Review – Thor : Ragnarok (2017)

by Old King Clancy

Since the reviews for Thor: Ragnarok came out and was praised for its humor, it’s been hard not to see people’s complaints about Marvel being too light-hearted and trying to be too funny. I haven’t felt the superhero fatigue that others have yet, but it’s not hard to see why people feel that way. I bring this up because there was talks of Thor: Ragnorok being a reinvention of the MCU leading into Infinity War, and it’s really not in fact. If you’re not on board with the Marvel Model this won’t win you over. What it is in fact, is a funny, colorful, and entertaining movie that has Led Zeppelin on the soundtrack.  Honestly, what more could you want or need?

Following on from Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) investigation into the Infinity Stones at the end of Age Of Ultron, Thor learns that the event known as Ragnarok – a prophesized Asgard Apocalypse – has begun to take shape. Returning home and forcing a still alive Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to return their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) to the throne, Thor tries to prevent Armageddon before it’s too late. However, an unforeseen consequence of Loki’s meddling allows Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, to escape her banishment and return to the Nine Realms. In the ensuing fight, Thor and Loki are transported to Sakaar, a junk world several galaxies away, Thor’s hammer is destroyed and Hela lays siege to Asgard with warrior turned executioner Skurge (Karl Urban) by her side.

While Heimdall organizes a resistance on Asgard, Thor is taken prisoner by a scavenger (Tessa Thompson) who he later realizes is one of the long-thought dead Asgardian Valkaryies. She takes him to see The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who reveals that if Thor wins a battle against his Grand Champion, he can win his freedom. As it turns out the Champion is Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), but he’s showing no signs of ever changing back into Bruce Banner. With time against him, Thor must gather a team together and find someway back home before Hela can unleash Ragnarok and destroy Asgard.

While the first act is admittedly a bit rushed to tie up all the loose ends left over from The Dark World, once Thor lands on Sakaar, the film starts moving in a satisfying direction. In essence, it plays out like a mini-Avengers movie with Thor gathering his team together to save his world – at one point he even refers to them as The Revengers. The result is part Gladiator, part Prison Break, and part Marvel all coming together for something fun. I will admit that the third act doesn’t leave things as neat as you think they might, there’s some pretty big moments that should lead Thor nicely into Infinity War.

The character work was definitely the film’s strongest element with the main four characters having great chemistry together, but the smaller roles all had their part to play. Director Taika Waititi brought back his Hunt For The Wilderpeople stars Rachel ‘No Child Left Behind’ House as one of the Grandmaster’s guards and Sam Neill in an early stage-show performance. There’s another HUGE cameo that I almost missed, I won’t say who but look who shares the stage with Neill, kinda hard to believe they actually got that big of a name.

Waititi himself plays Korg, a rock monster warrior on Sakaar, but rather than being a dumb bag of rocks he’s actually a funny and gentle character, dim-witted, but loyal and friendly almost to a fault. He surprisingly comes up with some of the best lines of the film.  Hopkins takes a smaller role as Odin but his presence is felt throughout, plus he gets some funny moments when he’s playing Loki playing Odin. Idris Elba returns as Heimdall, finally getting to use that sword of his for some combat and proving himself a worthy leader for the resistance. And we even get a nice appearance from Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange in one of the film’s more mind-bending moments.

Newcomers to the MCU this time around include  Goldblum as The Grandmaster, he’s essentially playing Jeff Goldblum, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s exactly the type of eccentric and sinister personality you need for this type of near-immortal being. Urban takes what could’ve been a one-note henchman role and does enough with it to showcase jealousy, regret, and some well-placed humor. Blanchett sadly falls victim to the same lacking villain that most Marvel bad guys end up, though admittedly she does look good as a crazy bitch. Plus credit where it’s due, Blanchett is better than a lot of other Marvel villains, she seems to be having a ton of fun snarling at the screen and cackling away. She arguably has a legitimate reason for her attack through her past encounters with Odin and the secret viciousness of his past that tears away from the benevolent king we were led to believe he was. It’s a solid if underwritten part made better by Blanchett not holding back.

