Movie Review: Thor Ragnarok
Thor: Ragnarok is a what happens when a director understands both the source material and the people involved in bringing that to life. Vibrant, fun, and well paced, you’ll want front row seats to this end of the world.
I watched Thor: Ragnarok on opening night. Two weeks later I hadn’t written a review. Not because this film didn’t merit it. More because we wanted to do a special review for this movie, and we could never quite get the stars to align for what we wanted to do. So for anyone still on the fence about this movie, this review is for you. If you weren’t sure that you liked the Thor character, or maybe you are Marvel’d out, let me put your mind to rest: Thor is worth the ticket price. It’s not my favorite Marvel movie, but it’s damn near close.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Thor Odinson is in a bind. Literally. In his search to avert the catastrophe that he saw way back in Captain America: Civil War, Thor has come to the lair of Surtur, the fire demon. That he came to this lair in shackles may or may not be part of his plan.
Thor has seen the end of Asgard: a fiery cataclysm called Ragnarok. To avert this he must find his father Odin, deal with his mischievous brother Loki, and assemble a team of heroes. This task will take him around the world and across the cosmos.
Also, Jeff Goldblum is in this. ‘Nuff Said.
A Hela Good Time.
Thor has starred in two previous films. The first one was high drama. The second was fairly generic action. Third time around he lets his hair down to have some fun!
Taika Waititi directs Thor: Ragnarok, and my esteem of the man grows everytime I see something he’s done. I thought Flight of the Conchords felt like ad lib sessions with very funny people. What We Do in the Shadows felt like an assembly of jokes that were focus grouped to be the best possible (even if some of them didn’t resonate with me). In Ragnarok, he combines both.
The movie feels like a comedic roller coaster. As the person on the ride, you feel the excitement of chaos. Each turn feels like the one that is going to send the coaster off the rails. Each arc feels like a crescendo of silliness, subdued at just the right time by pathos or action or heart. The ride keeps humming along, just as the engineer (Waititi, if you weren’t following the metaphor) had envisioned.
And for that to work, Waititi needed a deep understanding of the material, and the actors. Thankfully, he shows a deep grasp of both.
Oh God, You Devils!
The first Thor benefitted from Kenneth Branagh’s understanding of the motivations of Asgard. Jack Kirby, who had a hand in Thor’s creation, loves Gods and high drama. Branagh understood this and added a Shakespearean flair to the proceedings. The second film floundered in my eyes because it felt like an Iron Man action movie with Thor and his retinue tacked on. In Ragnarok we have a return to form in terms of an understanding of the familial strife and grand drama surrounding Thor and Asgard, but it is leavened perfectly with an understanding of why audiences like the MCU version of Thor.
Chris Hemsworth plays Thor. He’s got a thick jaw, chiseled abs, and a deep register. That makes for a good dramatic version of Thor. In the Marvel ensemble films, Ghostbusters: Answer the Call, and extra promo material for Marvel advertising, we’ve seen that Hemsworth can also be a lovable goof. He knows how to play his sexuality and charisma off of an egotistical jock persona.
Waititi lets that version of Thor loose in Ragnarok. No longer in the shadow of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, we have a character that can chew scenery with the best of them. Which is no small feat, because Waititi draws similarly fantastic performances from Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo (who finally evolves the Hulk into a great character), and Tessa Thompson. Each actor gets to be their best selves in this film.
Watch Out for the Sparkles!
Visually, this movie is right next to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Both use color in a way that entrances. ILM did the CGI in this film, and they seem to be the best in the business in facial rendering. The evolution of the Hulk’s visuals has matched the evolution of his character in each film he shows up in. Good job, ILM, I almost forgive you for Warcraft!
In terms of music, this movie Ragna-rocks (sorry, not sorry). From Led Zeppelin to 80’s industrial, each song pairs with its scenes like a nice Chianti (didn’t forget you were in this movie, Anthony Hopkins). The sound effects crackle and pop, and the action never devolved into a cacophony of crunches and booms.
This movie is one of the best MCU films out there. I still give Winter Soldier the edge, but Steve better keep up on leg day, because Thor is running hard to catch him. If you haven’t seen this film yet, go do it! If you’ve already seen it, do what I did and see it again!