? How come Cate Blanchett looks like 2005-era Gerard Way?” Frankly the cacophony of displeasure was worrying. We really needn’t have been concerned, sure director Taika Waititi may be a novice at big budget comic book fare but his record as a director is pretty damn perfect, cementing his reputation with Hunt For The Wilderpeople, while Guardians of the Galaxy has proved that space-set Marvel sagas can be something special, but still the fretting continued. That was until the glorious teaser trailer - with the now-famous “He’s a friend from work!” line - calmed the waters of discontent and suddenly we were all excited again by Marvel’s bold choice of director.
Two years have passed since The Avengers battled the malevolent AI, Ultron and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), troubled by visions of the destruction of his home world Asgard, has been searching the universe for clues about the Infinity Stones. In his absence his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), believed to be dead, rules Asgard in the guise of their father, Odin. After escaping the fire demon Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown) who wishes to bring about Ragnarok and destroy Asgard, Thor returns home to discover Loki’s duplicitous reign has resulted in the disappearance of Heimdall (Idris Elba), the guardian of Asgard, who has been replaced by the cocky Skurge (Karl Urban, having an absolute blast). When the Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett) turns up to claim Asgard as hers, the defeated brothers find themselves transported across the universe and on the planet of Sakaar where Thor is enslaved by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) for the planet’s hilariously wacky ruler The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Forced to become a gladiator, Thor must defeat The Grandmaster’s champion, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
Unsurprisingly with Waititi at the helm, laughs are to be expected and Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t disappoint. Possibly the funniest film in the MCU yet - rivalling Guardians of the Galaxy for guffaws - Waititi allows Hemsworth to prove what a natural comedic performer he is. Sure, we’ve giggled along with Thor before but this is some next level rib-tickling from the amiable Australian. Oozing charisma, Hemsworth’s Thor may be a fierce warrior but he’s also got a childish streak a mile wide which makes him more human and relatable. Riffing effortlessly with his co-stars, Hemsworth’s easy charm radiates most with Hiddleston’s craftier, brother. Here, Loki dials back the villainy and allies himself with big bro and pals to stop Hela. The pair have an easy chemistry which extends to Ruffalo, the trio feeling very much like mates having a grand old time.
Tessa Thompson is a worthy addition; her hard-drinking, bitter warrior is fierce and fun enough to leave a lasting impression while Blanchett clearly relishes being the first female villain in the MCU with a Siouxsie Sioux twang that’s equally bored and delighted to be causing all manner of havoc. A formidable foe, she dispatches anyone who stands in her way with lethal speed and venomous glee. Jeff Goldblum plays The Grandmaster with camp, eyebrow-raising weirdness. In short, he’s a riot and has never been more Jeff Goldbum-y. Add Waititi himself as Korg the Kronan complete with the director’s New Zealand accent – albeit an exaggerated version – and it’ll be hard for audiences to catch a breath from cackling loudly into their popcorn.
One might be forgiven for thinking Waititi may struggle to inject anything new into action sequences but we actually get some of the most satisfying examples of Thor’s abilities as a fighter while cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe has constructed frames of pure beauty as Led Zeppelin’s classic and apt ‘Immigrant Song’ compliments the big battles perfectly.
It would be tempting to spill all of the film’s many secrets but to do so would be to diminish the joy of discovery. Thor: Ragnarok is a staggeringly enjoyable experience. Pure rock n’ roll it’s anarchic, hilarious and with some of the most arresting visuals and imaginative action the MCU has ever produced. Bask in its sheer audacious glory.