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Film Review – Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe returns to the stars for another adventure with the god of thunder himself.  Before Marvel gears up for Avengers: Infinty War next year, there’s still some loose ends to clean up in the cosmos, and that’s exactly where Thor: Ragnarok comes into the picture.  The following review will be spoiler free.

Thor: Ragnarok

Synopsis

Directed By: Taika Waititi

Written By: Eric Pearson

Starring: (*deep breath*) Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Idris Elba, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Taika Waititi, and Jeff Goldblum (*wheezes*)

The evil Hela (Blanchett) returns to Asgard to reclaim it in her own image.  But, after a squirmish with the goddess of death leaves Thor (Hemsworth) on a planet all the way across the universe (and without his beloved hammer), he must battle his long lost companion, the Incredible Hulk (Ruffalo), in a gladiatorial setting.  However, if he wants to stop Hela and reclaim Asgard, he’ll need a little help from some friends both old and new.

Background

Thor: Ragnarok is following a similar pattern to other recent MCU films by hiring a lesser known director to man the project.  While Taika Waititi certainly has grown a following after directing What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, he still isn’t exactly a household name.  Since both Marvel and Disney are notorious for being cheap, it’s fairly obvious that they go after lesser known talents in order to maximize profits on their features, but that’s not to say that there hasn’t been some great benefits to the MCU because of these new additions.

In the early stages of the MCU, Marvel mostly favored “blue chip” directors such as Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, and Joss Whedon.  Not that these gentlemen didn’t do a fine job, but, for a moment, the MCU became a tad stale, amounting to very similar films in tone and feel.

However, once Kevin Feige firmly became the auteur of the universe, these smaller directors have since added very different touches to these films.  Since the start of Phase 3 of this ever growing universe, we’ve hit a golden age of sorts.  Every film has done even better with critics than before (as if we thought that was even possible).  Although every Marvel movie adheres to a similar outline, they’ve taken way more chances with tone and structure from these different directors that come from different backgrounds.

As we now arrive at the 17th film in the MCU, the state of this movie universe couldn’t be in better shape.

Thor: Ragnarok is Super, Super Weird

As for the movie itself, it can be be described as bonkers.  Gone are the Shakespearean comparisons that Thor has in previous iterations.  Now, we have a colorful, crazy world full on insane possibilities.  With all of this in mind, it’s clear that Taika Waititi is the star of this movie.

Waititi’s imprint is all over this film, offering up his signature brand of humor and whimsical nature in the best way possible.  Waititi has said himself that about 80% of this film was improvised, so he must receive some serious praise for keeping the movie on the rails.  Under his hand, Thor: Ragnarok may be the funniest MCU movie to date.  Waititi himself plays a CGI character that may have you falling out of your seat from laughter.  I know I did.

Everything about Thor: Ragnarok is just pure lunacy.  You know your movie is crazy when a giant, fire monster is the D-plot of the movie.  If I could put my finger on how best to describe this movie, it would mostly likely be a cross between Flash Gordon, Star WarsGuardians of the Galaxy, and a stand-up special.  It’s a unique, off-the-wall movie that somehow manages to keep itself somewhat in check to work out in the end.

Let’s be honest, the first two Thor films are amomg many people’s least favorite MCU films.  For a third go-around to be successful, the character needed a facelift.  Waititi has brought something to Thor (and the MCU) that we just haven’t seen before.  There’s nothing that’s off limits, making the entire endeavor very refreshing.

Every Actor Chews the Scenery in the Best Way Possible

In one of these sections, I would normally delve into which actor stole the show.  But, in this situation, that’ll be difficult to do.  There isn’t exactly a stand-out character because literally EVERY character stands out in some fashion.

Thor: Ragnarok just has a bevy or riches at its disposal.  Honestly it’s pretty unfair that such a large amount of attractive people are on one screen.  I mean, just look at that:

And that:

And THAT:

And THAT:

I think I might have a crush on the entire Thor: Ragnarok cast.

But in all seriousness, having each character inject some type of fun somewhere into the plot makes everything that much more enjoyable.  Everyone brings a little something different to the comedy, action, and every other bit of the film.  Even when you follow a secondary character, the entertainment value stays at a super high level.  Everyone has their quirks, making the film a blast to behold.

If you didn’t know the names of actors like Tessa Thompson before seeing the film, get ready for some magic.

