Thor: Ragnarok is a superhero film for people who don’t like them

The arrogance and idiocy of heroism is dialled up to 11, and there are knowing winks about all manner of tropes.

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

I have never been a fan of superhero films. Formulaic, with ever-lengthening action scenes, wooden dialogue and barely any hint of surprise, even supposedly game-changing examples of the genre, such as this year’s Wonder Woman, leave me wanting more. So I didn’t expect Thor: Ragnarok to impress, especially as I have seen neither of the previous two Thor instalments, and have little working knowledge of the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Ragnarok, though, is directed by New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, whose previous work includes an episode of Flight of the Conchords, the cult vampire spoof What We Do in the Shadows, and the sublime, warm-hearted comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople. When Waititi released a three-minute mockumentary trailer in his trademark style, it became clear that this was Not Just Another Superhero Movie. And it isn’t.

There are many things that are strange about Thor: Ragnarok. The mix of heroes is very odd: a God (Thor), a man exposed to gamma rays (the Hulk), a mythological Valkyrie and several aliens. The plot is chaotic and the pacing is bizarre (scenes are unusually short and fast). But it’s undeniably a riot.

Much of the humour comes from the script’s self-awareness. The arrogance and idiocy of heroism is dialled up to 11, and there are knowing winks about all manner of superhero tropes. Chris Hemsworth, Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo and Tom Hiddleston deliver note-perfect comic performances and are clearly having a wonderfully silly time in the process.

The film at times feels more like a series of unrelated comedy sketches parodying superhero movies than an actual superhero movie. But it’s funny and charming, and that is more than enough for me. 

***

Now listen to Anna discuss Thor: Ragnarok on the NS pop culture podcast, SRSLY:

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 02 November 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Boris: the joke’s over