Quick Take: Chris Hemsworth and the rest of this stunning ensemble more than succeed in spanning the time gaps in the MCU, bringing more of the vibrant backstory of Asgard to life, and pushing the overall worldbuilding forward with sharp, witty, great one-liners, and impeccably timed reveals all without once forgetting to be present, emotional, and entertaining.
With a fresh look, fresh lines, fantastic action sequences, all driving a well-developed plot that makes sense from beginning to end, Thor: Ragnarok is not only the best of the Thor franchise, it’s one of the best films in the MCU.
The only downside is Marvel/Disney giving away some the film’s guest appearances and scenes in the trailers. Thor: Ragnarok more than lives up to the hype and is definitely worthy of seeing on the big screen.
Taika Waititi’s reenvisioned this Thor in the Marvel Universe not only more in line with its comic source material but with rich three-dimensional thinking. Nothing is just for window dressing or gorgeous wide panoramic camera sweeps of this vividly painted landscape, although there are plenty of those, everything shown plays a part of setting the tone for this story and connecting you further to this world.
I can confidently say, that despite the absolute overshare with the many trailers leading up to its release, you haven’t seen the best of the action to be had not even once the story shifts to that arena, where Thor ends up after somehow being captured and sold.
We reconnect with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) while he’s seemingly in dire straits and it is immediately obvious that this time around, that Thor is driving this story. In a hilarious, yet informative, opening sequence we learn what he’s been up to since leaving Earth and the danger lurking in his nightmares driving him ever forward. Hemsworth seems reinvigorated in the role and his enjoyment translates into some seriously funny moments and a more direct connection to both him and the coming battle for Asgard’s future.
There’s no drop in the action once the opening credits end. In fact, the laugh factor kicks up a notch once events shift to the Bifrost, now guarded by an Asgardian soldier named Skurge (Karl Urban). You end up chuckling all the while wondering, where in the world is Heimdall (Idris Elba).
This story leads with a deeper look into life on Asgard and at some of the personalities of its citizens. These elements aren’t as somber as in previous films nor do they feel as irrelevant to the actual story happening around them.
Plus, you’ll finally see Heimdall away from his post moving freely…ish about the planet. He’s one serious badass and not just because his power to see the future is HIS power and not some byproduct of being the Bifrost gatekeeper. It’s a long overdue deeper dive into his place among the Asgardians and glimpse beneath his gold armor and blinding light (although not his clothes…sue me I love me some Idris).
Both Tom Hiddleston and Anthony Hopkins are colorful and showing parts of their personalities largely pushed into the background in previous appearances. Each feels more balanced and developed. Their individual and collective roles this time around not only serve to anchor the film in the MCU developed to this point but they bring previous events and actions full circle. It resolves many of the past lingering threads dangling around their interpersonal relationship(s) in a way that is very emotionally satisfying and at more than one just point-laugh-out-loud funny.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not all hearts and flowers from here on out but the adversarial relationship between Thor and Loki is finally not just the utterly played out dynamic it’s been up until this point. This storyline – and the franchise as a whole – are better served by these changes because it creates new humorous moments between the two and opens the door for new mysteries and adventures going forward.
And by the time Thor’s adventure crosses paths with the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) – who by the way is a STAR in this movie – and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) you’ll be all in for the ride. The pace not only kicks up a notch, it pushes for more emotional moments without losing its sense of humor or overexplaining anything.
Once again, Waititi does away with the gimmicks but keeps the perfectly timed comedy and ensemble shenanigans. If you’ve ever wanted to see the Hulk in his element then you’re going to be ecstatic because Hulk is finally given a chance to be a fully aware being with more on his mind than just “smash” but have no fear, he’s still the monstrous badass we all know and love.
Adding the Valkyrie and her connection to what’s happening around Thor into the mix adds layers to the history of the Asgardians and introduces so much needed fresh blood into the group dynamic. She’s a brash, boozing badass with a fearless streak that may just be hiding so serious crazy…in the best way possible.
The relationship between Hulk and Valkyrie doesn’t carry any of the heavy angst thrown in between the big guy and Natasha which makes room for a lightness and personality that blends well with the overall tone of the film. She’s a breath of fresh air. a much-needed infusion for those us wondering when the heck a Valkyrie going to make an appearance and there wasn’t even close to enough of her, or her story arc, kept in the final cut.
Tessa Thompson doesn’t disappoint. It could only have been improved by giving us some Valkyrie with a girlfriend.
With giddy joy and happiness, I can say that Thor: Ragnorak‘s first major female villain in the MCU is Hela, Goddess of Death, all around badass, giver of zero f*cks, thrower of knives, bringer of painful annihilation, bloodthirsty conqueror and BEST of her damn name. So…that may be a clue that if I was a heathen, I might just be an acolyte of the Goddess of Death…*ahem* like some other folks lurking about the MCU. And yes, I realize I just channeled some serious Song of Ice and Fire GoT mojo there…
Cate Blanchett’s Hela is a willowy, steely-eyed, strong-willed, seriously makes me wish I could walk like that in some sick-ass heels, highly likely to stab you in the throat if you forget to genuflect villainous masterpiece. She doesn’t overplay Hela’s signature attitude which just makes her violent outbursts and single-minded focus on reclaiming her glorious past that much more a compelling and bloody storyline.
Seeing the warrior class of Asgardian in action and learning more about their past is an interesting arc all its own. I wanted more and can’t wait to see what ends up in the delete footage reel.
I won’t say much more since not everyone is a comic book nut who’s hunted up every comic she’s appeared in since debuting in the MU in 1964.
But be prepared for amazing hand to hand fighting between siblings, Hela cutting a swath through the reluctant and disobedient all done with great visual effects and lines delivered by Blanchett with such utter disdain you just know someone’s about to die.
There’s really no way to talk about all the good things Waititi’s directorial voice has brought to the table without spoiling so I won’t even try.
Buy a ticket (the 3D viewing is worth it for this one), sit back and enjoy this action-packed, hilarious and welcome step forward for Thor and absolute declaration that the MCU has no intention of giving up its crown in the superhero movie stakes.
The cliffhangers and hints of possible future story arcs abound in the third act. So much so you might just miss the fact Loki was left unattended among Odin’s war prizes and dangerous artifacts for a long time…
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