"Thor: Ragnarok" Review
It is an overwhelming pleasure and honor to say that Thor: Ragnarok is a good and fun superhero film, mostly because 2011’s Thor and 2013’s Thor: The Dark World are the worst films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director Taika Waititi has ditched the overly serious tone and rebranded Thor (and Chris Hemsworth) as a wisecracking and charismatic hero, and it works wonders here as the film feels like a cool summer breeze compared to the previous cold arctic blast. While not a perfect film, since it does have some problems, this film is definitely exciting and makes for a joyous experience at the cinema.
In the beginning of the film, we see Thor (Chris Hemsworth) as a prisoner to Surtur, a fiery demon that wishes to bring death to all of Asgard. While he’s imprisoned, Thor also learns that Odin (Anthony Hopkins) has been missing from the throne and that Ragnarok, the apocalypse of Asgard, will happen soon. Thor breaks free and returns to Asgard to find that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has assumed the throne by disguising himself as Odin. Once he has been caught in the act, Loki takes Thor to Odin on Earth. Knowing these are his last days, Odin confesses to his sons that they have a half-sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who is also the goddess of death. Hela lusts for the throne and invades Asgard in order to seize it. While trying to fight her off, Thor and Loki become stranded on the world Sakaar, which is also the planet Hulk has been residing since the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thor needs to return to Asgard in order to save it, but he is forced to fight as a gladiator for his freedom.
The film feels much faster than its official 130-minute runtime. We fly through different scenes as the story keeps building up to the climax. It almost feels like they tried to fit three hours of worth of material here and should have either added more time or cut some story elements. It’s still fun and stylish but should have been given more time to breathe and play out. There is also a misallocation of screen time for the characters. Odin, Doctor Strange (very brief cameo), and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) are given much smaller roles in order to make room for new characters such as Skurge (Karl Urban) and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). It’s a sad thing since the new characters are disappointing in the large amount of time they are given and the much better much better ones are confined to bit parts.
Thor: Ragnarok is also a film that heavily focuses on the relationships between the main characters. Throughout the film, Thor and Loki continuously rethink their past differences and remind themselves that they are still brothers. It’s a fairly emotional arc that works well considering the experiences both characters have been through in the previous films. We also get a surprisingly great connection between Thor and The Hulk / Bruce Banner. Although they shared little to no moments previously, they come together and form a kind of buddy cop duo. They play really well off each other and are key to the best comedic moments in the film.
This film perfectly showcases how the MCU formula has worked for so long. We focus on great characters who all share near-perfect chemistry, and are given an exciting story that offers a lot of laughs along the way. Waititi uses his skills to expertly balance the emotions and humor to make a story that is both dramatic and comedic. We as the audience realize the stakes and tension, but also enjoy watching it. This is in stark contrast to the lackluster DCEU where everything is overly dramatic and dark.
While Waititi has made a good film, he still has made the same mistakes several previous Marvel directors have made. The biggest problem is that Hela is an average main villain at best. She’s definitely one of the best villains Marvel has, but that really isn’t saying much since most others suck. There is also the problem of the final battle, which isn’t as dramatic or exciting as the rest of the film. It feels kind of rushed even though we just spent close to two hours getting to it.
The production aspects are terrific and just as grand as you would expect from a big budget film. The effects are pleasing to watch, most notably when Thor is using both his hammer and lightning to dispose of multiple bad guys. The makeup and costumes have drastically improved since the previous films. Thor and Loki’s outfits look much sharper and the Grandmaster’s extravagant outfit can be seen from a mile away. The sets work well and are magnificent in scale. Asgard still looks beautiful with its gleaming gold towers and lush forests.
Chris Hemsworth gives his best performance as Thor and really delivers on making the character funny and interesting. Previously he had been played as a stoic, but confident hero that we tolerated from time to time. In this film, he’s cracking jokes and having fun on his quest, all while displaying his own brand of macho charisma. He also has a great sense of comedic timing as he often delivers one-liners at the perfect time.
Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki and reaffirms his place as the best villain/anti-hero the MCU has to offer. Him and Hemsworth play brilliantly off each other and really feel like brothers trying to make sense of their relationship. Even though Loki has done some very evil things, like invade New York in The Avengers, we never really get the sense he is all bad. This is mostly because of Hiddleston’s ability to make us feel sympathetic for Loki.
Cate Blanchett does a really good job as Hela, which creates a main villain that is leagues above the previous ones we have seen in the MCU (does anybody remember Malekith or Whiplash?). Blanchett plays Hela almost like somebody would Medusa, an evil snake-like woman with the powers to kill anybody she sets her sight on. Hela cannot turn people to stone, but she can draw a sword and shoot knives out of her body at any moment.
Mark Ruffalo does double duty here as both The Hulk and Bruce Banner. His motion capture work is superb and makes the character of Hulk way more complex and engaging than before. Banner has also been improved on since the last time we saw him. He’s starting to lose hope in his humanity as keeps battling for control of his body with Hulk and begins to question why he keeps fighting.
The minor supporting cast really stands out here, with Tessa Thompson being the most notable as Valkyrie. She’s a rogue Asgardian warrior that has lost her purpose and now spends her time drinking and working for the “Grandmaster”, played by the wonderful Jeff Goldblum. He gives the film a heavy dose of comedic weirdness and does a great job in a small, but rightly sized role.
The only bad performance here comes from Karl Urban as Skurge. His performance mostly consists of just reacting to whatever Hela says and looking solemnly in the distance as he tries to question his life choices. His character is also extremely forgettable and unneeded. When he tries to be funny it goes horribly and throws off the entire scene.
Thor: Ragnarok is fun and exciting superhero blockbuster that never takes itself too seriously. It’s a huge improvement over the previous two films in the series but still suffers from the same fate as other MCU films. I’m excited about Hemsworth and co. returning again in 2018 for the highly anticipated Avengers: Infinity War.