Still Somewhat of a Slave to that Patented Marvel Formula

That being said, Thor: Ragnarok can’t quite help but fall into the same traps as other Marvel films.  There’s a ton that this movie has to handle.  Thor has to journey to a far off planet to become a gladiator, Hela tries to destroy Asgard, Odin must be found, and there’s a fire monster in there somewhere.  With so many elements involved, some of the more important bits gets lost in the shuffle.

Cate Blanchett is wonderful as Hela, and you can tell that she’s enjoying the role of a megalomaniac.  But, with many of the main characters off on the other side of the universe, her part of the story becomes largely forgotten for an extended period of time within the film.  You get caught up in the craziness of Jeff Goldblum as an eccentric weirdo or the interplay between Thor and Hulk that you totally forget that some entity is trying to smash Asgard to pieces.

Final Thoughts

You’ll see this said is practically every review out there, but Thor: Ragnarok just good ol’ fashion fun.  It embraces its sillier intricacies, allowing the audience to embark on a self-referential, funny ride through the cosmos.  You’re eyes might even gloss over from the color-overload that’s in store for you.

Thor: Ragnarok is super weird and continues the Marvel hot streak.  It might still be a slave to the usual Marvel formula, but you can’t help but crack a smile while watching it.  It gets an A-.

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Nick Kush

A current college student, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society.

8 Responses

  1. whovian223 says:

    This has to be one of my favourite movies of the year, mainly because it’s so fun.

    I’m a big Marvel movie fan anyway, but this is definitely one of the best. I can’t think of a performance that was bad (though I do agree that Hela was shortchanged for a large part of the movie).

    • Nick Kush says:

      It definitely is a lot of fun! Thor needed a facelift, and I’m glad that Marvel allowed Taika Waititi to go crazy with his brand of comedy.

  2. Steve says:

    Sounds like someone is listening to us for once

    • Nick Kush says:

      To what are you referring?

      • Steve says:

        Movies (esp comic book style) were growing quite stale. Mixing it up stylewise and throwing in the humor and taking some risks is just what the doctor ordered

      • Nick Kush says:

        Ahh I gotcha! In total agreement there. These days, a superhero film needs to do a lot to impress me. I’m getting pretty sick of the isual doomsday plot with the villain of the week. Granted, Thor still had those elements, but it used clever subversion to keep things interesting.

  3. Normally, we would be crying foul for trying to cram so many things into one movie. However, I never found anyone from the main cast to be underutilized. I was surprised that Karl Urban was unrecognizable (to me, at least) as Skurge a.k.a. Executioner. However, I really enjoyed a payoff involving some guns that he acquired while on Earth/Midgard (Texas, to be exact). I can definitely agree that Cate Blanchett absolutely sells it as Hela. Already having a commanding presence that she could bring to her character, she was SO (pun intended) Hela Good! I also agree that because of everything else that’s going on in the film, she’s somewhat sadly hanging out in the background as a looming threat, even though she easily mows down Asgard’s forces and conquers the kingdom (since she stills needs the land to be literally a powerful goddess). I was able to easily recognize the Planet Hulk elements on my own (since I’ve read the original source material and saw its animated adaptation), but I was initially put off by director Taika Waititi’s giving Korg a comical British voice after I was used to hearing Kevin Michael Richardson’s deep & confident voice. Not only that, but Miek wasn’t even given a voice. With the former, I got used to it as the film progressed and with the latter, it’s probably for the best given that there’s so much going on here and this is supposed to be Thor’s film. Hemsworth (with a bit more comedic flair) and Hiddleston continue to be tight as Thor and Loki, the Hulk was also solid, Valkyrie was a nice addition (especially with a series of slow-mo shots that her previously failed attempt to stop Hela alongside her fellow sisters) and for what small screentime they get, Idris Elba and Anthony Hopkins (in a FAR more dignified manner that what he got in Transformers: The Last Knight) do their jobs really well as Heimdall and Odin. Before I close, neat cameos from Benedict Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange and (though more as a recorded message) Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. Also, it’s interesting how the Thor Trilogy bookends itself with our Odinson almost becoming King of Asgard near the beginning and actually becoming the royal ruler at the end. Overall, though it feels like there’s a lot to process (especially on first viewing), it was still very entertaining and sets things up for Thor & Hulk in preparation for the fight against Thanos.

    • Nick Kush says:

      From what I know about Infinity Wars, I like that this film literally ends where it will pick up in May.

      This movie did what it needed to do by making Thor a super likable character that we can all get behind. Most people (myself included) found him quite bland through his first couple appearances in the MCU. They finally allowed Chris Hemsworth to show off his comedic chops.

      Looking forward to Black Panther in February!

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