Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Director: Taika Waititi
Writers: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum
Thor: Ragnarok only confirms the Thor series' upward momentum, as the [now] trilogy solidifies its status as one of the strongest elements of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The Thor films have always allowed for further exploration of the expansive MCU, and this third Asgardian adventure takes us even further from home. From strange new planets to strange new characters, it continues to delve into the vast fantasy world from which The God of Thunder originated. It is a monumentally strong addition to the sprawling Marvel franchise, which in itself is a testament to the consistent reinvigoration of characters and storylines over a decade's worth of world-building, which has been the key to the success of the wider MCU.
Ragnarok ticks all the boxes, boasting tremendously exciting action sequences, laugh-out-loud humour and gloriously vibrant scenery. The film seamlessly blends action-adventure and comedy together, delivering each aspect perfectly, leaving us with a perfect all-rounder. Waititi's direction is inspired. Ruffalo's appearance as Bruce Banner/Hulk helps to tie the film to the rest of the franchise (as does a brief cameo from Dr Strange), but Ragnarok also serves as a brilliant stand-alone film, with no reliance on a plethora of other films to give it meaning. Thor Ragnarok shows extraordinary balance, perhaps more so than any of its MCU cousins.
Ragnarok greatly benefits from the wall-to-wall talent of its cast. Chris Hemsworth continues to shine as the hammer-wielding lead, obviously still enjoying every second he spends in his armour clad role, and Tom Hiddleston is characteristically slippery as Thor's mischievous half-brother Loki. The back and forth between the two siblings is exploited throughout the film and results in some fantastically fun exchanges. Cate Blanchett is savagely elegant as the ultra-powerful (if not typically two-dimensional) villain Hela, while Jeff Goldblum's contribution is delightfully zany. However, the real gem in this shining cast is Waititi's alien cameo, Korg, who can only be described as hilarious. The huge names that litter Ragnarok's credits prove that the Marvel franchise is the place to be right now; everyone involved brings their A-game and a little more.
From start to finish, Ragnarok is a fantastically enjoyable frolic through a striking and dynamic world, accompanied by dazzling wit and top of the range effects. It is supremely confident in its ability to entertain, and the cast dives straight in and relishes every moment. If the MCU can continue with the same energy and enthusiasm, then the next phase of this seemingly unstoppable franchise will be absolutely dazzling.
In one line: A masterclass in directing with a revelling cast, Thor: Ragnarok is a brilliantly entertaining expansion of a vibrant fantasy landscape.
(Can we get a Jeff Goldblum cameo in every Marvel film from now on, please? - Our resident Goldblum obsessor, Mike)