People like to say lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice, but it seems director Taika Waititi has done just that with Thor: Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth returns as the God of Thunder in an adventure that sees him trapped on an alien world as Asgard faces a powerful foe. Even though we’ve seen him wield Mjölnir four times already, Hemsworth constantly brings a level of enthusiasm to the role that keeps audiences engrossed in his performance. Despite the story’s serious consequences, the team at Marvel Studios made a hilarious, character-driven movie full of amazing action sequences and maybe the best use of a Led Zeppelin song ever. If anyone out there is coming down with a bad case of superhero fatigue, Thor: Ragnarok is certainly not the movie to skip this fall.
Thor: Dark World, was a bit of a grim, back-step for the franchise, but Ragnork is a joyous leap forward that surpasses even Kenneth Branagh’s first film. Once again, Thor is a fish out of water in a mysterious place, but this movie showcases just how much he’s grown over the years. He may still love a tall, cold ale (who doesn’t, am I right?), but now he’s a responsible adult who takes pride in being called a hero. As he’s become increasingly comfortable in his own skin over the years, it’s fitting that Ragnarok throws a curveball at the character and takes him out of his familiar fantasy setting. The colorful, clunky, sci-fi cityscape, filled with artistic influences from the master himself, Jack Kirby, is a great departure for a hero who is used to exploring floating castles and green meadows.
While there is explosive action throughout, the most enjoyable aspects of Ragnarok come from the character interactions. Loki and Thor may be siblings, but it’s a treat to watch Thor and Hulk bicker and compete like brothers. Tessa Thompson, who took the last train in from Westworld to film the movie, steals the show whenever she’s on screen. Valkerie simply oozes charisma as she goes about her business as a scavenger, drinking and hunting down challengers for the Grandmaster. Looking forward, it’s silly for Marvel to not integrate her into the fold as much as possible because of how enjoyable her screen presence is. Additionally, whoever at Marvel first thought Jeff Goldblum should be cast as the Grandmaster deserves a medal. He’s amazing as the ruler of Sakaar, a luxurious, gladiator planet, and his dry delivery brings a withdrawn quality to the movie’s otherwise boisterous sense of humor.
Unfortunately, the Hulk’s role in the movie was revealed months ago. If it had been a surprise, it’s likely those scenes would have been even more enjoyable for audiences, but including the Jade Giant never felt forced. In fact, he was one of the strongest parts of the movie as audiences get to see what Hulk has been doing and how much he’s changed since Avengers: Age of Ultron. This is easily his best depiction on the big screen from both a technical and character standpoint. In many ways, Ragnarok feels like it should be called The Incredible Hulk Begins because it establishes a brand new path for the character as both he and Bruce Banner re-cement their place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Hela, played wonderfully by Cate Blanchett, is a welcome addition to the film’s world. She turns in an amazing, sultry performance as the Goddess of Death who has her sites on Asgard and ultimately wants to rule beyond the nine realms. Her goals may be a bit simplistic, but she’s a complex character with a personal connection to Thor that heightens the movie’s dramatic appeal. Even though she seeks out destruction and rampage like many other Marvel villains, Hela feels like the most compelling MCU bad guy to hit the big screen yet.
From a design standpoint, Ragnork may very well be Marvel’s prettiest movie. It’s full of vivid, bright colors that help each shot pop off the screen. Additionally, the costumes play an integral role in the film. Not only do they all look amazing and textured, but the main characters’ appearances change with their moods. Hela in particular dons an antler-esque crown whenever she is preparing to fight but lets her hair hang down low when she is speaking or having a personal moment. In fact, when Thor first arrives on Sakaar his cape is torn off, an unspoken gesture that symbolizes his changed status. While there is some exposition in the movie, especially in the earlier sequences, Waititi does a great job of allowing the visuals to speak for themselves and enhance the story.
One of the things I look for in these superhero movies is how they treat the action. Specifically, I try to count the cuts during each battle sequence. Obviously, there are more cuts in Ragnarok than something like The Raid, but the action scenes were expertly done. The way Waititi integrated Thor’s hammer into the early fights is so wonderfully fun it’s crazy to think no one has done something like it before. Even as Thor punches and shoots lightning, the effects team succeeds at making each fight flow together seamlessly from one beat to the next. Every fight scene has a clear beginning, middle and end as Waititi crafts each sequence to bring the story forward in some way. I don’t want to spoil how awesome it is or who comes out on top, but let me just say that the fight between Hulk and Thor promised in the trailer actually takes place and it’s glorious. So, if you were worried Marvel might copy what Sony did with the fight between Spider-Man and Rhino in the Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer, don’t worry, Ragnork actually delivers the goods.
Thor: Ragnarok is not a perfect film, but its strengths far outweigh the negatives. The characters, pace and action culminate in a movie that is easily Marvel’s best. Not only does the movie feel like a satisfying, self-contained story, it does a great job setting up new predicaments for the maturing God of Thunder. Hopefully, Marvel Studios lets Taika Waititi stick around and do whatever he wants because he turned in a comedic masterpiece that will go down as one of the most fun sci-fi/fantasy movies of the last ten years.
5 Marvel Supporting Characters Who Need To Join The ‘Thor’ World
Now that Thor: Ragnarok is behind us, it’s time for fans to start speculating about where the God of Thunder is likely to go next! As things continue to change for Thor moving forward, it’s only fitting that the world around him starts to expand. Ragnarok is introducing newcomers Hela and Skurge to the Marvel Cinematic Universe family, but there’s always room for more expansion.
Thor has a rich group of supporting characters that have either gone on adventures with him or faced him on the battlefield. Some of Thor’s main companions, like Lady Sif and the Warriors Three, have already been introduced and become fan-favorite characters for MCU viewers. Given that Marvel Studios seems to like shaking things up, it seems likely that some of Thor’s lesser-known acquaintances will end up on the big screen soon enough.
Hit Next to find out about five characters who should join Thor on his next solo adventure!