Movie Review: ‘THOR: RAGNAROK’ (2017) – A Vibrant & Chaotic Adventure The Pulls The MCU Into A New Era
The solo Thor movies in my opinion were the weakest of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. The main character himself showed growth, humour and any interesting qualities only when paired up with, or in an ensemble, playing off of other characters. So much so that the antagonist in his own debut film, Loki, gained more popularity and fan appeal than the main character himself. So it’s a complete surprise when the latest in the franchise, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ manages to be not just the best Thor movie of the MCU, but one of its best movies period. Read on for my Spoiler-free Movie Review.
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ completely reinvents the titular Thor, as well as raising the stakes in a new era for the MCU.
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ can only be classified as a space operatic buddy comedy extravaganza! With a greedy and self-centred Loki deceptively ruling Asgard, as seen in the final scene of ‘Thor: The Dark World’, the state of the 9 realms is in chaos. The opening sequence sees a captured Thor, providing a lot of exposition as to what he’s been upto since the events of ‘Avengers: Age Of Ultron’, (My Review here) at the end of which he left Earth to scour the realms to find out more about vision he had involving the end of times for Asgard. He does this in breezy and casual convo with the skeleton accompanying him in a cage. Thor’s return to Asgard reveals Loki’s treachery, as the two set out to find their father, Odin.
Anthony Hopkins returns as the Allfather in a brief, but emotionally heavy scene. Odin reveals a long hidden secret to his sons that completely changes the status quo of Asgard, in a familiar, but still effective twist. This introduces us to Hela, the Goddess of Death, hell bent (get it?) on the destruction of Asgard at any costs. The kicker: she destroys Thor’s beloved hammer Mjolnir at their first encounter, and scatters both brothers into unknown fates during their transit on the Bi-Frost, as she reaches Asgard first.
With Hela on Asgard, Thor’s power lost, and his arrival in a strange new place, and his need to return and save his homeworld, ‘Ragnarok‘ pushes behind the familiarity of the Thor movies, and introduces concepts that seems more at home in a ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ (My Review here) story, than a story involving the God of Thunder. It’s from here that director Taika Waititi introduces us to bright colors, quirkily hilarious characters, whimsical dispositions and a Thor that we’ve never seen before.
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is an absolutely wonderful movie. The story pushes the boundaries of Thor as a character, but also allows the actor, Chris Hemsworth, to play to his own natural talents. Those talents: being as insanely funny as he is ridiculously good looking. Marvel Studios seem to have been paying attention to Hemsworth’s comedic turns in ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Vacation’. So much so that he even got to yuk it up in his own comedic MCU shorts as Thor. Hemsworth’s natural comic timing, and ease with which he delivers jokes is fully utilized by Waititi, and the results are astonishing! Even to the ends that I would say this is a complete departure and reinvention of the Thor character that we’ve seen so far in the MCU.
Thor has always been the butt of jokes, or the perpetuator of them through his own fish-out-of-water persona. It was always funny that the royal Asgardian, with fancy way of talking and inability to read social cues and ignorance of Earth’s ways, always said the hilariously inappropriate thing. That was the joke. Thor never inherently did or said anything that resembled a joke; it was all situational, involving playing off others.
The Thor we see in ‘Ragnarok‘ however, is at times awkward, excitable, quirky, nervous and more like the lead character of a hit sit-com than the dramatically heroic superhero we’ve met prior to this movie. And in many ways, Thor is now a more universally relatable character that he never was. He’s lost his power, filled with self doubt, questioning everything he knew to be true, stuck in a world where his physical strength means nothing, and one where he’s constantly at a disadvantage. With ‘Thor: Ragnarok’, Taika Waititi has managed to take a God of the Marvel Cinematic Unvierse, and turn him into an underdog. And he’s all the better for it.
But besides the reinvention of its protagonist, the visually astounding setting and the constant barrage of jokes, ‘Ragnarok‘ still maintains a great story as well. One of redemption after defeat, and with stakes that will inevitably reverberate through the entire MCU. The story also sees great emotionally heavy moments as well, most notably between the estranged brothers, Thor and Loki. The film also pulls the entire MCU out from the real-world set stories, with familiar concepts, into a galactic realm, bridging the gap between the‘Ant-Man‘s and ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ films ahead of the next team-up movie in ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.
From all this other MCU appearances, Tom Hiddleston is the most likeable in ‘Ragnarok’. The chemistry between Hiddleston and Hemsworth is also at its peak here. And through it all, there’s a not-so-subtle- overture of fun. Everyone from Hemsworth to Hiddleston is having buckets loads of fun, and it comes through in their performances. Even the bad gal Hela is played by Cate Blanchett with deliveries that instantly make her a classic villain in more ways than one. Every on-camera appearance by Blanchett sees her feasting on the scenery around her like it’s on the value menu at a 24-hour drive through McDonalds, and all we can do is watch in awe of it all.
‘Ragnarok’ introduces many new characters, who I hope make it to future MCU movies. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, is brilliant in the role of woman with a haunted past. Karl Urban’s shady Scurge as Hela’s reluctant henchman doesn’t get a lot to do, however is efficient in the little that he’s given. Jeff Goldblum, as the Grandmaster of the planet Thor finds himself in, making people fight in his gladiator-like ring, steals every scene that he appears in. Although not coming as a surprise, Goldblum practically plays himself in the role, but you’re not going to hear me complain about that one bit. Even director Waititi gets in on the on-screen shenanigans, lending his voice to Thor’s new best mate, Korg, the one character in the movie whose every dialogue becomes a quotable line to be repeated among friends after the movie.
Returning characters like Idris Elba’s Heimdall is again wasted in a role, though important, without many opportunities to stand out, besides a swing of the sword here and there. And despite the movie’s marketing showcasing a Thor & Hulk buddy comedy, there is a third element to the pairing that is unexpectedly amazing. Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Bruce Banner, the other side of the Hulk, and just like Thor, it’s incredibly hard for me to choose whose scenes with Thor are better, Banner’s or Hulk’s.
Waititi’s take on this movie, despite being set in the MCU, feels completely going against the grain of what the Marvel movies are known for. There’s a few instance of harsh language, (as Captain America would point out) along with many self referential, and self deprecating jokes about the MCU itself. While Marvel has always been known for fun and light hearted movies, (sometimes as a criticism) ‘Ragnarok‘ is the only movie that feels like it is genuinely breezy, and not because it is following an intentional formula to be so.
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is a vibrant and chaotic story of adventure, redemption, unlikely heroism and is all the craziness that one should come to expect from a ‘comic book movie’ It doesn’t try to set itself apart in any other genre of stories or try to claim credibility amongst general audience, but is unabashedly a superhero film that involves a grandeur that leaps from pages to screen in ways that other films have only attempted.