Thor: Ragnarok Review
Thor: Ragnarok, directed by Taikia Waititi, is the seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third film in the Thor franchise. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson, Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum, Idris Elba, and Karl Urban, Ragnarok follows Thor (Hemsworth) as he tries to prevent his sister, Hela (Blanchett), from taking over Asgard and unleashing death and destruction upon the Nine Realms. He takes a detour to the planet of Sakaar, where he meets the Hulk (Ruffalo), who has been performing as a gladiatorial champion in the Grandmaster’s (Goldblum) arena. While on Sakaar, he also meets and recruits Valkyrie (Thompson) to join in his quest to save Asgard.
When asked what the one virtue of the Thor films–the worst of the MCU’s offering, in my opinion–was, I would say humor. Waititi, whose previous work includes the stellar vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows and last year’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople, has ratcheted up the humor by a thousand. I was consistently laughing throughout this film, starting with the opening scene. Waititi has a knack for absurd comedy, and the otherworldly beings and situations of the Nine Realms lend themselves to that tone. Hemsworth’s Thor has always been one of the more comedic Avengers, but here he was consistently the funniest part of the film.
As for the rest of the cast, they all provide performances ranging from stellar to decent. Ruffalo once again demonstrates his adeptness at portraying essentially two different characters: the timid and mild-mannered Bruce Banner and the raging, unstoppable Hulk. That said, Cate Blanchett as the Goddess of Death was easily my favorite character in this film, and is one of the better villains to appear in a comic book film; she slinks across the screen, oozing malice. I only wish she had had more screen time. The same goes for Tessa Thompson as the alcoholic bounty hunter Valkyrie and Jeff Goldblum as the sadistically jovial Grandmaster. Thompson is suitably badass but mainly serves as a vector for Thor to get to and from the planet Sakaar for the majority of her scenes. Goldblum gives exactly the kind of performance you would expect; he is aloof and charming, but everything he says has a sinister edge to it. Hiddleston continues to be the best antagonist in the MCU, putting in another stellar turn as Thor’s brother Loki. Karl Urban, unfortunately, offers only pained grimaces and one mediocre action sequence as Skurge the Executioner.
Speaking of the action sequences, they were–for the most part–bland and uninteresting. The two that really stood out was at the very beginning and very end of the film, both set to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” These two sequences, in contrast to the rest of the action in the film, did not devolve into a blurry mess of CGI.
Action scenes aside, this film is generally quite beautiful. Sakaar, a planet riddled with cosmic doorways (including the very large and very red “Devil’s Anus”), is cloaked in debris and filth, save for the city proper, where the Grandmaster and his colosseum reside. Asgard now has a more tangible feel to it, and the fire realm the film opens in is a red-hued hellscape. However, the most breathtaking shots in this film are all part of one sequence. When Valkyrie relays her backstory to the audience, we get a series of slow-motion vignettes of Valkyrie and her fellow soldiers taking on Hela. The best way to describe this is that it resembles a mural that adorns the wall of a palace. Here, Waititi has essentially brought a series of comic book panels to life, and the result is visually stunning.
Earlier in the review, I mentioned that I wished several of the characters had had more screen time; my biggest complaint with this film is that it is essentially two films in one, fighting over which gets to be the focus of the movie. On the one hand, you have the Shakespearean drama of the struggle with Hela; on the other, you have the gladiatorial comedy of the events on Sakaar. I feel that the conflict with Hela should have been saved for the inevitable fourth Thor film. Then, this film could focus squarely on the shenanigans on Sakkar. In spite of this, however, the film was quite enjoyable overall. It is hands-down the best of the Thor films, and one of the better MCU films. If you enjoy the more comedic side of the onslaught of comic book films, definitely seek this one out.