Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Review

RAGNAROK HAS ARRIVED

(AND IT’S A BLAST)


 

Tell me, Captain, do you know where Thor and Banner are right now?” was the line in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War that mentioned these two Marvel superhero characters since their last time featured in a MCU movie (Avengers: Age of Ultron). While Captain America: Civil War was indeed a superhero blockbuster extravaganza that pitted Iron Man (Tony Stark) against Captain America (Steve Rogers) and include the roster of Avenger team members that were caught up in the event, the absence of Bruce Banner (aka the Hulk) and the God of Thunder was indeed felt. While the character Banner / the Hulk has been featured in his own movie (2008’s The Incredible Hulk) and recently only appearing in other MCU movies (due to legal issues in Disney’s acquisition of Marvel), the character of Thor has been a main staple within this superhero cinematic universe, standing alongside iconic characters as Iron Man and Captain America. The films (2011’s Thor and its 2013 sequel Thor: The Dark World), which are part superhero, part-fantasy, and part Norse mythology, had generated mostly positive success, especially thanks to actor Chris Hemsworth playing the titular Asgardian superhero and other fantastical nuances. Additionally, the Thor movies have brought a new element of gods and monsters into the MCU and within the ever-growing age of superhero films. Now, after being absent for several years, Thor (along with the Hulk) return to the big screen as Marvel Studios and director Taika Waititi present the movie Thor: Ragnarok. Does this third installment of the Thor movies shine brightly for the God of Thunder or has the “twilight of the gods” finally arrive for Thor fans with this latest entry?

 

THE STORY


Having left Earth and The Avengers team, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Asgardian God of Thunder, has spent the last two years traveling through the Nine Realms in search for clues on the Infinity Stones. After escaping the clutches of the fire demon Surtur (Clancy Brown) and taking his crown, Thor returns to Asgard, believing he’s prevented the prophesied apocalyptic event known as Ragnarok. Upon arrival, Thor realizes all is not well within his kingdom, finding out that his mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is alive and has been impersonating their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), for quite some time. Journeying back to Earth, the two Asgardian locate the missing “All-Father”, learning of the impending arrival of Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, who’s been freed from captivity and is seeking to reclaim her rightful place as ruler of Asgard; a title of which she was denied long ago by Odin. Destroying the fabled Mjolnir, Hela, trumps Thor in a Bifrost battle, sending him and Loki to the far reaches of the known universe to rot on Sakaar, a junkyard planet that is ruled by its eccentric ruler, The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). While Loki gains favor with The Grandmasters, Thor, who is captured by former Asgardian warrior elite, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), is placed in a gladiatorial arena and must participate in the planet’s Contest of Champions. Thor’s situation gets even complexed as he’s set to battle The Grandmaster’s reigning champion, the Hulk, the alter-ego of fellow member of The Avengers, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). However, escaping Sakaar isn’t an easy task for the God of Thunder. Forming an alliance with Loki, Valkyrie, and the Hulk, Thor plots to escape The Grandmaster’s dominion in order to return to Asgard and save his kingdom from Hela’s vengeful wrath.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


As many of you know, I’m a huge fan of Marvel (or rather the Marvel Cinematic Universe), enjoying each new entry within its ever-growing cinematic universe of superheroes, villains, monsters, and magic. Additionally, with my love for fantasy and mythology, the attraction to the Thor movies was indeed a palpable and alluring to me. This was also further made more prevalent as Thor movies took the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the more fantasy / cosmic level (an unknown territory at the time), which was then followed by 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and even (by extension) 2016’s Doctor Strange. So, this blending sci-fi fantasy / mythology help make the Thor films a staple in the MCU and an intriguing one at that. Personally, I liked both Thor movies, which had all the right elements (action, mythos, drama, fantasy, and superhero aesthetics) to make the adventures of the Asgardian God of Thunder a wondrous tale. In truth, Chris Hemsworth, a relative unknown actor at the time, was able to pull off the role of Thor beautifully (both embodying the character physically and in dramatic poise) as well as actor Tom Hiddleston, who play’s Thor mischievous brother Loki.

