The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown to such a gargantuan pop-culture juggernaut that it feels like it's always been a part of the mainstream cinematic landscape. And for the casual viewer, it seems nigh-impenetrable without dedicating hours to viewing every single movie in the franchise. Thankfully, Thor: Ragnarok, helmed by franchise newcomer Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) is the kind of funny, action-packed popcorn movie that makes a night at the movies one of absolutely pleasure.
Waititi's fellow denizen of the antipodes Cate Blanchett joins as Hela, the long-imprisoned, devilishly evil sister of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Following the death of patriarchal god Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Hela is unleashed and takes over the realm of Asgard, separating the titular hero from his trusty hammer Mjolnir in the process. The God of Thunder must then rely on his wits and the help of his friend Bruce "The Incredible Hulk" Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to take power back.
Speaking to Sydney Scoop's Sheree Mirabito on the red carpet at the film's Sydney premiere, producer Brad Winderbaum said that the team "[left] nothing on the table." Putting the near-indestructible Thor in new situations against foes that match his own strength stops the film from becoming stale - very important when it is part of an ever-expanding franchise. Winderbaum went on to explain of the film, which was largely filmed in Australia, that "the culture of wherever you are filming is always going to seep into the film. There is definitely an Australian influence that hopefully audiences will see and enjoy."
At the film's premier, Waititi played the role of jester. Referring to the film as a gritty drama and its female protagonist as "Naomi Watts," its clear that the New Zealand-born filmmaker's much-loved sense of humour greatly influenced the film. Even those who may not be particularly won over by the big budget pyrotechnics of the film will be won over by its genuine and well-delivered humour. The director himself plays the rock-being Korg, who provides brilliant comic relief.
Mark Ruffalo, Jeff Goldblum (as the absurd tyrant Grandmaster) and Tessa Thompson (as a wayward, hard-drinking Valkyrie) turn in brilliant performances, despite the relatively small size of their roles. It's to the credit of the film's screenplay that over more than two hours and a wafer thin plot, no character feels redundant and each sequence feels fleshed out into something that contributes toward the spectacular comic book excess.
If you're already a Marvel fan, then you will adore Thor: Ragnarok. If you're not a Marvel fan (and not even a fan of comic book, superhero movies) then chances are you will still get a kick out of it. This is a film that knows what it is and does it well, without making any concessions to extraneous expectations.
On the red carpet, Waititi told Sydney Scoop with his tongue firmly in his cheek: "I did my best and I hope you like it, but if you don't I don't care about my career anyway." With the same attitude, this is anyone's movie.
Thor: Ragnarok opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday October 26th.