Marvel Studios have, on more than one occasion, proven that they can deliver consistently pleasant films, including this year’s Guardians of The Galaxy Vol. 2 & Spider-Man: Homecoming. So with the third installment of Thor’s saga, expectations have been pretty moderate to high considering the God of Thunder’s previous outings didn’t exactly sit well with audiences. Thor’s solo films have easily been the most mediocre of the brand that is Marvel, so when it was announced that Ragnarok would do for Thor what the Winter Soldier did for Captain America, that is reinvent the character in a new light, many fans had hope again.
Thor: Ragnarok, as said is the third installment in the eponymous franchise and is directed by Taika Waititi. Chris Hemsworth returns as the God of Thunder with Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, along with a bunch of new and returning characters from the comic book mythology. Taking place about 2 years after the events of Age of Ultron, the film starts off with Thor being on the search for answers related to the Infinity stones. A small warning though : this film has more comedy than any previous Marvel effort, so if you’re one to not like such an approach, steer clear of this film. The good thing though is that it handles it quite nicely, never shying away from making fun of itself.It’s made evident that Thor hasn’t returned to Asgard in quite a while and is oblivious of Loki’s impersonation of Odin. The major cliffhanger from the last film, The Dark World, is handled quite well and is done with quite fast, with both of them getting on the journey to find Odin on Earth, which leads into them coming face to face with Hela, the Goddess of Death. Right off the bat, Hela is introduced as possibly the most powerful foe we’ve ever seen in the MCU, quickly destroying Mjölnir and banishing both brothers to the planet Sakaar on the other side of the universe. While there, Thor meets Hulk, who has been in that form for the last two years. The rest of the film sees the two Avengers working side by side to come back to Asgard and defeat Hela in order to prevent Ragnarok : the norse apocalypse.If that sounds like a handful of plot points for a movie, it is. I was initially skeptical of whether the film would have the right pacing in order to cram in so much material in just under the 130 minutes of runtime that it has. Rest assured the film moves at a breakneck pace and manages to incite humour and emotion with the right amount of balance (except for maybe a couple instances where Marvel’s over reliance on comedy undermines the stakes) . This film could be said to be an out and out comedy, with elements of a Star Wars-esque sci-fi adventure thrown in. And while Marvel has been known to inject humour into their films, they have often been at the expense of drama. Take Guardians of the Galaxy for example. The series was a runaway success but what most critics (including me) complained about was the use of humour in awkward situations which undermine the greater story and drama. It’s great to see such movies the first time but on second viewing you really see the faults.
Thankfully Thor: Ragnarok manages to not tread that line and distinguishes it’s humour to hit exactly when it needs to. It never undermines the greater story of an apocalypse, and gives you enough to get going.Hemsworth is at his best as Thor, leaving aside his Shakespearean persona and inviting the more naturally comedic side of himself to bring out in the role, much to great success. While initially some would argue that he was a bland character when put beside the likes of Tony Stark, Hemsworth truly makes the role his own and manages to reinvent Thor as one who’s fun to watch. Which really is what the movie’s about : reinventing the mythos of Thor as Winter Soldier did for Captain America. It can be said that the films has the ‘winter soldier’ effect on Marvel’s Phase three leading into Infinity war. Other actors including Hiddleston and Ruffalo are, as expected, at the top of their game. It has to be mentioned how strongly Hulk is used, given the rights situation preventing Marvel to put him in his own solo movie. Hulk is used to a great extent here, and I truly mean the Hulk and not Bruce Banner. Now being able to talk and hold up a conversation, the Hulk is a much more interesting character, leaving the ‘Avenger whose job is to smash’ archetype.Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie comes off as an interesting character, badass in her own right, proving that Marvel can deliver on strong female characters if they put their mind to it. Speaking of, Cate Blanchett brings a nice addition to the family. Hela has her reasons to be as bad as the film makes her out to be, but it has to be said that she comes under the ‘Marvel villain problem’ quite a bit. Her character is used more for exposition and over the top antics rather than being set up as a real character. While her reasons are fine, more screen time would have made her much more memorable. Although she is better than some of the more recent antagonists in the power department, instantly posing a big challenge to Thor.
We also get Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster and Karl Urban as Skurge/Executioner, both of whom play their roles perfectly, especially Urban as Skurge who has a surprisingly satisfying arc. Goldblum is a joy to watch on screen. Another surprising role is that of Idris Elba’s Heimdall, given a much more satisfying role in the film than anticipated.
Taking a more Guardians-like approach, Taika Waititi has truly made this films his own, further cementing the confidence that Marvel has in the more up-and-coming directors for crafting their unique vision. And he plays a part in the film too, as the character of Korg (albeit with help of motion capture and CGI wizardry). Waititi is a scene stealer, both on screen and off, making this the best Thor film yet and maybe even one of Marvel’s finest.
The action looks slick and with the inclusion of a smarter Hulk and a hammer-less Thor, we get new creative action scenes which really shake up the way we have though of these characters. We finally get to witness Thor as the God of Thunder, wielding lightning bolts and demonstrating his utter strength in ways the MCU has never shown before. It’s a surefire way of levelling up Thor in order to even match the more grievous fights that he has in store for the upcoming Infinity War. Although I’ll have to complain that the 3D here can sometimes be a bit jittery. It could and should have been handled a bit better.
All in all, Thor: Ragnarok proves to be a fun time at the theater and is another win for Marvel. Easily the best Thor movie yet, the film balances humour and drama well and really shakes up the MCU in a big way, especially with how Thor is handled. Him at the end of the film is a very different character from what he was at the start of the film, and it only remains to be seen how this shift in dynamic will play out in the future, especially with Thanos’ impending doom in Infinity War.