Thor: Ragnarok. A Review Essay
2017 is the first time in which the Marvel Cinematic Universe has put out 3 movies in the same year, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” being the first two and rounding out the year with “Thor: Ragnarok”. Neither Vol. 2 or Homecoming were amazing movies but both were satisfying for what they were, a highly anticipated sequel and a reboot of the properties most popular character. Ragnarok brings less hype than the previous two movies do, but provides the bridge from the summer movie blockbuster season to the end of the year blockbuster season. Will Ragnarok finish Marvel’s year on a high note or would it limp to the finish line?
If you have been paying even the slightest of attention to the last few years of Marvel movies you will realize that Thor has not been in them recently, well other than a post-credit scene or two. That is because the God of Thunder has been quite busy. While out searching for Infinity Stones he has learned that a fiery demon named Surtur has planned an attack on Asgard and plans to fulfill the prophecy of Ragnarok, a Norse term that loosely relates to an Armageddon of sorts. With Thor a bit tied up, Surtur tells him that once he unites his crown and the Eternal Flame that resides beneath Asgard Rangarok will begin.
Thor proceeds to “remove” the crown and fight his way out of Surtur’s lair to return home to Asgard, only to find that his father is no longer there. He then teams up with his brother Loki to head to Earth to find Oden. They are not on earth long before they find their father, who tells them that Ragnarok is on the way. When Thor tells Oden that he prevented Ragnarok, he finds out that the fire demon Surtur only paled in comparison to what they would face next.
I tried to keep that rundown as clean and spoiler free as possible, but keep in mind that all of that stuff takes place in the first 15 minutes of the movie. Even in that short amount of time there are tons of surprises both big and small that will change how you thought this movie would go and pay a little fan service. That is what I want to make a point on is how surprising Ragnarok is, not that I am surprised about how funny or good it is but the amount of literal surprises in the movie. This helps in so many ways with pacing and character development but mostly helps to make the third movie in a trilogy, that is like the 30th movie in an expanded universe feel new somehow and there is one big reason why.
If you have never heard the name Taika Waititi before then you and I have obviously not had a conversation about recent comedy movies. I cannot shut up about this guy, from his early movies “Eagle and Shark” and “Boy” to his most recent two “What We Do in the Shadows” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”. The latter I believe to be two of my favorite comedies of the last half decade and have built a cinematic obsession in my heart. Waititi not only has incredible comedic timing and instincts himself but is able to direct the hell out of comedy on such a high level. Waititi brings all of this ability and pours it into Ragnarok without letting the comedy letting the comedy take center stage while keeping with the greater tone of the cinematic universe.
Ragnarok has been called “the funniest Marvel movie ever” which in a way is true but these movies have always had a strong comedic through line. Guardians 1 really pushed the comedic level pretty high and Ragnarok has been the only Marvel movie since to step up to the challenge (Including Guardians 2). The comedy is such a perfect blend of Waititi’s style and the normal ho-hum Marvel style. Jokes are both broad silly jokes and dense well thought out ones giving viewers of all different types a way to enjoy the same movie. Some jokes come from the massive pool of Marvel movies and characters and some will be completely in the moment, it really is impressive how enjoyable they have made this movie on so many levels.
I don’t want to give Grand Pooba Waititi all the credit because the writers deserve a bunch too. Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost may not be the most well known names but they have been involved in tons of Marvel stuff over the years from animated shows to shorts. Together they get the plot moving and keep it that way until the third act which Waititi is notorious for having difficulty with. They have us jumping from planet to planet servicing both the Thor A story and the B story taking place in Asgard exceptionally well, but we could not go a whole paragraph without giving Waititi some love.
With the plot taking the viewer on basically an interstellar road trip I thought it may become difficult to tell exactly what was going on where. Waititi and editors Zene Baker and Joel Negron do a great job of establishing each scene without having to put a text on the screen telling us where we are. It feels like a small part of a much larger project but this helped keep this movie to a reasonable run time while leaving time for character development next to a pretty packed plot.
Speaking of characters Marvel has set up these later movies with some great character work over the course of the last decade or so and Ragnarok is really the best example of that, at least for Thor. Chris Hemsworth is entering that Hugh Jackman or Robert Downey Jr. level where I almost can’t imagine anyone else having the part. He has always been great at delivering great dry lines while not feeling like a boring character but this is really where this ability is allowed to shine.
I always say that any Marvel movie with Loki in it is instantly good. He is such a fun character and Tom Hiddelston just knocks it out of the part every time. We get a pretty good dose of Loki in Ragnarok but there is an actor here who may upstage the Trickster God in awesomeness. That’s right you guessed it! We got The Bloom baby! Jeff Goldbloom and Loki are in the same damn movie and they even get some scenes together. To be honest there are a ton of great supporting performances here including Idris Elba returning as Heimdall, Tessa Thompson as Valkerie, Karl Urban out here just killing it as Skurge and even Taika Waititi provides the voice for Korg.
Yeah that’s all well and good but what about the villain? Guess what? This is the first female main villain in a Marvel movie and she may be the best one since Loki in The Avengers. Cate Blanchett is about as high level and actor as there is. A two time Oscar winner, a staggering 7 time nominee and guys….she is Galadriel for Eru’s sake. Marvel has reached the level where that can basically get anyone if they can get the wisest being in all of Middle-Earth and boy did they not waste it. Hela is not just a terrifying being with immense power but her motivations are believable and strong. I think most of her character is best left discovered upon viewing but I bet most of you will agree that this is one hell of a bad guy, girl, person…she is a bad person.
Marvel has gotten to a difficult place, almost all of their movies are at least pretty good. The best DC movie, Wonder Woman would be middle of the road for Marvel and Ragnarok would easily be the best DC flick. I don’t like to give out scores for movies because I don’t think someones art that they spent upwards of 2 years working on should be judged using a number from 1-10. That being said I do keep little scores of movies in my head to help figure out where to place them on lists and whatnot and man if most of these Marvel movies don’t end up almost always with a 7 or 8. Thor: Ragnarok joins The Avengers, Capitan America: The Winter Soldier and Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy as the absolute best movies the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer. Now that Marvel has started hiring some real original directors like James Gunn and Taika Waititi there is no limit to how far they can go.