Thor: Ragnarok Review: An Epic Ride of Godly Proportions

Screen Capture from Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok takes the God of Thunder and furthers his legend with an epic plot that’s as fun and funny as any classic comic book story.

Thor is now a trilogy! Let that statement sink in. Iron Man being a trilogy was already something unbelievable—especially for someone who grew up in an era when superhero movies were few and far between. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe verges on being ten years old, we can look back at a vast library of films and rank them from worst to best. The God of Thunder’s first two outings rank—relative to the MCU—as mid-level to lower quality. However, Thor: Ragnarok—with comedy talent Taika Waititi at the helm—proves to be one of the best films Marvel Studios has churned out.

Like the first Thor film, our favorite Asgardian is stripped down to the basics and left on a foreign world. Unlike the first installment—and thankfully—there are virtually no sluggish segments, even poignant moments are tinged with laugh-out-loud comedy. But this is a visual effects-driven actioner and comedy shouldn’t really be the focus. How was it in that realm? Let’s just say that facet of the movie also ranks among the best. If I were to sum it up in Hulk-like grammar, it would be “lots of colors … fun … lots of fighting … Thor strong … Hulk stronger … Valkyrie awesome … Loki I like … Hela badass.”

WARNING: Potential spoilers ahead

The film starts off with the famous fourth-wall-breaking scene from the trailers. However, we soon learn the trailer was slyly cut with a lot of misdirection (thank you, Marvel Studios). Long story short, Thor pulls a Joker (did I just jump universes and publishers to make an analogy?) and successfully retrieves fiery demon Surtur’s crown in order to prevent Ragnarok—a prophesized Asgardian apocalypse.

Arriving back on Asgard via the Bifrost Bridge, Thor discovers that Hemidall is no longer at his post and has been exiled. However, the biggest discovery (very smartly revealed by Thor) is that Loki has been masquerading as their father Odin. The two soon make a journey to Midgard—ahem … Earth—where Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch cameo) “invites” them to his Sanctum Sanctorum. There, he assists Thor in finding Odin. The beloved Allfather is located in Norway, with his memories restored. He isn’t angry and goes as far as saying that Frigga would’ve been proud of Loki’s adeptness at his trickster abilities.

The reunion is bittersweet, as Odin tells his sons that he’s dying. But the bigger secret coming to light is Odin telling them about their long-lost sister, Hela. Long before the existence of Thor or Loki, Hela fought by her father’s side, conquering the many realms. However, she became an overly ambitious out-of-control zealot. As a last resort, Odin imprisoned her. With his passing, though, she will be freed, and it will be up to Thor and Loki to stop her.

Just like that, Odin says his goodbye and dies in a Jedi-inspired fashion (no body, just a nice sparkly light show). As foretold by Odin, Hela is freed and soon makes her presence known. And trust me, she really makes it known—by destroying Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer. As the three engage in combat, Thor and Loki are thrown out of the Bifrost Bridge mid-transport. Thor falls from the skies and lands in the junkyard of Sakaar. There, he must find a way to get back to Asgard and save it from Hela.

The magic of Thor: Ragnarok is mostly in the screenplay. Don’t get me wrong. The visuals are as awesome as ever, and the synthesizer-driven score will make any child of the ’80s tear up. It’s a movie that has it all: heart, fun, and action. Writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost create great banter between all the characters and architect a story that’s unpredictable, but has a very clean, classic structure. It’s something that should definitely be studied in any beginning screenwriting class.

As a film contained within the almost decade-old MCU, references are definitely made to past movies. I’m not going to say what they are if you haven’t seen the film. The joy is catching them and laughing at them like an inside joke. It makes fans feel as if they’re part of an exclusive club—or even in an inner circle where the popular kids are comic book nerds.

Director Taika Waititi brings his off-beat humor in full-force here. All the characters, whether they’re good or evil, seem to wink at the audience every time they deliver their lines. It’s not a disrespectful wink, but a wink of “we totally get you and this universe.” Speaking of Waititi, he pulls double-duty here—or should I rephrase that and say quadruple duty. Waititi not only directs, but plays the parts (via motion capture) of rock alien Korg and the demon Surtur. He also did additional motion capture for the Hulk after Mark Ruffalo finished his scenes. Now that’s what you call a hands-on leader.

