8.5 out of 10
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Directed by Taika Waititi
Thor: Ragnarok Review
After defeating Surtur and preventing the end of the world which the Asgardians know as “Ragnarok,” Thor returns home. But not all is well. He soon discovers that his brother Loki has taken the throne for himself and has been disguising himself as Odin. Thor quickly ends his charade and is eager to find his missing father. Thor and Loki return to Earth in search of him. But when they find their father, he has a dire warning for them – Hela, the goddess of death, is returning from exile and she will not only destroy Asgard but all of the Nine Realms in her quest for power.
Sure enough, she arrives and quickly overpowers Thor and Loki. In the process, the two are thrown across the galaxy to the planet Sakaar with no hope of rescue. The planet is ruled by the Grandmaster who entertains himself and his people with gladiatorial games. If Thor has any hope of escaping and stopping Hela, he must first go through the Grandmaster’s prized champion – the Incredible Hulk.
Thor: Ragnarok is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material
Like with the Captain America series, the Thor series is reinvigorated by a dramatic shift in genre and tone. While Captain America went from World War II adventure to spy thriller, Thor goes from epic fantasy to space comedy. And while that seems like a questionable shift, it actually works. Thor: Ragnarok is downright funny while still delivering the action and family drama we expect from the characters. In fact, it’s kind of impressive to step back and realize that Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Tom Hiddleston’s Loki fit equally well in Kenneth Branagh’s first film or Taika Waititi’s third film. From the opening scene the laughs start in rapid fire as Thor matches wits with Surtur. There is physical humor, there are puns, there are funny insults – and that’s just in the first five minutes. The laughs just keep coming through the whole film.
Chris Hemsworth has proven himself adept at comedy in other movies and he reinforces that in Thor: Ragnarok. While he delivers the drama and the action and the muscles, he also delivers the laughs. He’s not afraid to let Thor look like the buffoon, but it never takes away from the character. Whether he’s knocked flat by slavers or Hulk or Valkyrie, he delivers the physical humor. He even lets out a girly scream at one particular moment which made the audience howl with laughter, but never made us doubt his toughness. It was bold for Hemsworth to trust Taika Waititi and let us laugh at and with Thor and it paid off for the actor and the story as a whole.
Among the cast Tessa Thompson stands out as Valkyrie. While she’s had memorable roles in Creed and Westworld, her performance as Valkyrie is going to really put her on the map. If you take the warrior aspects of Thor and merge it with the swagger of Han Solo, you get a feeling of who Valkyrie is. She’s lost her way, traumatized by her past, and hides out on Sakaar to drink away her troubles. Valkyrie also may have one of the most memorable introductions of any Marvel character. She’s tough, funny, and a great addition to the Thor storyline.
As for the rest of the cast, Tom Hiddleston continues to be the punching bag for the heroes. Jeff Goldblum is over-the-top as Grandmaster and every minute he’s on the screen, he generates laughs. He’s well paired with long-time Taika Waititi collaborator Rachel House as Topaz. She’s tough, mean, and no-nonsense. She’s a great straight-man for Goldblum’s insanity. Taika Waititi is funny and lovable as Korg, an alien gladiator trapped with Thor. Karl Urban generates some early laughs as Skurge but fades into the background when Cate Blanchett emerges as Hela. She chews up the scenery as Marvel’s first villainess. She’s sarcastic and delivers Hela’s more humorous lines with all the venom you’d hope from a comic book baddie. Blanchett seems like she has a lot of fun in the role. There are also three surprise cameos which I won’t spoil here by some faces you will recognize. They generate a lot of laughs in their few moments in the film and you won’t be disappointed.
Finally, there’s Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and the Hulk. He and Hemsworth have fantastic chemistry together and this ends up being a buddy cop pairing I never knew I wanted to see on the big screen. Ruffalo does get to expand on Hulk’s character a bit more than he has in the previous films. While a lot of it is funny, there was one moment that I thought encapsulated what the Hulk is all about. In anger, Thor shouts, “Everyone on Earth hates you!” Just when you think the Hulk is going to blow up and go into full Smash-mode, he looks hurt, and walks away like a child that has been utterly crushed. It was a surprisingly deep moment for an otherwise insane roller coaster of a movie.
Marvel Comic fans are going to see a lot they will love. You see Beta Ray Bill immortalized as a statue in one scene. Then the planet Sakaar looks like it was entirely drawn by Jack Kirby. From the costumes to the buildings to the spaceships, production designers Dan Hennah and Ra Vincent along with costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo absolutely nailed the legendary artist’s style. There are other Easter Eggs here and there which I won’t spoil. I think it will take multiple viewings to catch them all.
Music continues to be used to great effect in the Marvel movies and it’s no different with Thor: Ragnarok. As heard in the trailers, they play “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin. It’s a song written about Norse mythology, so it’s long overdue to be heard in one of the Thor movies. It actually plays twice in the film, but I have to say I think they only should have used it once to enhance the impact of it. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame delivers an ’80s synthesizer score that perfectly sets the mood for the offbeat world of Sakaar.
I happened to screen Thor: Ragnarok in IMAX 3D and I think this is one of those films where it is worth the extra price of admission. When Thor goes into battle with Surtur’s minions and a dragon, the screen goes bigger and it absolutely enhances the fight scenes and visual effects. And when Thor battles Hulk in the gladiator scene, the IMAX and 3D is felt to its full impact. My sons and I watched the film together and we were all in agreement that the Hulk/Thor battle was the highlight of the film. Do yourself a favor and see it to its full effect.
What Didn’t Work:
As much as I loved Thor: Ragnarok, it doesn’t take anything away from the film to recognize its flaws. First off, the tone can be a bit uneven. There are wildly hilarious moments followed by long, flat moments of drama. The serious moments drag the pacing down even though they are necessary for the plot.
This film also kills or dismisses characters with little fanfare. You would think they would be bigger moments, but they’re fairly minor and unmemorable. I can’t say more without revealing spoilers, but it might annoy fans of some of these characters.
While I absolutely love the interwoven Marvel movies, the cameo by Doctor Strange did not feel natural to the story. It felt very forced. You could cut the entire scene from the film and it would have had no impact on the plot whatsoever. I wish his appearance would have had more relevance to the story.
Finally, there’s a fair amount of adult humor in Thor: Ragnarok. There are jokes about Grandmaster having orgies in his spaceship. You actually see Hulk’s naked butt. There’s a lot of language. And there’s a running joke about how they must enter a portal called “The Devil’s Anus.” Did I chuckle? Yeah. But before the screening started, I was talking with someone who was telling me how they were watching all of the Marvel movies with their young son who was seeing them for the first time. While it’s good to entertain adult fans, if would be good if they could keep it appropriate for as large an audience as possible. I think they forget that sometimes.
The Bottom Line:
I heard someone call this “Asgardians of the Galaxy” and that’s about as good a description as I can imagine. It’s a funny space adventure that’s weird, wild, and wonderful. Do yourself a favor and see it on as big a screen as possible with an enthusiastic audience. You’re missing out if you don’t have the full experience.