I have to start with a legitimate confession. I hated the first two Thor movies. That is not a popular camp to be in, but Thor and Thor: The Dark World were not pleasant flicks in my eyes. I remember going to see Thor with my friend Mike and missing the middle half of the movie. I even went and bought Thor on Blue-ray to see what I missed, and I was mad I wasted the $20. The whole sentiment was crazy because as someone who has always been deeply vested in Norse mythology I have been buying Thor comics since I was 6. The movies just never clicked with me. I felt he was like Hulk; amazing in a group setting but necessarily might not need his own franchise. The real issue that I felt a lot of people who saw Thor as the weaker Avenger (not physically obviously) was that he translated to be too serious for the big screen. Then Thor 3 was announced which became Thor: Ragnarok, and the rest was history. A few years ago I became acquainted with the works of an esoteric filmmaker from New Zealand named Taika Waititi. Taika was a pretty eccentric (he counts the boys from Flight of The Conchords as his mates) guy who made some phenomenal works of drama/comedy such as Boy, What We Do in the Shadows, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. As someone who saw themselves as a pretty off the grid filmmaker, Taika truly put my whole concept of ‘out there’ to shame. Then he was given the helms of the next Thor flick and man oh man did he deliver. Ragnarok is a triumph in so many ways that it’s almost hard to describe, but I have to at least try.
When we last saw Thor (Chris Hemsworth) he was coming off of the high that was defeating Ultron. He also had left Asgard int the care of his alleged father, Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins). As we saw in the end of The Dark World this was actually Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in disguise. The implications of such are what bring us to Ragnarok. With the Nine realms in somewhat of a chaos, Thor makes his way to Asgard to find things have changed. Heimdall (Idris Elba) has been sent into exile by Loki and in his place is the apt named Skurge (Karl Urban). Skurge is one of the more interesting characters as his prized possessions include 2 machine guns from “Tex-ass” named Dez and Troy (shoutout to my Cowboy fans). Thor finding Odin enjoying a play which shows how much of a hero Loki is deduces that Odin is Loki in disguise. Now this scene is hands down one of the best scenes of the movie, as it has some all star cameos. I won’t spoil it, but that was great. Then it’s a quick succession of taking Loki, finding Odin, losing Odin, meeting Hela (Cate Blanchett), and getting stranded on Sakaar.
The one thing this film does amazingly well is pacing. Now, pacing is what makes comedies work, and unsurprisingly Taika is a master at it. He takes the tenseness of the first act and gives us some comedic reprieve on Sakaar. There Thor is discovered by Valkyrie (the severely underrated Tessa Thompson), an Asgardian ex-pat who at one point was the only survivor of the wayward Hela. After being taken into the arena and presented to The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) Thor is thrown into prison to wait to fight the champion. What follows is possibly the best new character in a Marvel movie in almost ever – Korg. A seemingly throwaway character that is supposed to serve as Thor’s comedic foil, Korg absolutely stole the show. Not surprising that Taika voiced and did the motion capture for Korg. The soft spoken alien literally owned every single scene he was in. I have no idea how he fits into the MCEU in the future but please please Marvel, we want more Korg!
The chemistry of the film is so precise that we didn’t need a seemingly clunky love story to drive it forward. The inclusion of the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) was initially questioned by some as it felt packed as a movie as it is, but man those two work so well together. Thor convincing Hulk/Bruce Banner to help him save Asgard was only bolstered by the inclusion of Valkyrie. This leads to the short lived team, The Revengers (hilarious). From there it lead to the expected third act of ‘saving Asgard’ or something like that. Seeing this cast interact was such a treat, especially Thor and Loki coming to terms with who they are as people. Taika knows how to bring the emotion, even at one point making one somewhat understanding of where Loki is coming from, albeit very shortly. Hela is a capable villain even if we didn’t really get a ton of her. She is brooding and angry but I don’t know if she really separated herself from the plethora of one off Marvel villains. Yes, she was our first female big bad but she gets the same treatment as every other male villain. I honestly felt that the bookended Surtur (the flame head) had as much of an impact with his time.
All in all, this might actually be the best Marvel movie to date. There is an interview circulating where Chris Hemsworth talks about how fed up he was with Thor’s serious tone. He had heard Kevin Smith complain about the previous movies and petitioned for it to have a lighter feel. Taika is a genius and visionary that truly brought out some of the best filmmaking in any film not just comic based. He was exactly what Chris was asking for and what we deserved. There is a reason why it is the highest rated Marvel movie ever made (probably DC as well). As always stick around for all the credits. Absolutely worth it.