After the events of 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor and the character of Bruce Banner / the Hulk left the Avengers team, disappearing into parts unknown. With both characters sitting out the events that transpired in Captain America: Civil War, many began to wonder when the God of Thunder and the “big guy” would return back to the MCU. Marvel even did one of their One Shot short films titled “Team Thor” (part 1 and 2), spoofing off the idea of what Thor was doing since he left at the end of Age of Ultron. Of course, all the waiting and speculation of the whereabouts of these two titular Marvel characters were laid to rest when Thor: Ragnarok was announced (with Thor returning) as well as having Bruce Banner / the Hulk featured in the movie. This was even more interesting when the film’s trailers were released online, having millions of fans gleefully excited to see the two characters on-screen together, especially in the scenes shown with them fighting in the gladiatorial arena (i.e. “I know him…. he’s a friend from work!). After the success of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming, I was very much eager to see how Thor: Ragnarok would shape up. So, after much hype and anticipation, what did I think of it? Thor: Ragnarok takes a new direction in the God of Thunder’s journey that brimming with visual style and humorous entertainment. It still has some problems and it wasn’t the best Thor movie (in my opinion), but the movie still had that Marvel superhero fun (and that’s a good thing).

Ragnarok is directed by Taika Waititi, whose previous director works include Eagle vs. Shark, What We Do in the Shadows, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. With his past directorial projects being more on a smaller scale, Ragnarok is Waititi first attempt to doing a big-budgeted superhero blockbuster and (to be truthful) he actually does a good job in pulling it off, which is one of the strengths to be found in the movie’s overall appeal. Right from the get-go (and by a sense of how the trailers were presented), Waititi shakes up the status quo from the previous Thor standalone movies by changing the overall direction in both style and tone. While actor / director Kenneth Branagh directed Thor (laying the cinematic groundwork for the character and the world of Asgard) and director Alan Taylor expanded and continued that trend with Thor: The Dark World, Waititi decides to change that the “lay of the land” for Ragnarok by making the film more comedic and humorous; something similar to Guardians of the Galaxy and Spider-Man: Homecoming. While this sudden change of tone can be a bit jarring at first to some, especially coming off the two past Thor films that were more serious, remember that this wasn’t the first time that a Marvel change the overall directional tone to one of their properties (see the difference between Captain America: The First Avenger to Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Its definitely a bold choice in comparison to the past Thor movies, but it’s a very interesting directional avenue to take and, despite a few bumps along the way (more on that below), the decision for a more space-comedy adventure works for what Waititi wants to achieve for Ragnarok. Of course, my favorite comedic scene in the movie has to be the “Get Help” scene with Thor and Loki. I died laughing when I saw that!

Waititi has stated that he wanted to make Ragnarok feel like more of an 80s sci-fi space adventure and (to his credit) he actually does, balancing a lot of the heroic moments and superhero dramatics within a comedy fanfare and nuances; a throwback to those type of sci-fi films that were a bit cheesy / campy (but done in a good way). Waititi even takes that notion within the overall look and feel of Ragnarok, using the concept / set designs of Sakaar has a prime example of a colorful dump texture as well as The Grandmaster’s pretentious style within his dominion (via landscape / and costumes). So, big thanks to the film’s cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, costumer designer Mayes C. Rubeo, and the whole art direction / production teams in their endeavors to create a very visual style world within the feature from start to finish. Even the film’s score, which still has that boisterous big superhero fanfare underling music, has a lot of that 80s influential synthesizer melody, which is prepared and arranged by Mark Mothersbaugh.

Loosely based off of the comic book storylines of Ragnarok and the Planet Hulk, the movie’s script, which was penned by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost, blends the two narratives together as well as adding the comedic beats throughout the course of the feature. It’s a fun romp for Thor and his friends to navigate through, encountering Hela and trying escape from The Grandmaster’s clutches as well as escaping Sakaar. What I really did like was how the movie ends and how Thor must defeat Hela as its find of an interesting storytelling arc to end on. Additionally, for those who don’t know, the actual name Ragnarok, which translates to “twilight of the gods”, derives from Norse mythology of which Thor comic books are based off of. In this event, Ragnarok represents that destruction of everything, including several of the gods, and the beginning of a new one (similar to Aztec calendar), but its commonly known for being the end of everything akin to religious beliefs (and pop culture legends) to “judgement day”. Just a fun historical fact for you guys. Lastly, the movie also utilizes a few new characters from Norse mythology, including the fabled wolf Fenris and the fire demon Surtur (based on the fire giant from legend), who is voiced by Clancy Brown in the movie.

