With Thor: Ragnarok being the 17th in the series of main Marvel Cinematic Universe films, the threat of the franchise jumping the shark and beginning a possibly inevitable decline in quality is ever present.
While the most recent outings, ‘Doctor Strange’, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2’ and ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming,’ all still ranged from solid to brilliant, the Thor films were always on the lower spectrum of popularity among fans and critics of the previous 16 films.
But Marvel remains seemingly impenetrable as Ragnarok somehow not only sets a new standard for the Thor films, but raises the bar even higher for the Cinematic Universe. The unorthodox but inspired choice of Director; Taika Waititi (known for comedy/indie projects What We Do in the Shadows, Flight of the Concordes, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) steals Thor from earth and his damp relationship with Natalie Portman’s Jane (a shame for the fans of the comics, given the potential her character possessed), and keeps most of Ragnarok in space - Thor’s comfort zone.
Beyond the shameless, obligatory shirtless scene, where he always excels, Chris Hemsworth does a better job than ever at making Thor a well-crafted and exciting character, whilst keeping focus of who Thor is as a superhero and where he fits in in the universe. He’s joined by familiar faces such as The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Heimdall (Idris Elba) and of course Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. And there’s new blood as Cate Blanchett takes on villainous Hela - the goddess of death and scene stealer Tessa Thompson is the alcoholic, retired Asgardian warrior; Valkyrie. Waititi’s 80s aesthetic is somewhat familiar to that of Guardians of The Galaxy 2, though everything from cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe’s colour palette to Mark Mothersbaugh’s retro score give us something more fully realised in this case. And the trend of relying partly on humour is also present here, though this doesn’t suffer from the slight sensation of ‘style over substance’ that Guardians 2 did, the threat feels greater and the stakes feel higher, which makes it a more thrilling experience overall. What makes Thor: Ragnarok a roaring success is that it not only works as a standalone action film, but it works as a follow-up to the past two Thor movies as well as having a clear place in (the top quarter) of Marvel’s ever-expanding Cinematic Universe, as you can feel it getting closer to the next Avenges team up; Infinity War. Let’s hope January’s Black Panther can keep up the quality in the mean time! Rating: 4.5/5 Words: Joe Passmore