Even though this is Chris Hemsworth’s nth time as the God of Thunder, he plays the part fresh, but extremely natural. Many actors who have repetitively reprised their roles fall into the trap of appearing stale or just going through the motions. Hemsworth is in familiar territory, and Thor is part of him—which totally shows because he has fun with the character. The Asgardian may still be loud and proud, but he definitely doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Loki’s return is welcomed, as fans can never get enough of him. His transformation from villain to hero is natural and doesn’t seem like it comes out of left field. Like Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston finds new areas to explore with his trickster god. Highlights of the film include Thor and Loki’s witty banter. All in all, Thor knows his brother all too well now, and the two just see it as a game in regards to Loki’s ever-prevalent dishonesty.

A big surprise is Mark Ruffalo’s performance as Bruce Banner and the Hulk. As the Hulk, Ruffalo gives the Jade Giant a much-needed personality tweak that’s aligned with the comics—he can actually talk now, albeit in broken toddler speak. In regards to Hulk’s evolution, the studio is finally taking some baby steps (pun intended). However, as awesome as it is seeing the Hulk on-screen (and what an awe-inspiring exhibition of power it is), Ruffalo really shines as good ole boring Bruce Banner—and I say that with the utmost affection.

When Ruffalo first played the part in Avengers (2012), Banner was portrayed as more subdued—melancholy with a hidden dark side. Ever since then, not much has been done with Banner. In Thor: Ragnarok, Ruffalo takes Banner in a new direction. Now on Sakaar, Banner is totally out of his element. His nerdy scientist sensibilities are completely at odds with the insane environment—and Thor’s exuberance in getting back to Asgard and fighting Hela isn’t helping either. The juxtaposition between Banner’s cerebral poise with those of his new warrior friends is one of the finest interactions in an MCU movie to-date.

Crossing the street and analyzing Hela, I can say that Cate Blanchett was made to be in a Marvel film. Why didn’t they put her in one sooner? She plays the egomaniacal, murderous villainess with aplomb. Knowing Waititi, I’m also akin to say that he probably just gave her an outline of the character and told her to go wild when the cameras started rolling. Her villainy is on par with Loki’s when he had his turn at being a film’s big bad in The Avengers (2012).

And let’s not forget about Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster. To quickly sum up Valkyrie: if they wanted to spin off the character in another movie, I’ll be the first in line to see it. Her subplot is a great redemption story and it’s just pure fun watching her kick alien ass. Goldblum is a natural fit for any comic book film. As Grandmaster, his presence alone puts a smile on anyone’s face. Is it just me, or does anyone else think a meeting between Grandmaster and the Collector would be epic?

Thor: Ragnarok gives new life to the Thor franchise. What was once seen as possibly the most boring and stale of the MCU is now up there with the best. Many would say this film took cues from the very successful Guardians of the Galaxy series. I would beg to differ. Yes, there are some similarities: taking place in another galaxy, wacky characters, hilarious dialogue, etc. However, the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise doesn’t have a patent on those elements. The brand of comedy and lightheartedness are all part of Waititi’s arsenal of talent. He could’ve made this movie before the Guardians of the Galaxy films and everyone would now be saying that Thor: Ragnarok became the MCU’s template for humor.

Thor: Ragnarok is definitely one of those films that warrants multiple viewings. With beautiful visuals, bigger than life heroes and villains, roller coaster action sequences, and side-splitting humor, the God of Thunder’s third outing proves the third time’s a charm.

Thor: Ragnarok was released on November 3, 2017.

About Steve Lam 52 Articles
The first superhero Steve ever saw was Christopher Reeve's Superman in 1978. Steve was only a year old and couldn't really appreciate history being made. Little did he know at the time, the seed was already planted—which would grow into a lifelong obsession with superheroes and comics. Today, Steve also adds science fiction, horror, and movies to his repertoire of nerdy fanaticism. His dream is to one day sell his novel or screenplay.

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