Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok ★★★★

Marvel’s Phase 3 has been a head scratching mess; exploding into the scene with Captain America: Civil War, a film that felt like a jolt of lightning and brought forth an eager excitement of what is to come. It was an opening that caught many by surprise and solidified The Russo Brothers as valuable players to the studio’s flagship titles. Following such a triumphant effort were a slog of individualised efforts that highlights singular or a singular set of heroes in what is meant to provide a greater context to the flagship efforts ahead; with each one so far disappointing in their results, albeit variable in degrees, unmatched to the candle that was held promise by the opening film of this third chapter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Sure, Doctor Strange brought us a whole new character and expanded the world even further, but it was also littered with a stock trade origin tale that shies itself away from emotional intensity and a sense of imagination; it all felt far too familiar and much of what was transcribed on screen felt obligatory that was uncompensated with any sort of passion. The second iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, following after what is now a cult favourite of the franchise, finds a severe misstep in its arch for drama that never feels earned, almost as if that was a compensation for the lack of dramatic context for its characters in the previous film. Then there was Spider-Man: Homecoming, which undoubtedly brought a youthful flavour of an over-familiarised product, never truly met its full potential despite its genuine attempts.

Although under the vision of Taika Waititi, who managed to bring forth his best directorial effort yet with Hunt for the Wilderpeople - a film that has grown exponentially with me upon retrospect, could still be in the potential of falling victim to the strict Marvel formula that falsely entices filmmakers and audiences of distinction in their works, only to find such variables to be just slight, avoiding the description or criticism of being a clone and instead settle for being synonymous. Which after seeing Thor: Ragnarok, without a doubt, can still classify itself as a synonymous effort of everything that the studio has churned over the years, it still proves itself elusive and inspired enough to escape such harsh criticisms.

Falling itself closer to the trends of Iron Man 3 and Captain America: Winter Soldier, Ragnarok feels unbounded by the obligation to justify a character’s beginnings and instead invites imagination in forging new paths for the titular character. With Asgard and much of its mythology already under out belt, what now becomes priority is Thor himself and the adventures that the character would take, which in partnership with such freedom is a looser grip on the filmmakers themselves, with Shane Black and The Russo Bros. were able take inspired and daring steps to impart a sense of personality on what could have been another sterile adaptation, and this is exactly what Waititi was able to demonstrate with Ragnarok.

It seems futile to retread here the plot of Ragnarok, as much of the film’s appeal comes from the comedic energy, one that is both awkward and offbeat, that Waititi surges into Marvel’s traditional formula, one that feels more complimentary rather than aggressively revisionist, catering exactly to the audience that adores such a universe while also ensuring that Waititi’s particular sensibilities are traceable throughout the film, showing a director in control while attending to his duties, a compliment that is shared with someone like Jon Favreau in his efforts for the first Iron Man film.

This is a film that proves itself to be a perfect hybrid of adventure and comedy, one that achieves greater with the latter through its reluctance in compensating for drama and self-serious character development, but instead racks up the escapist spirit that would be reminisced with belly laughter and amusement. After a string of disappointments to have come from the studio, the arrival of Ragnarok is a signal that all is not too tragic for this phase of the cinematic universe.

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