Thor: Ragnarok is the 17th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and this is just counting the feature films, not any of the TV series. I’m not going to spend too long on how monumental that is, but it’s worth mentioning. Also, with the first two solo Thor movies getting mixed reviews from audiences and critics, the fact that Thor: Ragnarok, the third solo Thor movie, and (again) the 17th MCU movie, is so well-received and, by all accounts, a great movie, is pretty astounding. Marvel and Disney have continuously knocked it out of the park. Looks like they have the winning formula!
Spoilers ahead! Do not continue unless you have seen Thor: Ragnarok!
Characters and Performances
The Marvel Universe is filled with wonderful characters; everyone has someone to connect to and love. Thor: Ragnarok might be the best example of how vast and colorful Marvel is (alongside the Guardians movies, of course). Our man, Chris Hemsworth, returns as Thor, and the fit has never been better. Hemsworth has always seemed to shine brightest amongst the other Avengers, but here in Ragnarok, Thor comfortably takes the main stage and our center of attention. Hemsworth is extremely charming and funny in his role in Ragnarok, hitting a stride and comfortability with the character that’s so easy to see. Honestly now, Hemsworth and Thor are inseparable images—it has never been more clear!
Next to Thor is another fan favorite, Tom Hiddleston as Loki. I’ve always enjoyed Loki (to an extent), though I felt as though he was a bit flat in The Avengers (2012). But he has always been welcomed on screen. Here in Ragnarok, he seems stuck in a mischievous loop. Perhaps it’s the start of an arc for Loki, but I wish I saw something different from him here. Just as something seems to look like it’s turning for the best, he falls back into the same old, same old. The ending of the film, when he finds himself heading back to Earth with Thor (and now all of Asgaard) on a big spaceship is perhaps to be the best place for him to land, but we’ll see.
I was probably most excited to see Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/The Hulk in this. I was excited to see how he’d fit in, the backstory of him winding up with Thor, and, to be honest, I just missed Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo is so kind and gentle, making him the perfect counter to his Hulk. Banner is funny and just a fish out of water—like Thor—and it’s fun to see their chemistry flare on screen. Hemsworth and Ruffalo share the screen phenomenally well. They are just too fun!
Also joining the cast in spectacular fashion, I definitely want to highlight Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. Thompson was mysterious at first but felt like a friend by the end. She was wonderful and empowering. I can’t wait to see more from her!
Now, the big thing to talk about is Cate Blanchett as Hela, the Goddess of Death, and Thor’s long-lost sister. Marvel has had its run-ins with flat, choppy, all-too-typical villains, and while I don’t think Hela fits that description, she doesn’t surpass it too far either. Hela is a lot of fun to watch on screen during battles and Blanchett looks incredible in the role (don’t get me started with that perfect eye flare when she stops Mjolnir) and she puts on a very competent performance in the role. Unfortunately, her written character progression is what I take issue with. It feels as though she’s more of the same with the rest of Marvel’s misstep villains. She actively looms in the background of the plot, building her army, scheming, and just being an all-around menace to Asgard, but she never exceeds it. She wasn’t the worst Marvel has offered, but she’s not top tier either.
Thor: Ragnarok is loaded with colorful and interesting supporting characters as well. Jeff Goldblum’s rendition of Grandmaster was hilarious and you can tell he loved every minute of what he was doing. He was just having fun and allowing himself to dive deep into the melodrama of his character. As well as Goldblum, the director himself, Taika Watiti, takes up a hilarious CGI role in Korg. In a movie loaded with comedy, Korg somehow manages to stand out as one of the funniest additions to the movie. And of course, we get our Doctor Strange appearance from Benedict Cumberbatch. He only has a small role in moving the plot along, but it is worth mentioning the direction of Strange’s character. He seems to be mastering his mystic arts quite well and his outfit is just so comic-book, it’s glorious.
Writing and Direction
As Thor’s third film, the writers, and director, had to make Ragnarok definitive. Kenneth Branaugh’s Thor (2011) introduced us to the character, his world, and his family in Shakespearean fashion. Thor isn’t my favorite of the MCU, but I respect it immensely because of Branaugh’s Shakespearean eye for drama. It was a great, creative direction to go in for Thor’s introduction. Thor: The Dark World (2013) made a much more streamlined superhero movie. It’s not bad, but it’s just all too obvious of a movie. Plus, with the MCU’s debatably weakest villain to date, it made for a weak second outing for solo Thor.
Ragnarok decided to take Thor as far away from what he (and we) knew and twisted the movie into something that was just fun. That, I can tell, was the main topic in the production meetings. This movie was just made to have fun. Yes, it advances our main characters and sets the stage for some big things to come, but all in all Thor: Ragnarok is just plain fun. It never takes itself too seriously and instead, takes itself for what it is, and it was great to see that. One thing that made Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) so infectious was how it took what it was doing with a grain of salt, and brought us away from the world-ending threats and gave us smalltown, neighborhood Spider-Man.
Ragnarok does something similar: the stakes are indeed high, but the emphasis of character is what moves the movie forward. Sure, there were plot convenience issues, but they’re barely worth mentioning. Ragnarok stands out because it’s truly one of the best examples of character-driven storytelling in the MCU, for our heroes. The plotline with Hela is really the only spot where the writing falters, but the film never dips too low and hits high points consistently.
The first act of the film might be the area where I had to push through, but that’s only because the lighthearted approach was, at first, off-putting. I didn’t quite grasp what the film was trying to do and what it wanted to be (as some critics say), but once I allowed for the film to take me on this colorful, fun, and exciting journey with its characters, the film became immensely enjoyable. The film paced itself well throughout. There was a consistent string of attention-grabbing action. Cate Blanchett actually gets one of the more impressive fight scenes, easily fending off the entirety of the Asgaard army. But that Thor vs Hulk gladiator fight might take the cake, it was just as great as I thought it would be. But, what might be one of the more impressive parts of the movie is the finale. Sometimes it can be tough to keep the flame going the full two hours, sometimes finale fights feel rushed or thin; but not Ragnarok. Ragnarok gets more intriguing by introducing new concepts all the way through. Like Thor succumbing to Ragnarok, the doom of Asgaard, in order to defeat Hela. That story move was very unique and I appreciate it a lot. It also shakes the MCU up a lot since Asgaard is no more and the Asgardians are reduced to a space-nomad lifestyle now.
What I’d say to first-time viewers expecting a hard-hitting, more dramatic movie (especially after Age of Ultron (2015) and Civil War (2016)). This movie is meant to be energetic and easy-going, while the characters move forward in wonderful ways. Thor: Ragnarok, in addition to wonderful characters, has some fantastic set pieces and CGI sequences and a kick-ass soundtrack to boot. Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” is the lead take-away track from the movie, but the original score has a great 80s science fiction vibe, like a brighter Blade Runner. Aesthetically and visually, the film does a wonderful job, right down to the costumes; it’s grand.
Final Rating: 8.75/10
I thoroughly enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth is extremely charming and likable in his role, more than ever. The comedy never really stole away from the film. Instead, it enhanced it in many ways. The movie shakes up the universe in some monumental ways and I’m very excited to what is to come in Infinity War. Marvel has done it again. For the 17th time, they’ve done it again.
What was your experience with Thor: Ragnarok? Did you love it or hate it? Let us know in the comments!
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