Published on April 27th, 2018 | by Lauren Bycroft0
The Road to Infinity War – Thor Ragnarok
From the off Thor Ragnarok is different from any other MCU film that’s come before it with Thor appearing to address the audience directly. While the film takes a page out of Guardians of the Galaxy’s book with its irreverence and humor, it does so on overdrive. You could easily classify Ragnarok as the MCU’s first true comedy, especially as Taika Waititi seems to have more interest in character than action. But the comedy of Thor Ragnarok has been talked to death. What I really noticed rewatching the film is the relationships and character building it does. It’s Waititi’s strength as a director, his ability to make you laugh hysterically while naturally slipping in real moments of heart and pathos.
From small character moments and cameos to relationships that have existed over multiple films, Waititi gives it all room to breathe. As I watched the film this time around I really found myself focusing on how natural it all seemed. Both the comedy and the moments of emotional connection flow freely and feel unforced. Taika appears to be a director who can have things both ways. He can dispatch the warriors three with little fanfare, uninterested in continuing their cursory presence while also being game to tie things to past films and the greater Marvel Universe. Obviously, that would likely be a requirement to get the job in the first place, but like everything else Waititi finds a way to make it his own.
One of the best small moments in the film is watching Anthony Hopkins play Loki playing Odin. It harkens back to Chris Evans playing Loki playing Cap in Thor. It’s absolutely delicious. And while most people talk about the play with cameos by Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth, and the criminally underappreciated Sam Neil, Hopkins is the real treasure in my opinion. I could watch him playing that layered role for the film’s entire running time. Additionally, Loki and Thor’s relationship evolves to a complicated but really lovely and unexpected place. While they are still at odds and still distrust one another, as they try to escape Sakaar, Thor casually admits he thought the world of Loki and that while he’ll “always be the god of Mischief [he] could be more.” It’s a quiet and direct moment as if these things had always been absolute but had just never been said out loud and it’s quite a tender moment between the brothers that pays off later as they find themselves in the same room after saving the people of Asgard.
It’s focusing on moments like these that distracts Waititi or leaves him little time to give the same care to his villainess. Cate Blanchett is glorious, bad ass, and looks like she’s having an absolute blast. However, the character of Hela feels like it’s missing that natural element everyone else is operating with. She breezes in with menace and never really gets the opportunity to switch to another gear. A moment of vulnerability like we’ve seen with Loki in the past or more intimate menace like Adrian Toomes and Peter Parker in the car; a quiet one on one moment feels like it’s missing. She just needs something to round her out and give her a little more depth. But then again she’s a homicidal maniac so maybe it’s all fine.
While Guardians of the Galaxy opened the door for more unique director perspectives in the MCU, Thor Ragnarok has blown it off the hinges. There may not even be a door frame there anymore. It’s Technicolor, tactile, stripped down, over the top, offbeat, and genuine. It’s Thor finally done right and given the chance to showcase how amazing Chris Hemsworth is in the role. While Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans have gotten the lion share of praise for the way they inhabit their characters (and rightly so), Hemsworth has been vastly underrated as his films have sadly been a bit mixed. If Guardians of the Galaxy is the MCU at a wild night at the bar, Thor Ragarok is dropping acid in a fun house. It shows a great deal of promise for the perspectives we might get from diverse directors to come in the MCU’s uncertain future (in that we don’t know who of our main Avengers, if any, will survive) beyond Infinity War.