So, Thor: Ragnarok is a Comedy?
Despite what some fans might think about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), it is far from perfect. The Thor series has always felt like the weakest link in the franchise, despite the fact that he seems to contribute so much to the ensemble in Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Thor quite literally had two strikes against him and this was Marvel’s seemingly last chance to get him right one film. Personally, I felt that this was because Chris Hemsworth is an amazing actor, but never really manages to carry films as a leading man. That was until his recent comedic talents were exposed in the Ghostbusters reboot as he quite literally stole the show in most of the scenes he was in. So it’s hardly a surprise that Marvel decided to capitalize on this by recruiting New Zealand director Taika Waititi to bring some laughs to the God of Thunder in Thor:Ragnarok. The end result proves to be one of the more satisfying entries in the MCU.
Thor: Ragnarok draws heavy inspiration from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, which focuses on ensemble casts, plenty of laughs, and intricate relationships between the heroes and villains. There’s also a sense that Waititi also drew from the retro visuals that feature so prominently in those films. Thor: Ragnarok is filled with bright vivid colors that seem to constantly be exploding out of nowhere, a soundtrack with a heavy focus on synthesizers, and altogether seems to have the allure of an 80’s pop concert. I know, this sounds out of place for a character that is inspired by old Norse mythology and has always seemed like a fish out of water in his previous films. I’ll be honest, to a certain degree it almost feels completely inappropriate for the character that has never been the comic relief before (save for a moment here and there), but who wouldn’t want to forget the old Thor in exchange for this new one?
As far as the ensemble goes, it would hardly be a Thor movie without Tom Hiddleston reprising his role as the mischievous Loki. Luckily, Thor manages to find an ally in his old friend Bruce Banner aka The Hulk. This time around though it’s the green guy that gets most of the screen time. There are plenty of newcomers as well. My personal favorite is Tessa Thompson, who is an honest to goodness Valkyrie and manages to care herself in such a manner that makes her hard drinking, hard punching, and devil may care persona seem like the real deal. I might even go so far as to say that she is my favorite female character in the MCU right now. No offense to the others, but she just makes it feel so natural and effortless, which is no small feat standing next to the likes of the Hulk and Thor. Finally, there is the villainous Hela, Goddess of Death and usurper of Odin’s throne. While she does seem quite formidable, most of what the audience gets is Cate Blanchett striking dramatic poses as she monologues. Still, when you have Cate Blanchet, that’s all you need sometimes.
This primary cast is so important because this film is about reestablishing Thor as a character and his relationships with those around him. His relationship with his brother and father (Anthony Hopkins) has always been complicated at best, but this time around there feels like there is some closure between them. His relationship with both Bruce Banner and Hulk is also a big focus, as the nature of their friendships are fleshed out to make it seem like Thor isn’t just window-dressing any longer. Best of all, so many minor characters get their moment to shine from Idris Elba‘s Heimdall to Benedict Cumberbatch‘s Doctor Strange. Thor is given a chance to have a bigger impact on the MCU than ever before.
So, Thor: Ragnarok has plenty of laughs and feels, but this is a superhero movie so let’s take a moment to address what the real concern probably is, the effects are probably the best to date from Marvel. Thor meets so many creatures ranging from dragons to rock monsters to even the Hulk, and they all look outstanding. Normally there’s a slight uncanny valley effect when it comes to these things, but I have to take my hat off to them. It’s an absolutely gorgeous film when everything is said and done. Especially if you get a chance to see it in 3D because it’s not over the top, but well worth the extra view bucks.
Despite all the raving I’ve done so far, there are some pitfalls to Thor: Ragnarok. While I greatly respect Jeff Goldblum as an actor, there’s really only so much I can take of him these days and I think the film went a little overboard emphasizing his natural quirks. The story itself is quite compelling, but it feels split. All the time Thor is off having an epic space adventure, stuff keeps happening in his homeland in Asgard and the constant cutting back and forth almost becomes formulaic. Still, it is a total triumph for the character and only reinforces Marvel’s commitment to keeping movies light and fun.
Overall, Thor: Ragnarok is a movie that is stuffed to the brim. There’s no fluff or filler to be seen and it gets right to the point. Because of this, the comedic aspects of it are crucial for the pacing to keep audiences from burning out. Is it the best Marvel movie to date? Probably not, but it’s definitely the best Thor movie and it’s definitely a contender for one of the top spots. It will be interesting to see if this new approach to the character transitions to Avengers: Infinity War coming next year. I certainly wouldn’t object, but it’s going to be hard to fit his comedic stylings in with Spider-Man and Tony Stark. you can feel confident though that Thor: Ragnarok is not only worth the price of admission, but one that you will definitely want to see as soon as possible. If for no other reason, than because the Stan Lee cameo is pretty amazing.