Review: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)


Director Taika Waititi (The Hunt for The Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows) delivers Marvel Studios’ most entertaining comic book movie since 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy

The recent slate of Marvel Studios’ recent films spinning off of Avengers: Age of Ultron have been these overwrought thinkpieces on the morality of keeping secrets and in-fighting between scenes meant to build up future films and spinoffs for characters in Marvel’s categories. Even Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 seemed a disjointed parody of its original without the fun and sense of wonder and whimsy you get with the best of comic book adaptations. Thankfully, Taika Waititi’s Thor Ragnarok works primarily by recognizing the dry humor apparent in the fish out of water characterization of Thor in prior Marvel films and turning that up to the Nth degree with great results.

As the film kicks off, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has seemingly been captured by Surtur, a mythical being whose existence is meant to lead to Ragnarok, the destruction of Asgard. Thor has been playing possum and attacks Surtur to capture his crown, the source of his power, in a battle scene set to “Immigrant Song” that evokes a sense of looking at fantasy art inspired rock covers in the 1970’s while listening to stoner metal. Everything about Thor Ragnarock is turned up to 11; it is definitely space opera and Marvel Comics’ closest film to something like Flash Gordon. Upon returning the crown to Asgard, Thor sees that Loki has been ruling the 9 kingdoms while dressed up as Odin and takes him to Earth to find their father. It is here that we find Odin at the end of his days who informs Thor and Loki that they have a sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of Death, whose power comes from Asgard and as Odin fades, Hela appears. Thor attempts to strike her with Mjolnir, his enchanted hammer, and she crumbles it into pieces and as Loki summons the Bifrost to take them back to Asgard, the two attempt to derail Hela, which ends with Loki and Thor both being thrown out of time and space.

Here, Thor is captured by Scrapper #142, a former Asgardian Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who sells Thor to The Grandmaster of Sakaar (Jeff Goldblum), ruler of a gladiatorial warworld built on violence as sport. Meanwhile, Hela attempts to dominate Asgard with the help of her reluctant executioner Skurge (Karl Urban) but encounters a resistance movement led by Thor’s companion Heimdall (Idris Elba). Can Thor recover his confidence and help Heimdall or is Asgard doomed to a reign under Hela?

These are compelling questions made possible by Waititi’s unique direction. As Helmsworth’s Thor tries to free himself, he encounters would-be revolutionaries like Korgg (Waititi) who try to encourage him, yet tell him all have fallen under The Grandmaster’s champion; the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Hulk has been in control for the last 2 years and Banner has been dormant, as Thor must struggle to reconcile his relationship between the man and the beast to help his people. Ruffalo has a lot of fun with this and his relationship with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie is engaging in both roles. Thompson is a breakout as Valyrie and a welcome foil for Thor. Blanchett’s Hela is also a lot of fun, a deposed war machine who sees herself as a motivational coach who gets things done, whether by uplifting pep talks or raising an army of zombified Asgardians.

That being said, there’s some potential downsides to the film. Make no mistake, this is a comedy- action film in the mold of Buckaroo Banzai or Big Trouble in Little China. Waititi leads with humor and it stays in that gear. There’s a lot of camp to this film and if you like films like Flash Gordon, you will love Thor Ragnarok. That being said, its good to see a light hearted Marvel movie that works and feels original and isn’t just a prequel to another Avengers film.

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