“Here we go!”
Cast: Chris Hemsworth. Cate Blanchett, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Taika Watiti, Karl Urban, Anthony Hopkins, Benedict Cumberbatch, Clancy Brown
Director: Taika Waititi
Synopsis: Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.
Uncle Willy (Editor-in-Chief, Podcast Personality, Acerbic Old Dude)
Five minutes in, and I was fully locked in. The first fight sequence was underway, Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song was blaring (Yes, the song is in the movie. Twice!), and all was well in the world. Thor: Ragnarok was shaping up to be the insane live-action comic book I wanted.
Two hours later, I was slightly conflicted. The movie was every bit the insane comic brought to life, and I loved it. But it was a comic that was occasionally confused in its tone. I still knew I enjoyed it. But it’s as if, at some points, someone shoved a Guardians of the Galaxy storyboard into the comic. Yet the speech bubbles in this book were written in Thor’s Elizabethan speech and that overly-serious font Thor’s artists always write his dialog in. The barrier between fun and serious kept smashing together, and it made a crunching noise at times.
First, the narrative. As the trailers have shown, the movie meshes plotlines from two Marvel Comics story arcs: Ragnarok, the Norse End of Days, and Planet Hulk. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) face off against the Asgardian goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett), who’s vying for control of Asgard. During their struggle, both Thor and Loki are separated from her and end up in Sakaar, a planet lorded over by the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Thor is captured and forced to fight in gladiatorial combat against the planet’s champion, the similarly displaced Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Thor must battle Hulk, all the while looking for a way to return to Asgard to free it from Hela’s clutches.
I’ll get this out of the way now: Thor: Ragnarok is an incredibly fun movie. Director Taika Waititi is known for injecting lots of fun and humor into his movies, and it’s no different here. Think What We Do in the Shadows, but with gods and a Hulk. I distinctly remember three instances while watching Thor: Ragnarok where I grabbed my head and said aloud, “what has this man done?” while cackling in delight. One in particular almost made me explode in chocolate and sprinkles. It was insane and nonsensical, but I was tickled pink. That’s the kind of fun to be had here.
The mashup of the two storylines was also well-handled for the most part. I admit that a lot more of the Planet Hulk arc was used than I expected. This wasn’t just an excuse to have Hulk and Thor beat each other up for a bit. This was a legitimate – albeit heavily simplified – interpretation of the story. I enjoyed a lot of the cues from the source material. This looks to be the only Planet Hulk story we’re gonna get, and it’s not a bad one.
The movie’s fun is mostly relegated to Sakaar for the first two-thirds of the movie. On Asgard, things are as serious as things in the MCU can get. Hela loves to vamp around and proclaim her superiority like most bargain-basement villains. But she backs it up at first by laying waste to Asgard’s forces – including some prominent members – in seconds. This woman is not playing around; she piles up body counts like points in pinball!
But for large swaths of the movie, she’s thrust to the background. More time is spent with Thor, Loki, and Hulk on Sakaar. In a way, that’s a shame. Blanchett was absolutely owning the role, and I would’ve loved to see a lot more of her than what was given. After ripping Asgard a new poophole, though, she becomes little more than an exposition dump for her new lackey, the inept but (mostly) funny Skurge (Karl Urban). All the while, she’s still vamping and chewing scenery. I was hoping for more.
The real story here, though, is the humor. Say whatever you want about the comedic direction Thor: Ragnarok takes with everything, but I mostly love it. Thor has always been too stuffy for the MCU’s tone, even when he drops the occasional quip. Here, he’s involved in one joke after another. The thing is, it’s not entirely out of character. You can definitely see him enter a self-absorbed monologue with Hulk about how bad a day he’s had right before they fight. It makes total sense that he’d threaten the Grandmaster with all the gravity of a schoolyard bully. And you can definitely imagine him using Loki as the butt of his own selfish pranks. While Thor is easily the most likable and entertaining he’s ever been here, the vanity and self-importance he’s always carried are still present.
