Fitting that Marvel chose Thor: Ragnarok to round out their trilogy of solo films centered on the God of Thunder. The word “Ragnarok” translates to “twilight of the gods” or “doom of the gods”, and as this film wraps up Thor’s story, at least Chris Hemsworth’s version of it, Thor: Ragnarok does certainly signify a twilight period.
When you look at any list that ranks movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the first two installments of the Thor trilogy typically don’t score very high. Even our own, done by Josiah and Lou back when there were only 14 films to place, has the films no lower than 9. I wouldn’t disagree with those low scores. Thor: Ragnarok, however, is a much more enjoyable film.
What Does Thor: Ragarok Do Differently?
When I try to think back to what Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) did wrong, I think that they just weren’t all that much fun. Thor was stodgy and self-righteous. OK, so he was a god on Earth, but really, get over yourself, dude. Really, the most fun in either film was Darcy, the minor character played by Kat Dennings.Thor: Ragnarok, however, is a complete reimagining of Thor Odinson, as a fun (and funny) character, who is not the stiff Norse god of the earlier films. The film itself is a buddy comedy, another of the many sub-genres that Marvel has masterfully woven into their stable of super hero films. Ant-Man is a heist film, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a coming of age story. These are all nice changes from the epic team up films we have become accustomed to.
What made the buddy comedy an even better idea was pairing him up with the Hulk. Polar opposites, make for good comedy. These guys were the Tango and Cash of the MCU, and the contrasts were hilarious. I was surprised when Marvel chose a little known director to helm this film, but Taika Waititi took the film in a totally new direction that was a home run.
Like any third film, Thor: Ragnarok came packaged with a stable of characters we already knew. Thor, Loki, Odin, and Heimdall were all as great as expected. Hiddleston as Loki ranks up there as one of the best superhero movie casting decisions ever. He was spectacular, and funny, and I enjoyed the different side of him, a more brotherly side of him. Hiddleston and Hemsworth have worked well together since the beginning. It’s a shame that may be all over.
Anthony Hopkins was also outstanding as Odin, King of Asgard. A true test of an actor is having to play multiple roles at the same time. Hopkins playing Odin has always been strong, but the few moments in this film where he has to play Loki playing Odin (Not really a spoiler since that happened at the end of Dark World) were really enjoyable. That whole scene is spectacular as it is filled with fun and cameos.
With a new movie, also comes new characters, of course, and the two notable villains in Ragarok are both incredible actors. It must be nice to have such success that you can attract A-listers…. what’s higher than A-lister?…. like Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum.
Hela, the Goddess of Death, is a serious role. That, in this telling she is more to Thor than just a villain, adds so many layers to the character, and Blanchett delivers flawlessly. I am in awe of her talent. Every single thing I have seen her in is magic – Galadriel in all of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, Claire in Monuments Men – she is brilliant, and she brings that level of skill to Hela.
If I was in charge of casting at Marvel, I am not certain I would have gone all Goldblum quirky for the Grandmaster, but he was certainly incredible and the character was delightful. Goldblum’s quirkiness makes him so great in everything, from Independence Day to Jurassic Park, and his interpretation of the Grandmaster is perfect in so may ways, especially its unexpectedness. In the comics he is a weird looking blue guy that should probably have been played by some severe looking bad guy playing type. Goldblum was Marvel doing what Marvel does best… super casting.
Additionally, two other newcomers, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Karl Urban as Skurge were both excellent, as well. I absolutely loved the scene in which Valkyrie is introduced, for a variety of reasons, but primarily because Thompson was fun, funny and tough.
Urban has really done some great work in the past few years, and his role as the very conflicted Skurge the Executioner is just another notch on wherever actors keep their notches. From the first scene he is in to the last, he does great work, and the character is so enjoyable in this story.
Finally, director Taika Waititi added the character Krog to the mix. Maybe it’s a cheap attempt to replicate the success of Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. Whether it is or isn’t, the character is great fun and steals a scene or two. Making it even more fun, Waititi played the character in the film.
I keep hearing the term “superhero fatigue” bouncing around the interwebs. Yeah, well, I am most definitely suffering from a bit of it myself, but not in the same way as others. I am suffering from “huge team-up, totally destroying cities” fatigue. The Avengers destroyed New York, Captain America: Winter Soldier destroyed Washington DC, and Spider-Man: Homecoming destroyed bits of both. Seriously, in this connected universe, there should be no buildings left. So, it was nice to have the destruction take place off of Earth, and kidding aside, I have enjoyed the visits to Asgard and the other worlds in Thor’s orbit.
