REVIEW: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

US Theatrical Release Poster – Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The following is a review of Thor: Ragnarok – Directed by Taika Waititi

Are you the kind of person whose idea of a good time is watching a Norse God beat up countless of faceless goons on a rainbow bridge while Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song plays? If that is a ‘yes,’ then there is a pretty good chance that you are going to fall in love with Thor: Ragnarok, which also includes a scene where the Hulk fights a supersized wolf. It sounds too good to be true. It isn’t.

I loved Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, but I’m sure that most people think of that one as one of the more mediocre Marvel films. Marvel Studios, who have had some issues with sequels ever since Iron Man 2, tried again with Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World, but that was a huge disappointment (and it is probably still my least favorite movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe).

But with Thor: Ragnarok, the third Thor-centric film, Marvel Studios have gone in a different direction. Taika Waititi couldn’t be more different from Alan Taylor, and Waititi’s take on the universe is infinitely more colorful, joyful, and fun to watch. It is a huge improvement on the first sequel, and I think a lot of people are going to be championing Ragnarok as their favorite Thor-movie.

In Thor: Ragnarok, Thor Odinson (played by Chris Hemsworth), the God of Thunder, is searching for his father, Odin (played by Sir Anthony Hopkins). Once he finds him in Norway, Odin explains that he has kept a secret from Thor and his brother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston). Odin has essentially covered up a dark part of Asgard’s history, which is about to come back to haunt them.

Hela (played by Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, wants revenge for having been imprisoned by Odin, and she interrupts their little get together in Norway by destroying Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. As our protagonists try to escape the battle, Hela sends them away and travels to Asgard to become the new ruler.

Soon Thor Odinson finds himself on Sakaar — far away from the realms he is familiar with. Before he gets a chance to familiarize himself, Scrapper 142 (played by Tessa Thompson) – a former Valkyrie – incapacitates him and sells him to the Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum). Suddenly, Thor is a gladiator taking on his old friend the Hulk (played/voiced by Mark Ruffalo) in a fight for freedom.

And that is all that I am willing to say. There are no spoilers in the plot description above. Rest assured, everything I’ve disclosed has been hinted at or shown in the promotional material for the film. In instances where there are things to spoil, I’ve tried to be as unspecific as possible. I wouldn’t want to ruin something as amusing and enjoyable as Thor: Ragnarok.

Director Taika Waititi has made a name for himself with his previous two feature films — horror-comedy mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows and adventure comedy Hunt for the Wilderpeople (both of which you should definitely check out if you like Ragnarok) — but this is going to be the general moviegoing audience’s introduction to him.

And what a way to introduce yourself. You might’ve feared that Marvel Studios would stop Waititi from adding his own touch to the film, but that isn’t the case. Ragnarok is just as charming and fresh as Waititi’s last two feature films. Thor: Ragnarok isn’t a Marvel movie directed by Taika Waititi — it is a Taika Waititi-Marvel movie. His fingerprints are all over the final product.

I genuinely think it is one of the funniest films I’ve seen in a long time — definitely compared to other blockbusters. Compared to other Marvel films, I would say that it is almost as funny as the original Guardians of the Galaxy-film. Now, Chris Hemsworth’s portrayal of Thor has always been fun to watch, but his comedic talents shone so brightly in both the Vacation and Ghostbusters reboots that he almost singlehandedly salvaged those films for me.

With Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel Studios have struck gold. They’ve tapped into Hemsworth’s great strength as a comedic talent without overdoing it. It is so exciting to see him work so well here. He doesn’t get as great an emotional moment as he got in his short appearance in the opening of J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek-reboot, but Thor: Ragnarok is probably Hemsworth’s finest hour as a leading man.

But it isn’t just him. There are these really surprising and exceptionally funny cameos in the first act that had me smiling from ear-to-ear, and, generally, the supporting cast is remarkably strong. Whoever came up with the idea that Hulk should meet up with Thor (and essentially be a sidekick to our favorite Norse God) is a genius. It just works so well now that they’ve let Hulk talk, which you’ve seen in the trailers.

A part of me really thought that Jeff Goldblum would steal the movie from the rest of the cast in his role as the Grandmaster, and while he is really fun to watch the director is actually the one to steal the movie from Hiddleston, Blanchett, Goldblum, and Karl Urban (who plays Skurge).

That’s right. You didn’t read that wrong. Taika Waititi steals the movie from the supporting cast. Not with the witty visual comedy — he is actually in the movie. Taika Waititi voices and gives a motion-capture performance as Korg — a rock-monster with a kind heart. You have no idea how much you’re going to love him. He is hilarious.

Tessa Thompson is also great as a lone Valkyrie warrior. A lot of people have talked about how she deserves her own movie, or her own team of female Avengers. I’d definitely be interested in seeing her in other films. Her British accent didn’t sound right to me, on the first watch, but I really liked her in the part.

As already mentioned, Ragnarok has these these really fun cameos (including one that I would’ve never guessed beforehand). But it is the callbacks and ties to other Marvel Studios films that sometimes trips up sequels in the cinematic universe.

Although it did seem a little bit like they were rushing through the connective tissue, so to speak, in the first act, I thought all of the references and callbacks were really well done. But we’ve definitely reached a point where you need to have a general knowledge about the entire universe to get all of the jokes. But I don’t think this movie will be all that tough to follow.

It isn’t flawless, though. Although it is a very good looking movie, not all of the CGI works — the Norway location looked a bit odd, but maybe that’s just me. As I just mentioned, I think the first act is a little bit rushed — it was a little bit too fast-paced in the beginning, for me.

Also, while it did look like Cate Blanchett was having a lot of fun in Thor: Ragnarok, I just think it is another unfortunate example of superhero movies wasting strong actors and actresses in lackluster villain roles. I thought Hela was uninteresting and her backstory was somewhat uninspired.

My biggest problem with the movie, though, is something I can’t really discuss fully in a spoiler-free review. But I will say that I was severely disappointed with how Thor: Ragnarok treated the Warriors Three (Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun).

Taika Waititi’s take on comic book characters inspired by Norse mythology is very different, very funny, but it remains a Marvel movie — for better and worse. I, personally, think I need to see it again to decide whether or not it is the best Thor-movie, but Thor: Ragnarok is easy to love – a huge improvement on Thor: The Dark World.

8.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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