Friday review: Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok, the newest Marvel film to hit theaters, is already being called the new standard for this brand of superhero movies. Featuring a new director, Taika Waititi, known for indie films like Hunt for the Wilderpeople, the third installment in the “Thor” franchise uses a lighter, humor-driven tone to completely reinvent the film’s image and create a movie that is receiving largely positive reviews.

The movie takes place several years after Thor: The Dark World and follows the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has left Earth in an attempt to investigate the powerful infinity stones that seem to be popping up in various parts of the galaxy. When Thor finally returns to Asgard, he must work together with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to defend their home from a new threat named Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death. Thor and Loki are soon imprisoned on the planet Sakaar, a place for all the garbage in the galaxy, and with the help of an old “friend from work,” must find a way to save Asgard from Hela’s rule and destruction.

If you follow these types of films like I do, you may know that this is the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s a lot of superheroes and fantasy sci-fi content to work with. As Marvel builds toward the first part of next year’s Avengers: Infinity Wars, which aims to bring together just about every character we’ve seen in these seventeen films, it was time for a change where films like “Thor” are concerned.

Enter in Taika Waititi, New Zealand director and comedian known for his offbeat films such as Hunt for Wilderpeople and What We Do in the Shadows. Originally having no interest in big feature films, Waititi impressed the Marvel producers with a sizzle reel meant to highlight his vision for the tone and humorous style of the film. He was quoted saying that he felt “like a guest in Marvel’s universe but with the creative freedom to do what I want.”

It was clear from the beginning of planning the film that all parties involved wanted a new direction, including star Hemsworth and producer Kevin Feige. In regards to how this film would be different from its predecessors, Waititi commented, “a lot of what we’re doing with the film is, in a way, kind of dismantling and destroying the old idea and rebuilding it in a new way that’s fresh.” Actor Mark Ruffalo described it as a “road movie” while others have compared it to that of a “buddy-style comedy.”

In a sense, this film is a bit of an experiment, which includes a new director, several new characters, new worlds to visit, and a fresh style and story, while maintaining a similar continuity and many characters and elements from previous films. In addition to adding his own jokes to the script, Waititi spoke on how 80 percent of the dialogue was improvised in order to create a “very loose and collaborate mood” among the cast and to replicate the tone and sensibility from his previous films.

Other superhero films like Logan, Deadpool, and even Wonder Woman for DC Comics have shown that not every film of this genre has to be the same and can even have their own identities. Of all the Marvel films to date, Thor: Ragnarok feels most similar to Guardians of the Galaxy, based on its humor, tone, and space adventure style. Some are calling Thor: Ragnarok a breath of fresh air, and a film that sets a new bar for Marvel films. And while it’s still not my favorite, this film does deliver in just about every way from over-the-top action and visually appealing sci-fi content to an ensemble cast of known actors, or simply the enjoyable banter between characters.

4 out of 5 stars.

Thor: Ragnarok is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and brief suggestive material. Running time is 2 hours and 10 minutes.

 

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