Have you ever experienced a moment when you think to yourself, “life sucks.” You missed the bus, you lock yourselves out of your car, you forgot your wallet and you’re pretty sure the dog peed in your shoes. For Thor Odinson, he’s reached that sucky moment in life and the God of Thunder is about to crack.
Loki is still on the throne as his father Odin, the real Odin has been away for months, the goddess of death wants to consume the energy and lives of all on Asgard, Thor’s hammer is destroyed, Heimdall is missing, Jane Foster dumped him, those pesky visions from the past are about to become reality and now Thor is stuck on Planet Hulk Jr. where he’s been taken as a prisoner. Just wanting to return home, Thor and his untrustworthy brother must battle their way through Sakaar to reclaim the throne, and get rid of the bloodthirsty Hela while hammerless before all is lost.
Thor: Ragnarok, is one of the most fun Marvel movies since Guardians of the Galaxy. Director Taika Waititi has done something no other Marvel movie (all 17 of them) has been able to accomplish; create an over-the-top action fest with genuine heart and where the special effects are secondary to the plot.
For a movie that’s almost 80% improvised, Waititi’s talent is evident from the start where we find our hero holding on for dear life. Stripped away from the Shakespearean shackles of the past, Thor is less rigid and Chris Hemsworth is able to have fun and experiment with the role. Coupled with Eric Pearson’s script, there’s a form of gleefulness as characters interact with each other. Despite a script with heavy themes of slavery, mass genocide, loyalty, family and the impending Armageddon, humor, and seriousness is finely balanced where the drama never feels too heavy or the comedy too distracting.
Inspired by the 2006’s Planet Hulk comic storyline, Thor is tossed into the world of Sakaar where Jeff Goldblum plays himself as the Grandmaster. Introduced through Willy Wonka’s laugh-out-loud acid trip ride of “Pure Imagination,” Goldblum is laidback, spacey and his usual magnetic self onscreen, creating true comedic moments by just existing.
As Thor is forced into his new role as an arena battling gladiator, he encounters Bruce Banner as The Hulk who unlike Thor seems to be at home, despite his captivity. After spending years as The Hulk, he’s been given a much-needed update both in his personality and his physical features. Less “Hulk Smash,” this rendition sees Hulk more talkative, expressive and emotional. This well-rounded Hulk allows for a buddy-comedy between him and Thor filled with dialogue about feelings and playing catch. Ruffalo as Bruce Banner is less stuck-up than before as he delivers lines about anuses and “suns that get low.”
One of the best aspects about Ragnarok is the level of female domination. Unlike other movies where females are stuck playing side-chick roles or romantic interests (*cough* Natalie Portman), they fight alongside Thor. Similar to Lady Sif, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie isn’t afraid to show off how physically strong she is. As a bounty hunter running away from her past, Thompon’s role is both badass and heartbreaking.
Then there’s Cate Blanchett as Hela, the goddess of “I will steal all the screen time.” From her appearance in the trailer, you knew she would be phenomenal and she doesn’t disappoint. Blanchett is horrifying delivering death without a moral code. Betrayed by her rightful place on the throne she is seeking revenge, blood and after her backstory, you can’t help but feel that her anger is justified. Unlike the others, her character is fueled by her rage making for an interesting juxtaposition with all the comedic elements going on in the movie. However, she is the Ying to Thor’s Yang and her straight-laced performance is so deliciously villainous that you can’t help but enjoy watching her slaughter and throw temper tantrums.
While Thor is fun it is not perfect. The visual effects are unstable and laughable at times. While Hela’s Valkyrie battles scenes are visually stunning and feel like they belong on the walls of a museum, the CGI fight scenes are downright laughable, uninspiring and distracting. Even though Ragnarok is full of laughs, there’s a lack of heaviness that needed to remind the audience how much of a threat Hela can be, especially by the third act when everything feels thrown together. As a result, none of the characters are given time to process how Hela’s actions can forever affect them.
Despite these small issues, it doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the film. Layered in chemistry and heart Ragnarok is an improv experiment which managed to be a breath of fresh air and much needed lighthearted surprise, especially once the shit hits the proverbial fan in Infinity War.