So, the third and final 2017 release from Marvel - and personally, my most anticipated comic-book film of the year - Thor: Ragnarok is FINALLY upon us. But can it continue the studio's winning streak this year?

Almost a decade in, and 15 films on, with the competition rapidly increasing and ever-changing, the MCU formula is perhaps not quite as successful as it once was. With films like Deadpool and Logan stepping in and shaking the superhero genre to its core, the MCU needs to start revitalising their films in order to stay in the game and, with the arrival of Thor: Ragnarok, that's exactly what they've done. Already this year, the studio released Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming and, whilst both were pretty good and entertaining, they kind of bled into the rest of the MCU. Fatigue is starting to become apparent - most especially with Homecoming, given Vol. 2 had the first Guardians to build on, whereas that was a little conventional due to the fact it was very much like an origin story of sorts - and change and new energy and ideas are desperately needed for the MCU right now.

2 years after the events of Age of Ultron, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is out looking for answers; we open to find him captured by Surtur, there to prevent the tragedy he saw in his vision: Ragnarok - the end of Asgard as we know it. However, as we later find out, it isn't Surtur that is the cause of Ragnarok and all of the imminent destruction but, rather, the Goddess of Death, Hela (Cate Blanchett). When Thor finds himself without his hammer, imprisoned on Sakaar -  run by the outlandish, larger-than-life Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) - he must unite forces with a legendary fighter, Valkyrie (Tessa Thomson), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) - a champion in The Grandmaster's gladiator matches, where he is pitted against our eponymous hero - to escape Sakaar and save Asgard from Hela and from Ragnarok wiping it out.

What seems to be the case with superhero films is that they can get so caught up in hitting the beats of the formula that they often tend to lack any real personality and the director's distinctive voice rarely comes through. It's this where Thor: Ragnarok differs. This is very much so a Taika Waititi film first, and an MCU film second. And that is the best thing about it. As we'd expect from any Waititi work, this is hilarious. Not even. Ragnarok is hysterical. It's not even that this is the studio's funniest film yet - which we'd expect from the genius behind the likes of What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople - but it's the nature of the humour too. This is clearly the absurd, terrifically weird, ingenious and sharp work of Taika Waititi, with a tangible sense of his unusual wit coming through that made his aforementioned films so great. Whilst he's not credited as a writer per se, his style certainly emanates from the humour on hand - there was a lot of improv.

However, this isn't just a flat-out comedy as many might expect and as some reviews have been describing it as. Yes, the humour is there and it's very funny but there is a lot more to Thor: Ragnarok than just witty one-liners. This is a family drama at its heart - with Thor's familial conflicts taking centre stage in this busy story - and it's handled with a lot of gravitas. There are plenty of heartfelt and sincere moments throughout this film, and they work. We care for these characters, for Thor, even for Loki, and it makes these moments all the more touching. There is also lots of action too, and Waititi executes it pretty well - the sequences are grandiose and exciting - and the use of music makes for some superhero moments that just feel so epic and cool. The cast is all great, as we'd expect by now, but the star of the show is definitely Taikia Waititi. Not only as a director has he breathed new life into the character and world of Thor and made such a funny, exciting superhero film, but his character Korg is also a standout - a spur of the moment creative inclusion that makes for one of the funniest, most likeable characters in the MCU canon yet! 

In the end, Thor: Ragnarok works best when it's having fun and not confined by genre conventions and formula and when it is not an MCU film. Of course, we do have those elements in play here: the lacklustre villain; the final-act overabundance of CGI; the MCU tie-ins. This is a Taika Waititi film, intercut with those MCU moments, to remind the audience every so often that this is another MCU film. Thankfully - and whilst some could consider it a flaw, I consider it a positive - those moments take a backseat for the Thor/Hulk dynamic and Sarkaar antics. We don't get a lot of Hela, but we don't need it. Visually, the film pops too. The CGI isn't all polished and some of it can be quite glaringly obvious but the colours and the aesthetic is creative and pulpy and the film explodes with vibrancy and energy as a result. This is a film that sets out to entertain and, on that front, it excels. Thor: Ragnarok is distinctive and different enough from its MCU counterparts to stand-out and to revitalise their formula that little bit, but it's also still bound by those MCU flaws. Nevertheless, it Ragna-ROCKS. Oh, and the cameos!!! They're awesome.

VERDICT:
Thor: Ragnarok is a riot. Taika Waititi brings his trademark style and humour here and it makes for one of the funniest, coolest entries into the MCU canon yet. This film Ragna-ROCKS! 

About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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