Kiwi director Taika Waititi delivers a whole lotta movie in Thor 3: Ragnarok, a rollicking mashup of two classic Marvel storylines that signals the studio’s intent to shake up the existing order in big, bright ways. I say bright because the film’s astonishing visual palette is an 80s synth-flavored blast of pure Kirby aesthetic. Time after time, Ragnarok shows us wild, dazzling sights, many lifted directly from early Marvel’s distinct color and design sensibilities, a fitting tribute to the grandmaster in a story that features a memorable Grandmaster of its own.
By combining elements of the original Ragnarok storyline and Greg Pak’s splendid Planet Hulk, the film manages the tricky feat of tearing down Thor’s established world while delivering thrills and laughs on a scale seldom seen, even in the best Marvel films. The bold visual style, non-stop humor, and propulsive tempo of Ragnarok work together to make it the silliest, most fun, and best of the Odinson’s on-screen adventures.
An attitude of “out with the old” permeates every bit of this delight, starting with the characters, a collection of familiar friends and intriguing newcomers. Chris Hemsworth delivers his finest performance as the God of Thunder, deploying his underappreciated comic timing to accent the character’s good-hearted courage, making him a perfect central figure for all the wacky goings-on. His jaunty performance sets the tone for a story that features tons of wonderful character moments. Waititi understands that the relationship between Thor and Loki powers everything, so he gives Hiddleston and Hemsworth plenty of space to explore that dynamic, to great effect for both. Loki fascinates as he hasn’t since the first Thor, and Hiddleston’s performance conveys Loki’s internal conflict beautifully.
The rest of the cast impresses too. Goldblum’s Grandmaster is a jazzy, kitschy treat, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is a tough, tender puzzle who steals our hearts—and nearly the entire film. Blanchett’s bitter resentment oozes out of Hela, who harms our hero like none before. And, Ruffalo’s poignant Hulk/Banner struggle receives thoughtful, center-stage focus. Everyone shines, including several memorable supporting characters, particularly the conflicted Skurge, brought to unforgettable life by the ever-reliable Karl Urban, and the hilariously polite, understated Korg, voiced by Waititi himself.
Alongside the terrific characters and humor, Ragnarok renders moment after moment of transcendent design. Never has the style of comics legend Jack Kirby been so fully realized on screen. The bright, primary colors, cylindrical helmets, and thousands of other elements all resonate with the vivid, bust-out-of-the panel power of foundational Marvel. Costumes and sets are uniformly spectacular, as are the dazzling effects, particularly the fiery Surtur and the shocking, Tolkien-esque rendering of Asgard’s reckoning. The result is like slurping a Pixie Stick made up of a million discrete elements of pure comic goodness, super-sweet but somehow nutritious.
While his reliance on laughs can undercut moments of pathos, Waititi’s approach largely delivers on the premise that Thor has a lot more going on than one might expect. The Odinson in this film isn’t a one-dimensional hammer thrower. He both outwits and overpowers his opponents, reclaiming our affection in the process. Waititi does, too, by delivering on the big fun, big laughs, and big heart that define the character. So, yeah, see it! (Or see it again!)The Marvel saga continues in Thor: Ragnarok, a vivid, hilarious romp with consequences galore. After the film itself and the mid-credits scene, Infinity War can’t come soon enough.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Pop Snowglobe is known by day as Mark Dupre, a geek since age seven, when he purchased an issue of Fantastic Four with his very own allowance money and never looked back. He lives in Austin with his incredibly patient wife and daughter. He loves to share his geeky insights here and at popsnowglobe.com.