The extra layer of comedic depth is added to Hulk as well. He’s given way more here than in The Avengers. He speaks way more here, and he has the usual limited vocabulary. The “me Hulk” vibe, however, isn’t exactly one note. When Thor’s captor Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) engages with Hulk, you see he enjoys her rough play. He calls her “angry girl” as she kicks him around, and he laughs at the rough play. He also shows a range of emotions other than just pure anger, including insecurity. In some ways, he acts like a big, overly strong kid.
As Banner, you also see more of his fragility. Unlike the cool, controlled character he portrayed in The Avengers, here he is initially confused, agitated, and threatening to go off at the drop of a hat. The whole Jekyll-and Hyde dynamic that is Hulk’s persona is delved into way more here, and it works well.
So does Valkyrie. She’s the surprising badass of the group. There’s a backstory to flesh her character out, and yes, she’s flawed (if alcoholism is a flaw), but she is a wonderful character. Her interactions with Hulk were great, but I enjoyed her back-and-forth more with Banner. I only wish she had a greater role. I felt she had a “fourth wheel” vibe in the trailer. She acquitted herself well in the movie, but she could have been more. At the very least, she should’ve had more prominence than Loki.
Thor: Ragnarok’s supporting cast isn’t terribly strong past the ones already named, but there are some notable folks. First among them is the Grandmaster. Allow me to take a moment to acknowledge the character:
OMG! Goldblum is absolutely 100% Goldblumian in this role! He’s like a meme of Jeff Goldblum, brought to life and asked to act like Jeff Goldblum! The results are amazing! His first scene with Thor will go down in the annals of…annals…as the greatest strange thing that could ever happen! His subsequent appearances were just as sublime. I can only hope that Goldblum’s Grandmaster eventually meets up with Benicio Del Toro’s Collector. The OMG scale may actually break!!!
After him, Korg (Taika Waititi) needs special mention. For a low-level character, he absolutely NAILED the supporting role. He is an important character in the Planet Hulk storyline. So is Miek…AND MIEK IS HERE! Seriously, I had a smile in almost every scene where Korg and Miek were on frame. They were amazing.
The rest of the supporting cast? They were ok.
That includes Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). His cameo was very brief, and it mostly consisted of the stuff seen in the after-credits scene in his movie. In fact, other than Valkyrie and Korg, most of the supporting cast had brief cameos or parts. Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is barely used, Heimdall (Idris Elba) is important for only a secondary plotline, and secondary villains only have bit roles.
(There is also one dumb-but-awesome secret cameo. Comment if you spotted it.)
All in all, Thor: Ragnarok seems to be a near-perfect superhero movie. But it has some bigger stumbles, and they detract a bit from the movie.
I mentioned the missed opportunity with Hela. The same applies double to both Surtur and Fenris, two important players in Norse mythology and the comics canon. While Surtur has a bit more prominence, it’s not by too much. The Grandmaster is not an enemy so much as a pleasant detour. The only real threat in the movie is from Hela, and she does little more than preen between Acts One and Three.
(The inner nerd in me wants to point this out, and I won’t stop him. Surtur is voiced by Clancy Brown. Depending on your childhood, he is either the voice of Mr. Krabs, the voice of Lex Luthor, or the FUCKING KURGEN!!! Three guesses as to which demographic I belong to, and the first two don’t count!)
Then the odd tone chimes in. I hate to use the example again, but it’s apt. Immigrant Song is used twice in the movie, and both times they struck the same chord with me that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 did with Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain. I felt it was almost pandering. Director James Gunn used the song to great effect in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2; the situations they were used in complemented the song well. Waititi seemed to use it as an artificial way of amping the audience up in his move. And I was amped up; Led Zeppelin is LIFE! But I felt slightly pandered to.
I also got that same vibe whenever a dramatic moment got cut short by yet another joke. Whereas Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 handled such moments relatively well, Thor: Ragnarok seemed to stumble. I’m not saying this movie blatantly copied James Gunn’s movie, but I’m saying the shift in tone was too similar to not bear mention. When a joke dropped after a dramatic moment here, I also felt slightly pandered to.
