Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, Benedict Cumberbatch and Anthony Hopkins
Running Time: 2 Hrs, 10 Mins
I never really cared for Thor as a comic book hero. He was boring and stale and well, pretty much milquetoast. Sure, he was powerful enough to juggle mountains and reduce entire cities to rubble, but that (and a personality that made vanilla extract look exciting) made him less interesting. I mean, how do you craft engaging stories about someone who could never really be defeated or hurt? and outside of his presence as the Avengers resident powerhouse, he was never really on my radar. So I found myself enjoying the solo movies (yes, even Dark World) in spite of myself, and I had to admit I was impressed by the way they squared the presence of gods and magic in a cinematic universe that either had or was establishing science heavy characters like Iron Man, Captain America and Hulk. So I was curious to see what the third (and final) Thor standalone film had up its sleeve.
It turns out they saved the best for last.
After discovering that Loki has replaced his father, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) drags his reluctant brother (Tom Hiddleston) to Earth to retrieve Odin (Anthony Hopkins). After an assist by Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), the two find Odin only to discover that he is at death’s door. They also discover that Odin’s life is the only thing keeping Asgard safe from Hela (Cate Blanchett)-the goddess of Death and Odin’s first born. Freed by Odin’s death, Thor and Loki’s sister proves to be more powerful than they could imagine. After easily dispatching the two erstwhile brothers she returns to Asgard to claim the throne and begin a campaign of cosmic conquest.
Thor must find a way to escape the gladiator arena of the distant Sakaar, somehow stop Hela and prevent the destruction the Asgardian people. In the process he comes across the last surviving Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson)-a hard drinking fighter who wants nothing more than to forget Asgard-and discovers where Bruce Banner/Hulk wound up after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Needless to say the God of Thunder collects a lot of fresh bruises.
Thor Ragnarok isn’t just the best solo Thor movie in the trilogy, but is likely to take its place as one of the more entertaining movies in the MCU. You have to admire the producers; they made the decision to embrace Marvel’s rep for high octane action mixed with comedy and never looked back. While there’s plenty of action and comic book fisticuffs, there is arguably more comedy in Raganrok than any other MCU movie to date. Director Taika Watiti deserves kudos for keeping such a potentially volatile cinematic mix on track while maintaining the movie’s spirit.
One of the things that makes Ragnarok work is you can tell that all the actors had fun doing it. More importantly, its obvious they had fun together. Hemsworth is allowed to flex his comedic muscles to excellent effect and plays well off every one else in the film. When Cate Blanchett isn’t dripping malicious villainy she’s cool and calculating (the design team did a brilliant job on her aesthetic and Hela will more than likely stir some debate about the MCU’s greatest villain). And here’s hoping we get to see some more of Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in the future. She provided a perfect feminine foil for the boys and matched them punch for punch while drinking them under the table.
Mark Ruffalo masters nerd-cool as Bruce Banner, Tom Hiddleston is pitch perfect (as always) in the role that launched him to stardom and even Anthony Hopkins inspires some genuine laughs before providing his trademark gravitas. And if directing doesn’t pan out for Taika Watiti, he can fall back on his talents as an excellent voice actor. But the real scene stealer is Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster. Goldblum pushes his signature quirkiness into all new territory without becoming tiresome. In the end, the entire cast gels with the aim of making Ragnarok a comedic super hero adventure.
Make no mistake, while the comedy takes centre stage in Ragnarok there’s still plenty of action to enjoy. The long awaited rematch between Thor and the Hulk delivers (though it isn’t as good as the Hulk/Iron Man dust up in Age of Ultron). The truth is Ragnarok doesn’t serve up as much action as previous MCU movies, but it is arguably the funniest. By not trying to be as action heavy as, say Captain America: Winter Soldier (which worked for that movie), it can devote more time and energy to the laughs. Previous Thor movies tried to establish and maintain their identities through action while using comedy to fill in the spots between god battles and alien invasions. By flipping that formula on its head, Watitii allows Thor’s final solo adventure to truly stand out, something the previous two titles weren’t able to do.
It’s also nice to see Thor’s story come full circle. The God of Thunder began his journey as an arrogant, nearly insufferable oaf who needed a lesson in humility. But as the curtain falls on the Odinson’s trilogy, he has matured into the more responsible, far wiser (reluctant) heir Asgard needs. And it isn’t just Thor’s tale that writes new chapters; everyone around him as well as Asgard itself experiences significant growth and change. It should be interesting to see how Kevin Feige and the braintrust at the MCU handle Asgard’s new direction in the future (possibly as a TV show to replace the already doomed Inhumans?).
It would have been nice to see Natalie Portman and Kat Denning in the final instalment. Instead Jane Foster gets just a passing mention while there’s no attention to spare for her intern sidekick. It would have also been nice to bid farewell to Sif, whose nowhere to be seen despite her fellow Warriors Three getting one final shot at glory. But in the end, Thor Ragnarok is a fun time. It doesn’t just execute the (oft-derided) Marvel formula; it perfects it. It’s a fitting farewell to Thor’s solo adventures and turns a definite page in the MCU (while setting up the next Avengers epic or two).