2017 has seen two superhero films that I actually enjoyed. Considering that apart from The Watchmen, I’ve never enjoyed one of these films on any level, this seems quite the achievement. Even better, Logan and Ragnarok couldn’t be more different despite both coming from the Marvel universe.
Logan is a dark, gritty, emotionally resonant film and despite the mutant element, it is very human with searing dialogue that hammers home the emotion of the film and the characters within it. Each character has their flaws and they feel more human because of this.
Ragnarok however is simply fun, right from the beginning. I won’t pretend to know the cinematic history of the character because I don’t. But having seen both Avengers films as well as the god-awful Captain America – Civil War and its predecessor, I had a pretty good idea of the characters I was watching and their motivations. Not to mention that apart from Loki and Thor, with a small appearance by Banner/The Hulk, Ragnarok is filled with new and interesting characters, the best of which is easily The Grandmaster, ruler of the realm that Loki and Thor find themselves in after a trip to Asgard is interrupted violently as they are thrown from the beam bringing them home by their sister, the Goddess of Death, Hela, who has been unleashed following the death of Odin, Thor’s father.
Why? Well, these films need a villain, and here the film falters as we are presented with yet another underwhelming villain, who has the looks and the moves to accompany her role, but is a very thin character; all we know is that she is the first born of Odin. Or who knows, perhaps that is a deep character when it comes to these films, I lost count a long time ago.
Two elements stand out brightest from the rest of Marvel’s shoddy output. Firstly, it is actually funny, from the very first scene in fact, as Thor is locked in a cage, talking to a long perished skeleton. So he is essentially talking to himself and the laughs are already coming.
Thankfully, there is little to no PC, ‘offensive’ user-friendly garbage here; while this isn’t exactly a dark comedy, Kiwi humour is its own beast. It isn’t afraid to poke the audience, unlike Marvel’s entire output for the most part. Landing perhaps somewhere between Aussie humour and Pommie humour, one-liners, clever inside jokes that even I was able to follow, great banter and slapstick comedy rule the roost, often appearing completely out of context within a scene, the juxtaposition creating an increasingly daft situation.
At first I was disappointed that one of my favourite directors was turning to a superhero film after the fantastic and funny What We Do In The Shadows and the very different but also funny Hunt For The Wilderpeople.
I am no longer disappointed. This is the first superhero film to make me laugh since Suicide Squad, which most seemed to hate. On the other hand, I thought Deadpool was an exercise in idiocy. We all have out own tastes I guess.
In addition to being absurdly funny, Ragnarok is easily the most bright and colourful movie of its ilk that I have ever seen. I’m sure it has been seen in previous films, but the city of Asgard is built with painstaking detail using what I assume is CGI, while there are a couple of scenes that are almost like digitised versions of 2001’s Stargate. The colour scheme is an odd mix of the colour design of The Zero Theorem (Gilliam’s last film) with the bright, vivid colours found throughout The Fifth Element.
There is also some excellent cinematography to enjoy, including extended shots of Thor and Hela doing their thing – particularly memorable is near the beginning of the film, with a reprisal later on, where we watch Thor thunderously kick arse to a Led Zeppelin tune. A couple of aerial shots showing the combat are also memorable, as are a few select static shots, such as when Hela first walks through the portal instead of Thor.
And of course one has to mention Jeff Goldblum, who as The Grandmaster not only steals every scene he is in, he proves that no matter the film, no matter the genre, he delivers. His comic timing is especially impressive, as are the lines that he is given to chew on.
One also must mention that the Kiwi accent is by far the best sounding accent when saying the word ‘bro’. There simply is no comparison.
It seems we finally we have a film of this nature that doesn’t take itself seriously; if anything, it revels in its own silliness and is acutely aware that the story is just a tad far-fetched. Even as the story heats up, the humour doesn’t dissipate. The end of the film sets up yet another entry into this universe, and we can only hope that Taikiti hangs around for the next installment, or at the very least another talented, unique director is chosen to further separate these incredibly similar films.
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