Thor: Ragnarok marks the 17th and latest film in The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Seventeen interconnected movies, as well as several TV series in less than a decade, is an impressive feat on any level. In fact, that may be an understatement when you consider that Marvel Studios/Disney were the innovators in building an interconnected movie universe for comic book characters. Even after 2008’s Iron Man many, myself included, still thought that Marvel Studios’ producer Kevin Feige building of the MCU was going to be nothing more than an admirable ambition, ultimately an unattainable goal.
Thankfully, Feige and Marvel Studios proved us former naysayers wrong. Over the last nine years, all the pieces of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, have been carefully put together. Thus far, the results of the MCU have defied all odds. The majority of the titles have been good, or even great, while the weakest among them are merely mediocre, but nothing worse than that. Such consistent results are an anomaly; merely look at the DCEU for evidence of that.
One of the franchises within the MCU is of course, Thor. As a comics reader, I’ve never had an affinity for the character. Not that I have anything against The God of Thunder, mind you. It’s just that the Asgardian and his stories never did much for me. This is probably because I never did cotton to the comic’s approach to dialogue. (However, I am planning to give the character another go as I currently have the first trade paperback for the latest Jane Foster, Thor run in my possession.)
When I sat down in the theater in 2011 to watch Thor, I wasn’t expecting much. However, I walked out after the film’s conclusion pleasantly surprised; appreciating the movie’s more comedic approach to its hero. Then, Thor endeared himself to me when he really found his place in the universe with The Avengers (2012). Thus, I was looking forward to the god’s sequel, Thor: The Dark World (2013) when it rolled around. Sadly, I found The Dark World to be a disappointing sequel and a mediocre movie. It took “the fish out of water” approach of its predecessor and reversed it.
Such an approach was a mainstay in 80s sequels, the classic example of this being Back to the Future, Part II (1989). However, I didn’t think this approach worked for Thor’s second solo outing. Instead, I felt The Dark World felt like nothing more than a decent space filler and the weakest installment in the MCU so far. After that, I thought that Thor might just work better as a supporting character, much like his compatriot, Hulk. My opinion on this was further cemented when I didn’t feel either character’s absence in last year’s Captain America: Civil War. However, when I saw the poster and trailers for Thor: Ragnarok, I suddenly wanted to see more of the titular character. As you all know, it indeed seemed like a change of pace the previous Thor installments. Personally, I think that’s exactly what I was looking for and what the franchise needed.
This film finds our hero having been away from Asgard too long. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has seen the prophecy of Ragnarok and must stop his homeland from being desolated. (For the few of you who may be unfamiliar with the term, “Ragnarok,” is essentially the apocalypse of Asgard.) Without him, Asgard is in bad shape as Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is not the current ruler. Instead, his younger son and Thor’s mischievous, semi-villainous brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is running things in the land across The Rainbow Bridge.
Furthermore, the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett) has come to Asgard to help fulfill Ragnarok. However, the ticking clock of doom is not Thor’s biggest problem. The fact that he is currently imprisoned on the planet of Sakaar is. In order to escape, Thor must fight in a tournament held by The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). To make matters worse, Thor’s opponent is none other than his fellow Avenger, Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). Can “The lord of thunder,” escape in time to save his world?
Thor’s previous two solo films are much more traditional ones, as they both take place in Asgard to one degree or another. Ragnarok, however, takes a very different approach as a significant portion of it takes place on Sakaar. With the change of setting comes a change in tone. A tone which proves to be much more entertaining and fun than that of its predecessors, in my opinion. Fear not though, our hero fits in his new setting very well. This entry brings Thor into the more cosmic realm, but not to the point where he becomes, “Thor: Guardian of the Galaxy,” which is something many fans feared would happen.
The change of setting and the bright energy that first-time Marvel movie helmer Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) brings to it make this installment a nice change of pace from what I had come to expect. Beyond that, there are 80s movies tropes that run through all three Thor movies. Thor, as I said, was the fish out of water story whereas The Dark World was the reverse of that. In Ragnarok, it’s a mix of cosmic sci-fi and the 80s buddy comedy. Director Taika Waititi cited the classic buddy comedy, Midnight Run as an inspiration for this flick.
Of course, it helps that colorful, charismatic characters inhabit the film. Some of whom we know and some are welcomed new additions such the Grandmaster and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), among others. The entire cast brings their A-game to the table for this film. Hemsworth and Hiddleston have come to play their characters with a perfect hint of humor. Ruffalo also gives an excellent supporting performance as well. Meanwhile, Hela is played expertly by Cate Blanchett, who is channeling her inner Joan Crawford, minus the wire hangers. Last but not least, Mr. Goldblum steals every scene he’s in with a performance that only he can deliver. Frankly, I could watch two or three more movies set in this world and/or with this set of characters. Granted, since this universe shows no sign of slowing, I’ll probably be provided that opportunity.
For the sake of full and proper movie reviewing, I wish I had a criticism of Thor: Ragnarok. However, I must admit that I simply do not have any. Now, this isn’t a picture I would consider a great film that will become a timeless classic. But, for what it is, this movie is terrific. Ragnarok achieves what it needs to and manages to be among the more entertaining and fun titles in the MCU catalog. For me, this not only the best Thor movie thus far; it’s also the best Hulk movie. In fact, I’d say I enjoyed even more than this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.
Granted, if you’re looking for a more traditional Thor movie, you might be a bit disappointed. However, keep in mind that everything in this universe is interconnected. Plus, things are about to get very cosmic as the Avengers will be crossing paths with the Guardians in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. Thus, it makes since that cross-pollination is beginning here. No matter where you come down on such a crossing, I assure you, you will enjoy Thor: Ragnarok!
Thor: Ragnarok is NOW PLAYING, and Thor will return in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR on MAY 4, 2018.