Thor’s humor hit a similarly crunchy chord. He’s stoic one scene, goofy in another, and nearly fraidy-pants in a third and fourth. And sometimes, the shift from one to another is abrupt and jarring. It doesn’t hurt the movie – it actually seems to get into nitpicky territory – but it’s noticeable enough to warrant mention.
Did those odd tonal shifts detract from my enjoyment of the movie? Hell no. Like I said before, the movie was a lot of fun. When it was in its element, it was great. I’m not expecting perfection in a superhero movie; I’m happy enough with “close enough.” And Thor: Ragnarok is very “close enough.” I walked out still reveling in the insane things I saw.
Still, I couldn’t entirely shake my problems with it. Hela was woefully underused, and that bothered me the most. She was my biggest hope for the movie, and she fell short in my eyes. The humor spent more time in the foreground than the stakes did. But the movie was still extremely enjoyable.
Little things like the attacks to Thor’s vanity, Hulk’s childish demeanor when not fighting, Valkyrie’s badassery, and Korg’s every utterance won me over. The fights – which I haven’t mentioned enough – are excellent. When Odin is seen in the beginning, he’s supposed to be Loki (CONTINUITY ALERT), and he’s SPOT ON! Jeff Goldblum is AMAZING! And the one scene where Thor meets the Grandmaster…WHAT HAS THIS MAN DONE???
Thor: Ragnarok is an amazing attempt to realize a couple of crazy comic book stories in live action. I may have some complaints, but they’re made invalid every time I think about what I saw.
Punisher (Writer, Podcast Personality, Overly Optimistic Dude)
As I sit here writing this review, I can’t stop thinking about this movie and how amazing Thor: Ragnarok is! OMG, the first five minutes of this movie happened, and I was practically a fucking kid again!
The movie hooked me right from the start. From my last article about trailers, I’m so glad I did not see the 3rd trailer because they had parts in it that pretty much showed a lot of things that I did not want to see I watched the movie. Uncle Willy confirmed to me that seeing the 3rd trailer would have made me a little upset, but still, the movie was awesome.
Let’s start with director and his style. Taika Waititi gave Thor a new way of being. He was not so stiff or overdramatic, but Thor still had an amazing character. I loved how cocky he was but still charming and how silly he would be. But when he had to be serious, he would do it well. The comedy and action played off great IMO. Also, the visuals were stunning.
Let me just say that Hulk and Thor’s chemistry was great! I loved how they would act around each other. Of course, we can’t have Hulk without Bruce Banner. The times I’ve seen Bruce before, he was always nerdy and not really doing much of anything, just being bland. Here we have Bruce unsure about what’s going on and working well with Thor as well.
In-depth, the movie has some moments where they touch upon parts of Thor’s movies and The Avengers. But there is no deep wonder in this movie. It’s straight-up and in your face, and I enjoyed every second of it. We do see why and kind of how the Hulk ended up in Sakaar, and also what happened to Bruce.
Now it’s hard enough for me to write anything without spoiling anything but the one thing I can say is please stay for the two after credits and enjoy the movie. Within this movie, there are tons of Easter Eggs and nods to some non-Marvel movies. To my I give Thor: Ragnarok and Punisher seal of approval to go see it. I give it a solid 9 out of 10.
Why 9? Well, even though it was an actual fun and funny movie, I feel there should have been more to it. Not really know how to explain myself here, but would have loved to see more of Hela and where she was before she got to Asgard. I would also have liked to see Jane Foster. I would love to see a little more backstory with Jane and Thor. Let me be honest here, if this movie was three hours long, I would have sat there like an idiot and loved it. I wanted more, but that’s me being greedy.
Score: 9 out 10
Next on our review list are Justice League and The Punisher on Netflix, both coming out on November 17th. Not really a DC fan, but Uncle Willy and I are hoping Justice League does well. Let us know your thoughts below.
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