Directed by Taika Waititi
Thor: Ragnarok is the best of the Thor films. But, let's be honest here, that isn't an especially high hill to climb. The first Thor was a fine introduction to the character, had some cool effects, gave Stellan Skarsgard lots to do, had some good humour, and introduced Tom Hiddleston to the world. But, really, not a lot of action and not a lot of Thor doing Thor things. Kenneth Branagh did some nice work, bringing Shakespearean themes to a comic book movie. Thor's a good movie, just not a good comic book movie, if that makes any sense.
And then there's Thor: The Dark World. I've watched this movie from beginning to end more than a handful of times and still couldn't tell you what is happening in it. It's too dark for one thing. Not the story, the film itself. Most of the effects are hidden by murk, by a filter of mud. It's the Man of Steel of the Marvel Studio films, dumped into a vat of grey during post-production, any colour left is an accident. On the one hand, yay, something different than the other Marvel movies. On the other hand, really, what is happening in this film? The story is nonsense, any chemistry between the leads of the first film has been made inert. At a time when the common consensus was that Natalie Portman was incapable of a bad performance, The Dark World happened.
So, yeah, just saying Ragnarok is the best Thor film thus far is not the highest praise. Kinda like saying Jurassic World is the best of the Jurassic Park sequels. Or Alec Baldwin is the best actor among the Baldwin brothers. Or that Revenge of the Sith is the best of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. What I'm getting at here is that this isn't the best way to convey what makes Ragnarok special, what makes Ragnarok stand out.
Ragnarok is not just the best of the Thor franchise, it is among the best of Marvel Studios. It is amazing to look at, filled with great performances, and has a great story. It is also funny. So, so funny. It is laugh out loud, hard to breathe, oh-God-I-just-missed-something-I-have-to-no-I-need-to-see-this-again funny. It is walk out of the theatre with sore stomach muscles funny. It is laugh for days afterwards funny. It is easily Marvel Studios' funniest film so far, surpassing Ant-Man and the Guardians movies. The only comic book movie that is funnier is everyone's favourite romantic night out, Deadpool. But most importantly, it is fun. Bright and filled with all kinds of eye-candy and surprises and wait-was-that moments.
Director Taika Waititi is responsible for one of my favourite comedies of ever. Ever? Ever. What We Do In The Shadows is perfection. If you've never seen What We Do In The Shadows stop reading and find it and watch it. You can find it on Netflix. Come back when you're done. The rest of us will wait. Hell, we'll go watch it again, too.
Funny stuff, eh? Glad to have you back.
Anyway, Taika Waititi directing a giant-budget superhero film brings all kinds of expectations. His films have humour, more humour than most, and are set in worlds that are recognizable but are just a bit off. A vampire comedy? Sure. A vampire film as documentary? Okay. A documentary film crew making a film about a group of vampires sharing a house in the suburbs? That is something only Mr. Waititi and his gang could come up with. And so my thoughts were will Mr. Waititi be allowed to do something different, something outside of the Marvel formula? Or will he be suffocated by the giant machine he has tied his fortunes to and will he just be a name on a formulaic comic book movie? I mean, I expected some funny. Chris Hemsworth can do funny. Tom Hiddleston can do funny. Mark Ruffalo? Cate Blanchett? Not a lot of funny on their IMDB pages. But colour me surprised. They can do funny. The humour surpasses everything I expected when I took my seat and sat through the trailers and the credit card advertisements.
And it's not that Ragnarok is a straight-up comedy. It's much harder to define than a simple categorization. It's recognizably a comic book movie, there are superheroes and Big Bads and twists and turns. But it's not a parody of the genre, like everyone's favourite romantic night out, Deadpool. If anything, Ragnarok is more specific. It's parody of the Thor movies and the Shakespearean weight they were saddled with. But you can't truly parody something you don't love. That's what makes Ant-Man and Ragnarok and everyone's favourite romantic night out, Deadpool, so special. They all come from a place of serious love. Anyway, Ragnarok is still most definitely a comic book movie, with all of the CGI stuff and things, and the Ghostbusters ending that comes with being a modern comic book movie. But it is something different, something exciting and new. In a year that has seen Logan and Wonder Woman and now Ragnarok, it's nice to see a film genre change and evolve.
I just wish Mr. Waititi was allowed more freedom. Ragnarok is like some kind of hybrid, partially a Taika Waititi film filled with humour and all the Jack Kirby insanity anyone could ask for. And it's partially a Marvel film, filled with the Marvel stuff that Marvel likes to see in its films, that being the CGI whatnot and the Ghostbusters ending. Seriously, why do so many of these things end with the Ghostbusters ending? If anyone knows anyone at DC-Warner or Marvel or Fox or whomever is making comic book movies, find out what is their obsession with the end of Ghostbusters, please and thank-you.
Anyway. Ever since the first Thor film, the Jack Kirby has been sneaking it's way in, with the bizarre settings and creatures. By the time of the Guardians movies, we all willingly accepted the Kirbyness of the galactic MCU worlds. Ragnarok is like wall-to-wall Jack Kirby. Stan Lee was the genius behind the human-ness of his superheroes. Jack Kirby is the fun, the surreal, the panels exploding with potential. And Mr. Waititi is more than up to the challenge of a full-on Jack Kirby love-fest. Some of the shots in Ragnarok are more like paintings than comic panels, mythic and fulfilling the promise of the Asgard setting, a quality that has been missing from these movies. Unlike other superhero films, the Thor films are about gods and legendary creatures, based on stories and poems that have been passed down through millennia. Captain America and Black Widow and Iron Man and whatever may be cool and all, but the character of Thor is based on a god that predates Christianity and deserves a sense of the epic. And Ragnarok gives that sense of epic, that sense of awe. There are shots in this film that I wish I could describe for you, where the score and action and the sense of wonder all come together to take our breath away, and then Led Zeppelin starts playing and our brains shiver in the goodness. But I won't describe them, because that would be bad of me.
One last thing about Ragnarok that you need to know, one last thing to praise, if anyone is still reading by this point. I should have put this up top somewhere, not down here. Anyway. The score for Ragnarok is among the exciting things about the movie. For the first time a Marvel Studios movie doesn't have a generic, bland, boring, anonymous, forgettable score. The score by Mark Mothersbaugh is exciting and unique and actually adds to the movie instead of just sitting there like beige wallpaper. Music should never be wallpaper. Music especially should never be beige wallpaper. I'm looking at you every other film produced by Marvel Studios.
And now I will finally wrap this thing up. Is Thor: Ragnarok worth your monies? Yes, yes, yes. A million times yes. And if you still haven't, make time and watch What We Do In The Shadows. And, please, be a good person and refrain from spoilers if you're going to comment. Thanks. Much appreciated. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to play some Led Zeppelin and feel young again.