Despite some improvements that were made and the positive within this new direction style for the God of Thunder, Ragnarok does have few negative points that do make the movie out of reach of being considered the best film (so far) within the MCU. While the new direction and style is a welcomed one that has Marvel’s recent superhero nuances and tonally formula, I feel that I can’t 100% percent truly embrace it without taken to heart at the sudden change from the two previous Thor movies. Those films (Thor and Thor: The Dark World) still offered the comic book fun, but were a bit more serious with a few more heavy-hitting dramatic moments (i.e. Thor not able to lift the hammer in the first one or Queen Frigga’s death from the second one as well as the scene where Loki’s “supposedly” dies, etc.). Ragnarok, on the other hand, never quite reaches that same level of dramatic superhero emotion, despite having a few moments where those dramatic sequences were present, but were never fully expanded upon to its more emotional / theatrical potential. Even Guardians of the Galaxy (both the original and its sequel), which Ragnarok clearly took its tonally inspiration from, was able to achieve sincere emotionally moments within its more comically tone. In the end, Ragnarok could’ve benefited with being a bit more serious in certain areas like its previous iterations.

The other main problem I found with Ragnarok is the two narratives within the film that Waititi wants to tell. As the trailers show, the movie makes the appearance of Hela (and her conquest ambition) as well as the task of preventing the Ragnarok event from passing the main plot of the third Thor installment. While this good and actually does prove to be a very interesting story to tell (as well as being a worthy task for the Asgardian God of Thunder to tackle), Waititi and his writers try to add the second-tier story (i.e. the story revolving around the planet of Sakaar, The Grandmaster, the Contest of Champions, and the Hulk participation in the arena) into the narrative timeline of Ragnarok. What ultimately happens that this second-tier story becomes more prevalent and prominent for almost the entire second act (and then some). Of course, this story is fun and works, but it sort of takes away from the more pressing storyline of Hela invading Asgard and her conquest desires, which is supposed to be the main plot thread throughout the feature. The end result is something that can be a bit wonky, especially when the plots diverge during the first act and then realign back during the third act. Basically, the “B” storyline shouldn’t be stronger than the “A” storyline. In my opinion, I personally think the two narratives should’ve been in separate movies, with Hela’s revenge to reclaim Asgard being the driven force for Ragnarok three acts, while story of Sakaar and The Grandmaster’s games could’ve been a very fun (and very unique) theatrical film within the MCU; something that’s more of side story adventure rather than building block piece. With that idea, both films could’ve benefited without the other, allowing each respective story thread to flourish within the construct of their individual movies rather than the two battle each other for a viewer’s attention in Ragnarok.

The cast of Ragnarok has plenty of familiar faces in both recognizable from their previous works on other non-superhero projects as well as veterans the Thor and / or MCU movies. At the head of the pack is actor Chris Hemsworth as the titular Asgardian god Thor. Hemsworth, known for his roles in Rush, In the Heart of the Sea, and 2016’s Ghostbusters, seems to be having the most fun this go around as the mighty Thor, finding loads of humor within his character and the situation that he’s place in. In the past films, including the two Avengers movies, the character of Thor has always had humorous bits here and there, with Hemsworth always gamed to exchange jokes and gags. In Ragnarok, with the new direction and tonally shift, Hemsworth is having a grand time and is very much up to the task of carrying the movie on his shoulder through superhero action and comedic timing. My only problem with the character of Thor has nothing to do with Hemsworth stellar performance as the God of Thunder, but rather in the character of development in the movie, which does develop, but not as nearly as much as the first two installment did. However, this is more of a minor quibble. As a side-note, I do have to admit that I do like Hemsworth’s new shorter haircut for Thor. Like the changes made in this movie, it’s a good fit and is somewhat refreshing to see within the character.

