After 16 instalments, Marvel movies have inevitably become a tad formulaic, but it’s a formula that works. They still make a fortune and there’s no sign of audience fatigue, so why mess with it? That makes it all the more impressive that Marvel took a gamble on something as bizarre and downright daft as Thor: Ragnarok. Dumping the rule that each superhero sequel must be darker than the last, Ragnarok has opted to turn the brightness up to maximum. It’s the most fun Marvel movie yet.
That it’s so weird is down to the bold choice of director. Taika Waititi’s (What We Do In The Shadows, Hunt For The Wilderpeople) lack of action experience shows a bit in Ragnarok, which has several fun sequences but nothing to top past Marvel films. It doesn’t matter, because the film is so, so funny. It’s much more a big-budget buddy comedy than a traditional superhero movie.
Plot details are variations on the usual: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has to stop the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), from destroying his home planet, but he’s trapped on a junk planet run by Jeff Goldblum. It’s the treatment that’s different. Waititi makes Thor’s quest an absurdist lark packed with jokes. One character introduces himself as “a being made of rocks, but don’t let that intimidate you… unless you’re a being made of scissors”. Nearly every scene has a solid laugh in it. Waititi embraces the silliness of Marvel without makiorg fun of it.
The change in tone asks a lot of Hemsworth, who has to pivot Thor from a semi-brooding hero to a vain, but still capable, doofus. He nails it, showing expert comic timing. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine anyone coming out of this movie without a big grin on their face. If this represents a new era of Marvel taking insane chances, bring it on.