One Hela of a Ride
BY ALEXANDER DEFERT
a joy packed festival of bright lights and rampant silliness
So Thor: Ragnarok dropped into cinemas this month. It was hard to miss really. Something about 80's synth sound tracked super trailers kind of throws subtlety out the window and, like its trailers, Thor: Ragnarok was absolutely void of any subtlety. And boy, am I glad! Summer 2017 was a disappointing one as far as blockbusters went but, in Thor, we finally have the manic bout of riotous enjoyment we all deserved. No spoilers in this review but, without a doubt, this is Marvel's funnest film to date. Now to be sure, it lacks the emotional depth of a Winter Soldier or an Iron Man. It's undoubtedly, from a critics standpoint, an inferior (or at least more two dimensional) film. But Thor clearly isn't trying to be this. Indeed, the director sets out his stall early as he uses it to send up the more pompous or eyebrow raising moments parts of the MCU. A special shoutout has to go to Matt Damon and Sam Neills cameos as a hilarious spoof of the drawn out 'death' of Loki in the Dark World (complete with sightly shoddy choir recreating it's score).
So where else to start but with the characters? Jeff Goldblum's Grandmaster deserves a special mention. Not only is he brilliantly, and deliberately, Goldblum-ish but the world he inhabits ties the film thematically close to Guardians of the Galaxy (helping unite Marvel's more detached franchise to the larger MCU). Benedict Cumberbatch likewise has a great seven minutes of screentime, as Dr Strange pops in to aid Thor, whilst Hulk and new character Valkryie are also fun. But it is the interplay between Thor and Loki that really steals the show, with Loki in particular being an astoundingly funny presence. Not a single one of his lines are wasted, and the brotherly banter he and Thor engage in is by far the movies best selling point.
Oddly, Cate Blanchett follows on from her dubious villain in Indiana Jones with another dubious villain performance as Hela the Goddess of Death. It's not that she's bad, it's just that she's singularly uninteresting, especially in comparison to the Grandmaster or even the more nuanced dark side of Odin that her mere existence attests to. Either of those would have been more characterful. As it is, her biggest characterization is that she's super powerful, clears up a long standing plothole, and is really keen on killing things. That's really all there is to her. Other than that, the death of the Warriors Three is treated with barely a pause (and Thor, weirdly, doesn't seem to notice that his best friends are all dead). Sif is also strangely absent, and although Valkyrie is a far more fun replacement she too has the slightly awkward problem of iffy backstory. It's great to have an openly LGBT character in the MCU (and long, long overdue), but maybe this deserved more weight than a brief "oh look, she's gay!" moment, particularly in a film where Thor's stumbling praise of women warriors is used to highlight sexist tropes in liberal culture.
All of that though, is small beans. The truth is that Thor: Ragnarok may well be the most straight up enjoyable film of the year. It's popcorn fare but, in a time where such films are rarely any good, that is no bad thing.