Thor: Ragnarok is out now in Cineworld and is set to revitalise the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here's how...
1. A wonderfully weird director is in charge
There's been a lot written lately about the collision between directorial vision and the requirements of a massive franchise, a famous example being Phil Lord and Chris Miller who were sacked from Han Solo movie earlier this year.
It's therefore incredibly admirable of Marvel to let Kiwi quirk-meister Taika Waititi take charge of one of their biggest properties. Not a man famous for massive superhero movies, rather delightfully off-the-wall oddities like Eagle vs. Shark, What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Waititi has expressed a desire to loosen up the Thor franchise by injecting frivolity and fun back into the series.
"I want to take people on a ride and inject some comedy into it," Waititi says, "an adventure that keeps people laughing along the way, but also has the spectacle and stuff that gets people excited."
Judging from the glowing reviews Ragnarok has received (98% on Rotten Tomatoes), Marvel's gamble has more than paid off, which will hopefully pave the way for more idiosyncratic directors making superhero blockbusters in future.
2. Thor is changing – for the better
Beefy Aussie hunk Chris Hemsworth has admitted he was "bored" with the muscular, upstanding Asgardian warrior before the Waititi whirlwind revitalised everything.
"Every day was about exploring the unknown and trying something different," Hemsworth said. "I had got pretty bored of myself as that character and so did he, maybe a few people out there, so we thought, 'Let’s do something different.' And every day was improvised and a journey into somewhere we hadn't been before."
Waititi may have hit upon something here, tapping into Hemsworth's natural comic timing as seen in Vacation and the Ghostbusters reboot. Maybe the Thor of future Marvel movies will be all about the jokes and irreverence rather than Asgardian pomp?
Either way, Hemsworth says there's one key change that unlocked his looser portrayal of the thunder god, admitting he didn't want to "spend two hours in hair and makeup putting the wig on", the movie instead favouring a cropped Thor haircut. He even managed to persuade Marvel head Kevin Feige to move the filming location.
"I felt like I had kind of done my time," Hemsworth joked, revealing he had persuaded Feige to shoot closer to home on Australia's Gold Coast.
New personality, new haircut and new filming location – the future of the MCU starts right here.
3. It's a full-on comedy
All of the Marvel epics have been funny to flat-out hilarious – but Ragnarok may be the first entry in the series to be a comedy movie with superheroes in it, rather than vice versa. Don't believe us? Here's what Nerdist have to say in their review.
"Waititi encouraged improvisation on the set to get reality from his actors, and in Hemsworth, he’s found his superhero muse," they enthuse. "Never before has the God of Thunder been so funny, and he sparks off of Ruffalo –both as Hulk and as Bruce Banner–in ways only hinted at in earlier films. “He’s a friend from work” is a great line, but it also keys you in on the kind of movie you’re watching. The fate of Asgard hangs in the balance, but most of the tension comes between the characters, all behaving hilariously childishly."
With audiences seemingly tiring of the whole dark and brooding trend that dominated superhero blockbusters in the 2000s, plus the resurgence of pop-infused, lighthearted spectacles like Marvel's very own Guardians of the Galaxy, there's a chance Ragnarok could open up a whole new vista of comic book bonanzas.
4. The score goes gloriously retro
Many reviews have singled out Mark Mothersbaugh's rousing soundtrack as one of the movie's highlights, a thematic and muscular throwback to what superhero scores used to (and should) sound like. The former Devo vocalist has carved out a highly respected film scoring career, encompassing hits like The Royal Tenenbaums and The LEGO Movie and has now refreshed the whole approach to the Marvel soundtrack canon. Largely, it has to be said, by drawing on the wellspring of 80s synth icon Jean-Michel Jarre. Yes, you can kiss goodbye to your standard power anthems...
5. Valkyrie is Marvel's first LGBT character
Also singled out for praise is Creed actress Tessa Thompson as badass warrior Valkryie – and Tessa has now gone on the record saying the character is something of a Marve movie first.
She's bisexual," Tessa tells GamesRadar. "I think there are nine characters in the comic books that are queer or bi; Valkyrie is one of them, and I think that's really neat. It's something that you wouldn't necessarily get in this movie, but it's cool that there's representation in the comic books."
What were we saying about the future of the MCU? From where we're sitting it looks brighter than ever.
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