Taika Waititi makes his first step into Hollywood with directing a film as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But at the same time, it isn’t without him playing around with the familiar mythology to the point that he even shows a sense of self-awareness regarding the state of these films from the film’s opening sequence. It was something that I wished to see from more of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general, just this sense of self-awareness and creative freedom that felt lacking in many of their films. It’s nice enough to see that Taika Waititi is willing enough to play with what we can recognize to turn out what is easily the best film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in quite some time, because it was a film that clearly had fun from the roots in which it was stemming from almost like Waititi would have brought to us for vampire mythology with What We Do in the Shadows.
Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as Thor, after his absence from Captain America: Civil War, and as promised from this sequel to Thor: The Dark World, doomsday is set to come forth for Thor’s home world of Asgard through the prophesized Ragnarok. But as Thor spends most of his time on another world, Asgard is now under fire at the hands of Hela, the goddess of death, who intends to claim the throne from Odin after his death. Waititi has delivered as promised from the film’s title, a sense of impending doom coming for Thor’s world as we had known it, but not without the familiar irreverence that we have come to know from the Marvel Cinematic Universe – but given director Taika Waititi’s history with comedy, it was only fitting enough that he wouldn’t sink just to there, he just plays around with Norse mythology the way he did vampires in What We Do in the Shadows as made clear from his use of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”
Despite his almighty status, Thor has always been the least interesting of the Avengers to me so a part of me was skeptical how this was set to turn out because his own standalone movies had no touch of the campy nature his own story would be hinting at. So what exactly allows Thor: Ragnarok to stand out from the others? It was easy enough from how Taika Waititi uses his own sense of humour to play around with familiar mythology to the point the nature of Thor’s story becomes even clearer with the campy tone set up not as a result of the awkward humour that keeps the Marvel Cinematic Universe moving but like James Gunn could have created for Guardians of the Galaxy, Waititi brings over a similar joy created by What We Do in the Shadows along the way in Thor: Ragnarok. It plays out
How exactly does Thor: Ragnarok stack up in terms of charisma from the cast? For one it is nice to see that this one isn’t bogged down by the bland romance between Hemsworth and Portman, whose evident lack of chemistry had held back the previous films – so the exclusion of Portman and Kat Dennings is one among many pluses. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are having fun, but what does that say for new characters? For we’ve already recognized what Mark Ruffalo had left behind for the previous Avengers films, but newcomer Tessa Thompson is a delight as Valkyrie and director Taika Waititi is only as funny as one can expect in his motion capture role as Korg. Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum are as wonderful as can be expected, with Cate Blanchett being arguably the best villain within the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far.
The evident self-awareness does come to a fault, however, when you consider how the structure is still the same as that of any typical Marvel Cinematic Universe film. There aren’t really many stakes present because one knows how these films are set to go, even if it convinces you that it looks good. Taika Waititi is aware of how much of these films are on loop, but even the fact that he is clearly poking fun at said aspect doesn’t seem to change much about the fact that Thor: Ragnarok is still playing itself out as a part of that loop rather than as overtly a movie that makes light of it. The funnier bits come then and there and they’re also where Taika Waititi shows more of himself over what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has familiarized us with and beaten us down with. Sadly these moments come again and as always, are lacking any sort of ambition.
Here is a great case of what more the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be if they have directors who carry more personality behind the camera. The fact that Taika Waititi brings along his comedic touch to a narrative that never worked with the overtly serious tone of its predecessors is one thing, but he’s brought us a film whose comedic timing works within the very moment. While it’s easy to harp on how familiar the narrative feels (it is a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe after all), what feels fresh is the distinctive personality that seemed missing whether it be from crossover films or standalone efforts. And like that, it isn’t only Taika Waititi’s next big budget movie I’m looking forward to. I’m also looking forward to what more he can do for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.
Directed by Taika Waititi
Screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, from Thorby Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Produced by Kevin Feige
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Taika Waititi
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 130 minutes