There is lots going on in this film that makes it work. While the name “Ragnarok” implies we’ll see the fall of Asgard throughout, a huge chunk of the film has nothing to do with Hela or the chaos her return to Asgard brings. Instead, a solid piece of the film takes place on Sakaar, the planet from Planet Hulk, and the story does a nice mash-up of the Planet Hulk storyline into the Ragnarok storyline, with some of the movie’s best scenes taking place on Sakaar, while Thor and Hulk are “guests” of the Grandmaster.
The climax was a bit predictable and borderline schmaltzy as it revolved around a tender moment that is a fairly overused plot device, common in Hallmark movies and after school specials (do those still exist?) And in the very end, there is a huge dangling thread relating to the fate of Asgard. I wouldn’t care, and it might be a cool storyline to explore, but we have reached the end of the Thor trilogy of stand alones. Is this the end for Hemsworth’s Thor? Maybe, maybe not. He is only 34 years old, so maybe there are a few more films after the Avenger 3 & 4 wrap. Otherwise, this will be a bit disappointing.
This is always an important element to me. Some films, even films that I like, fail visually. Loved Ant-Man, hated the Negative Zone. Same with Dr. Strange. Sometimes I feel like just because you can use lots of colors or swirls or splashes doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes less is better.
In Thor: Ragarok, the best imagery included the entire design of Sakaar. I loved the dystopian look of the junk piles. I loved the Grandmaster’s palace and the coliseum. I loved the city streets when Thor and Banner were out for a walk. All of Asgard looked just as great as it did in The Dark World. One of my favorite scenes visually included a chase scene between Hela, Loki, and Thor, that also reminded me of one of my favorite chase scenes from Star Trek: Into Darkness, where the USS Vengeance chases the Enterprise through warp space. Not lost on me (and totally unrelated) is that Benedict Cumberbatch is in both films.
Speaking of Benedict Cumberbatch, the design decisions that have been made about the look of the magic in the MCU are incredible, and Dr. Strange’s appearance in this film are a visual treat, and in keeping with the rest of the film, great fun. Production Designer, Dan Hennah used a lot of practical sets in conjunction with CGI, to create great depth. The attention to detail is astonishing, and that builds another leg for this great movie to stand on.
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Visually, one of my favorite scenes in the film is the when we first meet Valkyrie. She has a very cool moment where she links up with her ship and is able to remotely operate the weapons. This is the coolest use of Bluetooth that I have ever seen. And like most of Thor: Ragnarok, it has some really great comedy attached.
It’s hard to score Marvel movies, because I think they are all so good. I really enjoy the genre and I really enjoy the films. Most recently, I got to review Spider-Man: Homecoming, which I really enjoyed, but I didn’t think was a perfect film. Spider-Man has always been my favorite Marvel character, so it was great to have him included in the MCU. In regards to Thor: Ragnarak, I enjoyed it more, but I also didn’t think it was a perfect film, so, while I graded it higher than Homecoming, it didn’t earn a perfect 10. The combination of strong script, great actors for characters old and new, and incredible production design work made this film so enjoyable. That Marvel films can attract actors of the caliber of Blanchett and Hopkins, and all of the others, is a testament to the quality and importance of the work they are doing there.
+Great pivot from stodgy Thor to funny Thor
+Incredible talent in the actors
+Great new characters – Krog, Grandmaster, and Hela were all hella good.
+Amazing design work and attention to detail
+No major cities on Earth were harmed in the making of this film
-I loved the comic approach, but sometimes it felt as though the story was in service of the jokes, not the other way around.
-Huge dangling thread at end considering this was Hemsworth’s third (and likely final) Thor film.
What did you think of Thor: Ragnarok ? Leave a comment below. I love comments.
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The Grumpy Geek, Pete Herr is the author of“10 Things We Should Teach You In High School and Usually Don’t”. He is the oldest geek in the Geekiverse by a factor of two. Follow Pete Herr onFacebook,Twitter,andInstagram.If you don’t he gets GrumpyYou don’t want to see him Grumpy.