Behind Hemsworth’s Thor, the next big Marvel character in Ragnarok has to be the character of Bruce Banner / The Hulk. Known for his roles in Spotlight, Now You See Me, and Foxcatcher, Ruffalo continues to be great as the more meekly mannered intellect Bruce Banner, especially since his character as only been featured in other standalone features and superhero team-up blockbusters. Ragnarok also does the best in expanding the personality (and screen-time) for Banner’s alter-ego in the Hulk, giving the big green more like a child-like speech and temperament to go along with it. It’s definitely something that adds a new shade of green to the Hulk and something that I do hope continues to evolve in future MCU movies, with hope that one day the character of the Banner / the Hulk will get his own feature film. It also helps that both Ruffalo (in both Hulk form and as Banner) has great chemistry with Hemsworth’s Thor, finding the pair to be a great foil for each other, especially within this new comedic direction in Ragnarok, in a sort of “buddy cop” formula that succeeds. Naturally, with this being a Thor movie, his traitorous brother (or rather adopted brother) Loki, who is played actor Tom Hiddleston, returns to play a large supporting role in Ragnarok. Very much like Hemsworth, Hiddleston, known for his roles in Crimson Peak, Kong: Skull Island, and I Saw the Light, does seem to having fun during his screen-time as Loki in Ragnarok. He’s definitely has become a fan-favorite amongst Marvel fans and is considered to be one of the best villains in the MCU. That being said, his character is more delegated to being a more comically role in Ragnarok rather than a menacing villain as he was in the Thor and The Avengers. However, Hiddleston has great timing in playing Loki’s comical bits and does succeed in continuing be memorable in every MCU movie he’s in. With Hiddleston been confirmed to appear in Avengers: Infinity War, the big question remains that will we (the viewers) see the more comically iteration of Loki or a more vengeful one from the previous Marvel films? Only time will tell.

While all of these characters are veteran to this cinematic universe, the newest addition in Ragnarok (in joining Thor’s Revengers team) is the character of Valkyrie (or known as Scrapper 142), who is played by actress Tessa Thompson. Known for her roles in HBO’s Westworld, Creed, and Selma, Thompson makes her character interesting and is up to the task in making her performance memorable in the feature. While her character backstory falls somewhere in the familiar way of battle-hardened warrior with a disgraced past, Thompson interjects an interesting swagger (something akin to a Han Solo-esque archetype in a sci-fi movie) and proves that she’s capable of handling herself with other male leads. All in all, Thompson’s Valkyrie is a not only a great addition to this movie, but also to the MCU. Here’s to hoping we’ll see her character in future Marvel superhero movies. I would welcome her return.

In the villain category, Thor and company fight against some new foes in the form of a vengeful goddess, her betrayer lackey, and a debonair ruler of pleasure. Leading the charge as the main antagonist of the feature is Hela, the Asgardian Goddess of Death, who is played by Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett. Known for her roles in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Carol, and Blue Jasmine, Blanchett’s seems to be having great / fun time in playing the role of Hela, which is first major female antagonist within a MCU feature film, as she relishes and chews through her dialogue of villainy. Plus, Blanchett looks absolutely stunning in her costume, especially her headpiece (whether that was practical or CGI). Unfortunately, like a lot of big named / seasoned actors that appear within these Marvel movies, Blanchett’s Hela’s endgame motivation power and revenge falls prey to the commonplace trend of a villain character being underdeveloped. It also doesn’t help that Hela’s on-screen presences is mostly absent for much of the second act (during the time when narrative switches to Sakaar), which diminishes her character and her villainy of invading Asgard. Basically, Blanchett is great as Hela, but just comes off as another undeveloped Marvel villain within this ever-growing cinematic universe. Hela’s turncoat lackey, Skurge, who is played by actor Karl Urban (The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the new rebooted Star Trek movies), just comes off as a weak side / supporting one, despite Urban’s acting presence. It’s a shame that he wasn’t more fully developed as I do like Urban (and several roles that he’s played) as Skurge could’ve been more that was presented in the final cut of the film.  As more of a secondary villain, the character of The Grandmaster, who is played by actor Jeff Goldblum, fits squarely into the film’s second tier storyline on Sakaar. Goldblum, known for his roles in Jurassic Park, Independence Day, and The Grand Budapest Hotel, is excellent in the role of The Grandmaster, playing pretty much an iteration that he usually plays (goofy and slightly fast-talking mumbling). The sad part that he’s not much in the movie beyond a few scenes here and there, which is a bit disappointing. This, of course, harkens back to my idea that Marvel should’ve done a separate film that revolves around Sakaar (The Grandmaster and his Contest of Champions, the whole Planet Hulk source material from the comics, etc.) rather than being a condensed “middle piece” within Ragnarok. Still, Goldblum’s performance of The Grandmaster is fun and definitely a highlight of the movie.

