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Review: Thor: Ragnarok

In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is the end of days. The Earth and the rest of the Nine Realms will be destroyed so they can be reborn. In Marvel’s latest film, Thor: Ragnarok, Asgard is under threat of destruction, and it’s Thor’s job to stop it. We’ve already seen from the trailers that Thor’s hammer Mjolnir gets destroyed, but much more happens before the end credits roll.

Thor’s fifth outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe opens with a spectacular fight sequence against Surtur, a fire demon fated to begin Ragnarok. The scene is full of drama, action and humour, setting the tone for the rest of the film. We then follow the God of Thunder (Chris Hemsworth) as he returns home to find his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has been disguised as Odin and is ruling Asgard in his absence. After some familial complications, a battle is sparked with Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death.

The third instalment of the Thor franchise is fantastic – it’s funny, action-packed and is a blast to watch. Similarly to this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, this film is unafraid to have moments of laughter amongst the action, and doesn’t let this detract from what’s going on onscreen. There is genuine pleasure watching Chris Hemsworth utilise his brilliant comedic timing which we last witnessed in Ghostbusters.

The cinematography is amazing: the locations are captured wonderfully, and the CGI is integrated so well with the practical effects that it’s difficult to tell where the two meet. Sakaar, the junk planet, is masterfully created; it is essentially a giant landfill for the universe, and that’s reflected in the ‘thrown together’ style of the buildings and costumes. It was also good to see more of the Nine Realms which we got a taste of in Thor: The Dark World.

Ultimately, this film’s best feature is its characters. The characterisation is incredible – every character has an arc that’s fully fleshed out, and everyone gets a moment to shine. Thor himself goes on a journey that ties in with the themes implied by the title ‘Ragnarok’: he’s destroyed, beaten down, and has to fight to get back up again. Although this sounds a lot like the plot from the first Thor movie, it becomes more than that because of the way this film plays with the audience, shamelessly stripping away everything that we know about the franchise from previous movies. Thor’s hammer, standard characters, even Thor’s luscious locks aren’t safe. The audience goes on this journey with Thor in a way that we don’t in the first film.

Another fantastic example of a well-crafted character is Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Actually, they deserve to be considered as separate characters because for the first time we see something of The Hulk without having to rely on Dr Banner. We’re first introduced to Hulk on Sakaar as the champion of the fighting ring (as in the trailer), but we soon see a vulnerability to him that hasn’t been there previously. He goes from being a monster to someone who just wants a friend, gaining an autonomy the makes him a distinct character from Banner.

However, there is always the reminder that the two are linked: a reference to Natasha Romanoff brings Bruce back into the film. (Contrastingly, a highlight of the film was how Thor kept referencing ‘the sun’s getting real low’ from Age of Ultron.) Bruce is devastated once he finds out how long he’s been the Hulk, and there’s a real sense of panic and fear regarding Banner’s less-than-symbiotic relationship with the Hulk.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Thor movie if Loki didn’t have a large role. The God of Mischief is back at it again, switching sides and playing both teams against each other. On the other hand, there are moments of emotion for the trickster, mainly to do with his difficult fraternal bond with Thor that will elicit emotion from even the most staunch Loki-hater.

There were a lot of new characters, too. Hela’s villainous motivations are well thought out and relate to the other established characters. Her powers are unbelievable, yet she doesn’t strike me as absurdly overpowered – she is a goddess after all. Another great character was Korg, voiced by the director Taika Waititi. He’s certainly a gentle giant, who has the lion’s share of the funny lines. Finally, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) is a slight variation of the typical ‘strong woman’ trope as she has an actual backstory that explains her drinking problem. She’s badass and knows it, but the emphasis was on ‘slight’ variation – it would have been nice to have a more unpredictable character.

All in all, it’s really hard to find anything wrong with this film: no plot points are left open, the special effects are incredible (especially the lightning that surrounds Thor during key fights in the film), and the characters are sure to make this film a success. It’s perfect for any Marvel or superhero fan – arguably, this is one of the best movies that the studio has ever produced. The film is about growth and rebirth, and afterwards the audience is left with the feeling that the next time we see these characters they’ll be completely new.

Thor: Ragnarok is in cinemas nationwide now. Image source: Wheretowatch.com