As superhero films go, Thor's third outing is just about as entertaining and purist-pleasing as it gets.
Marvel has managed to reinvigorate a tried-and-tested narrative with an energy that makes it feel rather fresh and engaging, thanks to a welcome departure from the gravitas of the Thor films and a few pokes at the God of Thunder himself.
The result is an irreverent and self-aware spin on the superhero genre – much in the vein of the Guardians of the Galaxy – that delivers laughs in spades. Ultimately though, below its refurbished exterior, Thor: Ragnarok doesn't diverge from usual superhero flick template, indicating that the Marvel folks may be even more tired of clingy-clothed crusaders than we are.
Thor gets funny
Something about Thor has changed. Right from the opening narration, we realise that Thor has no intention of taking things too seriously. He even takes the mickey out of Surtur himself, a supreme being who has been prophesied to end Asgard.
Another villain enters the picture, Hela (Cate Blanchett) the Goddess of Death, who is also Thor’s sister. She single-handedly manages to cast Thor and Loki out, lay waste to armies, and takes control of the Kingdom. Thor and Loki are stuck on Sakaar, a garbage planet, and have to put up with gladiatorial battles and quirky alien personalities while trying to figure a way out to save the people of Asgard.
A hero cast out of where he needs to be; it’s a recycled plot. You can draw comparisons to the Dark Knight Rises, Iron Man 3, and even Thor, all of which pit their heroes in tough situations far from home, necessitating some form of self-discovery before earning the right to return.
What saves Thor: Ragnarok from being another lazy installment is how it constantly overturns what we're accustomed to. By now, we know what superheroes are meant to say in the face of threat, we know exactly how righteous protagonists ought to react. The narrative here does away with all that, accepting how ridiculous Thor films are anyway and riding along with that. It constantly shakes off clichés with witty bon mots and references relevant to today's superhero-literate culture. Think liners taking the mickey out of Bruce Banner’s secret identity, Thor’s precious hair and the reason behind Loki’s fear of the Hulk.
Thor: Ragnarok is also one of the most visually arresting films Marvel’s released. Comparisons with Guardians of the Galaxy are inevitable given the retro theme, old-school soundtrack and space travel scenes. Clearly the movie has picked up on the Guardians’ strikingly vibrant colour palette, making it a real visual feast.
Thor: Still in 1D
Sadly all that flash isn't matched in terms of character depth. Thor himself has always been the tough nut to crack when it comes to getting to know the guy – he’s a perfect being, and isn't perfection boring? After overcoming his inflated self-esteem in the first film, Marvel’s struggled to bring true development to the character (they even packed him off on a random mission in Avengers: Age of Ultron to cheat him of some screen time).
The third film is no different. Don’t expect to learn more about Thor despite a chance for him to get introspective whilst stranded on Sakaar. The only things we take away from that rather pointless period are the re-assertion of his divine power and that he is well and truly the God of Thunder.