Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok Director: Taika Waititi Screenwriter: Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Rated PG-13 | 130 Minutes Release Date: November 5, 2017
Though the Marvel’s Thor franchise has long been considered one of the weakest franchises in the MCU, it is by far the funniest. It never took itself too seriously, as it should considering this is a superhero film dealing with an Asgardian god trying to navigate through human customs and cultures. And perhaps its strength is also its greatest weakness. But its success spawned not only multiple sequels, but Thor’s inclusion in other films like the Avengers and Doctor Strange. So while we know what to expect from a Thor film, it finally took two of them to fully realize what it should have fully embraced.
Taika Waititi‘s Thor: Ragnarok is a fantastic Thor flick from start to finish. Full of humor and action, it is true sequel to the first film by recognizing that it is a Thor film, while being tons of fun, whimsical, humorous, and then some. In a lot of ways, the film is a reinvention of the franchise, using its heavy metal look to give the character a surprising (and in some cases) a much-needed facelift. It can be a bit flawed thanks in part to the threads that are forced to connect itself to the MCU. But since that will always be an element in play for all these films, it doesn’t take away from the fun of it. My full review below.
In Thor: Ragnarok, our title character (Chris Hemsworth) is in a bit of an existential crisis. He’s been traveling realms and ending conflicts, but one particular crisis he has yet to address is the one in Asgard, where he reveals that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been ruling under the guise of Odin (Anthony Hopkins). As shameful as the act was, Loki proceeds to take his brother with him to Earth, where Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) leads the two to their father. Loki then reveals that this is what Odin wanted, and that he doesn’t have that much time on Earth. But as fast as Odin passes on to the afterlife, our villainous Hela (Cate Blanchett) is introduced.
The goddess of death has been imprisoned for eons thanks in part to Odin, but now she is free to claim her rightful place on the throne of Asgard. Seeing as they are the only two to stop her, Thor and Loki make an unsuccessful attempt, and are banished to the gladiator planet of Sakaar. Loki is able to use that silver tongue to get into the Grandmaster’s (Jeff Goldblum) favor. Meanwhile, Thor attempts to use his name to get out of the situation, only to find out that names mean nothing when he is captured by a drunken Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who gets paid to find and bring contenders that are forced to fight in the Grandmaster’s stadium.
Forced to fight against his will, Thor is going to have to figure out how to get off this planet and save Asgard before Hela and the Executioner (Karl Urban) can destroy it. But Thor has hope of escaping Sakaar when he finds out that his first opponent is none other than fellow Avenger, The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)
Thor: Ragnarok is bubblegum pop fun, pure and simple. It’s flashy and dazzles on screen with its colorful and whimsical look that is obviously influenced by the heavy metal rock cover art. And a lot of that is a reflected in the music scored by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh, not to mention the use of Led Zeppelin’s “The Immigrant Song.” In fact, this is the Thor film we should have been getting from the start. While it does take a small cue from the Guardians of the Galaxy space opera, Thor: Ragnarok‘s use of Hulk’s “Planet Hulk” story arc does make it one of the best Thor films. Unfortunately, because it’s the third one, we cannot really forget that it is a Thor film after a decent first and a rather very forgettable second.
Still, there is a lot to like about this new direction of Thor. For one thing, it’s got Waititi’s humor all over it. There’s plenty of imagination to go around and expands upon the MCU by taking us to new worlds. However, when it links back to other Thor movies, it feels shoehorned and weak. These nods do not work, and feel more like an obligation to remind us that not only is this a Thor movie, but it is also an MCU one. We see a lot of that play out in the Doctor Strange cameo, which doesn’t do much to advance the story. And while it may be one of the weakest parts of the film, it is one of the best uses of Doctor Strange.
But the comedic beats that do work will leave you in stitches, as Loki will remind us that he is no longer a punchline.
Hemsworth looks like he is having as much fun as he did when we first saw him in the first film. His chemistry with his fellow castmates is just as fun to watch. His reunion with The Hulk is an absolute laugh riot as the sometimes immature Asgardian tries to convince the imposing child-like Hulk to leave the planet. Then there is Thompson, who is a great addition to the MCU. The former hero is a cynic without a purpose in life except to drink and retrieve otherworldly beings that fall out of the devil’s anus – a portal that dumps the worst of the worst onto Sakaar. Her journey to becoming the hero she once was is one of redemption. But it is damn fun to watch her play that reckless bounty hunter and then turn back into a fearless warrior.
But probably Hulk’s role in the film is the glue that holds it all together. While it may have the Ragnarok subtitle attached to it, it somehow put itself at odds with itself using a Hulk story arc. Not that it is a bad thing, but it has to find itself switching from the Ragnarok event that is happening on Asgard with the Planet Hulk story arc that is happening on Sakaar.
Still, Hulk’s childlike demeanor mixed in with his incredible strength really makes for one of the best Hulks we have seen. Here, he has found a home, a place where he can be accepted for who he is. It’s when Hulk reverts back to Bruce Banner that we get to see some rare comedic acts. Because all those Ph.Ds that Banner has are pretty much useless on a planet where fighting is a way of life. Thor: Ragnarok is pretty much the one film, so far, where we get to see Hulk/Banner at his funniest and most vulnerable. It brings a sense of humanity to the character known to be a muscular monster.
And Jeff Goldblum is the best at being Jeff Goldblum. And Rachel House who, plays the Grandmaster’s henchwoman Topaz, gets in on the action in more ways than one. And Idris Elba returns to reprise Heimdall, who has a more substantial role in the film.
Once again, the film’s villain suffers from a lack of interesting. While Blanchett is fine and looks like she is having just as much fun as Hemsworth, the villain is pretty generic as they come. She isn’t the only reason why the film switches back to Asgard, when it should actually be focused on Thor’s journey home. But it’s Hela’s backstory that is far more interesting and at least explains her motivation.
Even Waititi gets in on the fun, playing the rock alien Korg, who is also imprisoned and forced to battle as a gladiator. As imposing as he is, Korg is nothing more than the comedic breaks that cuts the drama. A genuinely sweet character that is there just to be funny. But when it works, it works well.
Despite some of the flaws, Thor: Ragnarok manages to nail the humor and out of this world tone with an 80’s synthesized score from Mothersbaugh and a world that looks like it’s inspired by a heavy metal band. Waititi creates a wacky space opera adventure that fully embraces the fun while also realizing what is at stake. If anything, Thor: Ragnarok is the Thor film we’ve all have been waiting for.