Thor: Ragnarok – is it really Marvel's best movie yet? Discuss with spoilers

The Thor movies have always been something of a mixed bag. Kenneth Branagh’s cultured introduction to the Norse deity, 2011’s Thor, brilliantly imagined the comic-book saga as heroic fantasy in space, one part Tolkien to two parts Gene Roddenberry, with a dash of cod-Shakespearean pomp for good measure. Then 2013’s Thor:

 

The Dark World rather ruined it all with a muddled tale of cosmic dark elves that to this day remains an entirely missable entry in the Marvel canon. Now we have Thor: Ragnarok, billed by its director Taika Waititi as a reinvention of the son of Odin, and currently the recipient of a staggering 99% “fresh” rating on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.

Is this latest trip to Asgard really the best Marvel movie so far? Does the movie live up to Waititi’s own hype? And will you ever forgive him for ruining Chris Hemsworth’s gorgeous mug? Here’s your chance to weigh in on the film’s key talking points.

That Rotten Tomatoes rating

According to the critics, this latest Thor is mighty indeed. The film’s 99% “fresh” rating suggests Ragnarok is not just the greatest Marvel movie of all time, but the greatest superhero flick ever made, ahead of The Incredibles (97%), The Dark Knight (94%) and Iron Man (94%). Our own Steve Rose is only mildly impressed, praising Waititi for infusing proceedings with “generously self-deprecating Kiwi wit” but pointing out that “there are a great many corners cut, plot holes papered over, and laws of physics bent out of recognition in this movie”.

For me, Ragnarok succeeds over and over again as a barmy space romp, but Waititi seems to have lost some of Branagh’s skill in investing these larger-than-life characters with surprising humanity. For all that Hela, Blanchett’s statuesque death goddess, is capable of smashing our hero’s famous hammer and rampaging through Asgard itself, before finally tearing out the thunder god’s eye, there is no moment here so powerful as the one in the first movie – in which a stubborn and headstrong Thor is cast out by his father Odin. Nor is there anything to match the musclebound deity’s journey back towards humility and, with it, true heroism, in that film.

Then again, there would have been no place in Branagh’s effort for Waititi’s motion-capture aided work on the character Korg, who is transformed from a fairly vapid and forgettable alien in the comics into one of the movie’s out-and-out highlights, the contrast between his squeaky, amiable Kiwi tones and cliff-face-like countenance a constant source of amusement. So the loss of a little weighty pathos can perhaps be forgiven.

Cate Blanchett and Marvel’s trend for forgettable villains

Justnot enough time to do her magic … Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok

Blanchett gives everything as Hela, and there have surely been few more visually arresting villains in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But the studio’s decision to send Thor to the gladiatorial planet of Sakaar early on in the movie (so he can battle The Hulk – via a neat spin of the classic Planet Hulk storyline – in a giant alien arena) simply robs her of the kind of extended screen time that might have made the part truly memorable.

Instead, this felt like a jumped-up cameo, a chance for the Aussie actor to nip into a green-screen studio for a couple of days before popping off to throw her real dramatic thrust into weightier roles. Still, she gives it plenty of slink and swagger, and there have been few more thrilling entrances in the history of comic book movies.

With his big-hearted, bullheaded outlook on life, not to mention the flamboyant theatricality of his costume and weapon of choice, Thor has always been a superhero ripe for comedy. Joss Whedon spotted it early on when he had Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man describe the duo’s first meeting in The Avengers as “Shakespeare in the Park”. But having tested out the approach on those wonderful shorts featuring Thor and his Aussie flatmate Darryl last year, Waititi manages to find further comedy superpowers within the previously stony-faced Hemsworth in Ragnarok.

At times, the new episode felt heavily-inspired by Deadpool, last year’s racy R-rated comic-book romp. There is even a moment at the beginning of Waititi’s film in which it appears that Hemsworth is breaking the fourth wall in a manner reminiscent of the Merc with a Mouth – though it turns out the Norse god is addressing a giant fire demon rather than the audience. Can the superhero genre push the meta envelope much further without running the risk of eating itself?

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Source: theguardian

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