In the more minor supporting characters category, the character of Korg, a gladiatorial contender who befriends Thor on the planet of Sakaar, is the most memorable one of the bunch. Taking influence ideas of a Polynesian bouncer, Korg, who is actually voiced by Ragnarok director (Taika Waititi), proves to be quite the humorous minor sidekick character that provides a good laugh in almost every scene that he’s in. Definitely was a surprise minor character that I wasn’t expecting. Beyond that, the rest of the characters in this category are veterans to either the Thor movies or to the MCU. This includes seasoned actor Anthony Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs and HBO’s Westworld) as the All-Father / King of Asgard Odin, Idris Elba (The Dark Tower and Pacific Rim) as all-seeing / all-hearing Asgardian sentry Heimdall (sporting a new look), and Ray Stevenson (HBO’s Rome and Starz’s Black Sails), Tadanobu Asano (A Life: Itoshiki Hito and Journey to the Shore), and Zachary Levi (Tangled and Chuck) in the brief appearance of the infamous Asgardian trio “The Warriors Three” in their respective roles of Volstagg, Hogun, and Fandral. As a side-note, the character of Lady Sif, who was played by actress Jamie Alexander (Blindspot and Kyle XY), is absent from the movie, with several fan theories beginning to pop-up online on where her character actually is during the events of Ragnarok. However, the perhaps the real reason for her absence in the movie was most due to Alexander’s scheduling conflict with her TV show Blindspot. Does that mean that Lady Sif will show up again in future films? I do hope so. Also, if you saw the end-credits scene at the end of Doctor Strange, then you know that the Sorcerer Supreme does have a fun cameo-like scene in Ragnarok, with actor Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game and the BBC’s Sherlock) reprising his role as Steven Strange.

There’s also a few funny cameo appearances of some big-name actors during one scene in the first act. I would spoil it for you guys, but I found their appearance in Ragnarok (and particular scene that they are in) is quite hilarious. Lastly, as the given custom for a Marvel movie, there are two Easter Egg scenes found at the end of Ragnarok (a mid-credit one and one at the end of the credits). So, be sure to watch them, especially if you’re a MCU fanboy / purists like me.

FINAL THOUGHTS


Let the games begin as the God of Thunder returns to the MCU and (along with his “Revengers” team) prepare to do battle with Hela, the Goddess of Death, in the movie Thor: Ragnarok. Director Taika Waititi’s newest film takes the iconic Marvel superhero character and places him (and his fantastical tale of gods and monsters) underneath a new light, crafting a humorous and visual space adventure for Thor and company to navigate through. While the movie’s new direction doesn’t necessarily break the MCU formula mold as well as the second act story being more prevalent than the actual main story (losing character development / moments with that decision), the film is still a fun and entertaining entry within Marvel’s cinematic universe, especially within the Waititi’s vision and in the casts theatrical charisma. Personally, I liked it. It was definitely a departure from the first two Thor movies (both the positives and the negatives viewpoints), but was still able to holds its own, especially within the visual style, comedy aspect, and entertainment value. Although, I still prefer the original Thor movie as my personal favorite of this trilogy (then Ragnarok and then The Dark World). Still, Marvel diehard fans will thoroughly enjoy the feature, while casual moviegoers will find enough fun within this sillier tale of the God of Thunder. Thus, Thor: Ragnarok gets my highly recommended stamp of approval. While it’s to be expected that Thor will return in Avengers: Infinity War (and presumably the now untitled Avengers 4), the question remains on whether this will be the final entry for a standalone Thor feature. Right now…who knows? For now, Thor: Ragnarok, despite its sudden change of direction and tone. provides to be another successful hit in the superhero juggernaut studio,

4.2 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)

 

Released On: November 3rd, 2017
Reviewed On: November 5th, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok  is 130 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material

3 comments

  • Great review, I’m currently right in the middle of writing my own post for it, but I definitely enjoyed the movie a lot myself. Though I am usually not a really big comedy fan, the humour in this one really did work, and most of the scenes were quite hilarious. I know exactly what you meant with the cameo scene and thought it was seriously funny to see a couple of those actors in it. Overall it was a fun film and another worthy addition to the Marvel universe. 😀

    • Awesome. Can’t wait to read your thoughts on this movie. I kind of wished that it was a bit more serious (at various parts). That being said, I did enjoy the movie as a whole. Thanks for the comment!

  • I am looking forward to this one!

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