The main quartet is where the heart of the film lies, obviously we have Hemsworth, Ruffalo and Hiddleston all returning, but surprisingly it’s Thompson who pretty much steals the film. Bounding in drunk off her ass and with no shits left to give, she presents herself as a hard-edged, hard-drinking bitch, a far cry from the noble Asgardian warriors of legend. Thompson nails the self-destructive nature of Valkyrie but makes her fun enough to like throughout, her team-up with Thor gives her a purpose again, and allows her to reclaim her warrior title. Be it her arc, her charisma and just the fact that she looked damn good kicking ass, but Thompson is the breakout here and easily earns a place in Marvel’s top ranks.

Loki is back and up to his old trick but much like the audience, Thor is wise to his tricks and often one step ahead of him. Loki definitely has the least to do here out of the three Thor movies. His relationship with Thor has matured since his arrival and we see Loki here starting to realize that Thor is no longer angered by his actions, but rather disappointed by them, and it affects him more than he realizes. We still get plenty of trickster Loki moments, but this is the most matured he’s been to date.

Thor takes a similar style, while at points he’s still the pompous, brash prince of Asgard we’ve come to know and love in significant ways. Most prominently is Hemsworth getting the chance to stretch his comedy muscles, now that Thor understands human interactions and inflictions, he’s no longer the butt of the jokes. Instead he now manages to crack his own jokes and twist a few lies to better his cause – he lies to both Banner and Hulk about who he prefers. Hemsworth has always been funny in the role and this is no different with Thor’s easy going attitude often providing some levity, that’s not to say it’s all fun. When the third act kicks in Hemsworth is still able to bring in some stronger emotions to solidify Thor’s feelings in the battle for his home.

Rounding out the cast is Bruce Banner, missing in action since Age Of Ultron, now having lived the last two years as Hulk on Sakaar. True to reports we definitely see a lot more of Hulk (sometimes more than should be comfortable) than we do of Banner, but it allows an interesting new dynamic to emerge, where Thor and Bruce are friends with opposite styles. Thor actually has a lot in common with Hulk – short-tempered, love to smash things – and the reliance on him towards the third act allows for some fun back-and-forth between them both. Of course, none of this takes away from Ruffalo’s nervous and hilariously jittery role, but it’s nice to see more of the green guy for a change and with the rumor of more to come in Infinity War, I’m excited to see where Banner goes from here.

Taika Waititi sold me last year with Hunt For The Wilderpeople – another team-up in the wild movie – so I was excited to see him take on a Marvel flick and he does not disappoint. While some people might be disheartened by the amount of humor on show here, it’s absolutely Waititi’s style of humor with a lot of quick lines and sudden moments that hit hard, fast, and don’t wait around for people to get the punchline. He also incorporates a lot of references to past MCU films here to great effect with Thor trying to use Natasha’s ‘Sun’s going down’ technique to calm Bruce down and the return of Point Break being two highlights. I understand people are getting tired of the constant jokes, but it’s hard to deny that it works here.

Waititi also throws in enough color and excitement to set the film apart, particularly from the last Thor film which got too grey and dull to suitably fit Asgardian Gods and Shakespearean monologues. Here Sakaar is this bright explosion of color filled with the junk of other realms all re-purposed and reused for the city in one way or another. Keep an ear out during Thor’s introduction to Sakaar because it’s a psychedelic wonder and the music is such a strangely perfect choice that I never thought I’d hear in a Marvel film. This also extends into the actions scenes with the destruction of Thor’s Hammer allowing the film to bring in some new fighting style for the character – including a couple scored to “Immigrant Song” which is never a bad thing. The gladiator battle against Hulk is a return to the rivalry brought about in the first Avengers and pits two near indestructible beings against each other showing an unstoppable blonde force meeting an immovable green object. The escape and subsequent revolution is a lot of fun that has Thor teaming up with a reluctant Loki while reminiscing about their childhood while shooting up the place. This leads directly into a dogfight with Valkyrie showing off her skills by jumping from ship to ship to take them all out. The final battle on Asgard includes impossible odds, a rebel army, zombie skeleton, giant wolf, and that’s not even the half of it. It’s the first Thor film to really capture the ridiculous nature of the character and showcase him in the right setting to make him work.

I’ll admit that I am a Marvel Fanboy, so perhaps my rating should be taken with a pinch of salt, but I recognize that fact. Like I said at the start, if you’re not on board with the Marvel Machine then Thor: Ragnarok won’t make you a convert. But if you’re still in with what the MCU is offering, then this is a colorful, entertaining and 80’s fueled barrel of fun that finally gets Thor the movie he deserves.

I am giving Thor: Ragnarok a 4 out of 5 Hairpieces!

 

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