One key returning character from the Marvel Universe in Thor Ragnarok has been thoroughly spoiled in trailers, posters and other publicity around the film. Had this particular reappearance not been revealed by the marketing department, it could have been a wonderful surprise, and as such that is a bit of a shame. Promotional missteps aside, Thor Ragnarok is an irreverent, enjoyably ridiculous slice of entertainment.
A marked improvement on the still entertaining second film, Ragnarok is shot through with the offbeat comic sensibilities of it’s director Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What we do in the Shadows), and is all the better for it. The film begins with an amusing confrontation between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and giant fire demon Surtur (Clancy Brown), before the real plot, about villainous Hela (Cate Blanchett) attempting to conquer Asgard, kicks in.
The ensuing events are a lot of fun, and feature amusing cameos from Sam Neill, Matt Damon and certain superheroes from other strands in the Marvel Universe, as well as familiar characters including Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Heimdall (Idris Elba), Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and the afore-mentioned character whose return really should have been kept under wraps. New characters also appear, in the shape of Skurge (Karl Urban), Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Korg (Waititi himself) and most amusingly Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).
Performances are effective, even though Blanchett’s villain is a little one-note. Certain things are predictable, but this is more than made up for through the sheer number of laughs and high quality banter between characters. In fact, in many ways this feels like the bright, anarchic romp that the second Guardians of the Galaxy film couldn’t quite manage to be.
There are also hints of interesting, slightly subversive subtext amid themes of empires built on lies that are then covered up. One thinks of British colonialism amongst other things, although perhaps I am reading too much into it. That said, as sins of fathers finally come home to roost, one is more likely to be distracted by the colourful special effects.
In short, with Thor Ragnarok, the Marvel juggernaut shows no signs of slowing. As usual, stick around for a couple of end credits scenes.