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‘Thor: Ragnarok’ film review: An action spectacle that’s actually immense fun

A stellar cast – Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo and Jeff Goldblum – delivers the laughs in Taika Waititi’s action comedy.

Taika Waititi’s highly self-aware Thor: Ragnarok is a fitting response to the pomposity and pretentiousness that mark most movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The third part in the Thor franchise is less The Avengers and more of the Guardians of the Galaxy in its parodic tone and treatment of shock-and-awe spectacle. Rangarok swells and hums with campy, hammy humour, self-deprecation and memorable characters that combine to enliven the mandatory boom-boom action sequences. It never resorts to irony for its own sake.

The plot is kept to a minimum – Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his mischievous and untrustworthy brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) team up to save their kingdom Asgard from their recently discovered evil sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) with some help from the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Waititi displays immense control over the premise, smoothly transitioning between various CGI-led set pieces and locales and maintaining a hold over the tone throughout. The tongue never leaves the side of the cheek, and the eye is never taken off the detailing and visual effects that are par for the course in a big-budget fantasy genre movie.

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Thor: Ragnarok (2017).

The movie opens with a bang: Thor, a captive of the fire demon Surtur, breaks free to the pulsating strains of the barnstorming Led Zeppelin track Immigrant Song and makes his way to Asgard to prevent a prophecy of annihilation from coming true. In the first of several meta-moments, Thor finds Loki impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) while watching a play based on the previous movie, Thor: The Dark World (2013). The vainglorious Loki, naturally, is the hero of this fiction within the fiction.

Loki faces serious competition in the self-delusion department from Hela, the Goddess of Death (and Camp), played with eye-rolling relish by Cate Blanchett who seems to be channelling Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. Thor takes refuge on the planet Sakaar, where he runs into his old friend the Hulk and the movie’s best character, the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), whose vivid rags, nonsensical patter, peacock-like strutting and tendency to address his subjects through massive holograms make Loki look dignified.

How many preening personages can a single movie take? Waititi takes his chances with the Hulk, who gets to crack a few jokes at Thor’s expense, and voices the gladiator Korg, who comprises rocks and a Polynesian accent. By divesting Thor of his faithful hammer and his hair Waititi strips the character of his mythical Norse roots and allows Hemsworth to explore his comic side.

The real battle isn’t between Thor and Hela or Thor and the Hulk. The frequently off-kilter and unpredictable humour and refusal to treat Thor’s strivings as anything more than a wacky popcorn-friendly adventure might actually threaten the prospects of future Marvel movies, including one in which Spider-Man, the Guardians of the Galaxy denizens and Doctor Strange will be made to assemble for the 2019 release Avengers: Infinity War. (Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, makes a suitably sly appearance in Thor: Ragnarok, without any of the world-in-peril angst that characterised his standalone movie).

By treating the Thor sequel and the Marvel movie juggernaut itself as one big joke, Waititi has upended the very logic on which franchise stands. If there is any message in the cheerfully preachiness-free Thor: Rangarok, the director and screenplay writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost suggest, it is that the Marvel movies need saving from themselves rather than arch-enemies and adversaries of Earth.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.