Director: Taika Waititi
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Idris Elba, Karl Urban
Chris Hemsworth will forever be known as Thor, the god of thunder. Thor: Ragnarok is his third solo entry in the franchise on top of the two Avengers ensemble movies. He knows how to use his charm and mighty strength to get himself out of any situation. He manages to escape from the fire demon Surfur and learns his father Odin (Hopkins) is no longer on their home planet of Asgard. Brother Loki (Hiddleston) has banished him to New York City, but when they arrive they find out he’s no longer there. With a little help from a friend (no spoilers!), they are sent to Norway where they’re finally reunited with their father who is nearing his final days. Odin reveals they have a long-lost sister, Hela, who is hell bent on revenge. With Cate Blanchett sporting a fierce black suit and a horn-filled helmet, you know she means business. The film’s title “Ragnarok” refers to the fall of Asgard. Hela is the goddess of death and the rightful heir to the throne. She’s not one to be messed with, as Asgard isn’t her only goal. She can take down full armies hoping to rule over every realm in the universe. It’s not an easy trip back to Asgard for Thor who finds himself stuck on the planet Sakaar. He is unwillingly thrust into the ring as the latest opponent to take on the reigning champion of an arena-style fight. That champion is his good old buddy, The Incredible Hulk (Ruffalo). Once Thor and Hulk manage to make their way out of Sakaar, it’s a race against time for them to stop Hela before she destroys Asgard.
Thor has previously been the beefy serious Avenger, but in this film, we get the playful more comedic side of the character. Don’t worry; he’s still as beefy as ever. His trusty hammer and flowing locks are long gone, so he’s left scrambling to find some new tactics. The overall tone falls more in line with the Guardians of the Galaxy movies than the other Thor or Avengers movies. The film is practically all CGI exploding with colors, textures, creatures of all shapes and sizes, and cosmic sorcery all set in a very techno inspired world thanks to the score by Mark Mothersbaugh. Even with a villain as wicked as Hela, it’s rarely doom and gloom–a stark contrast to what their rival DC is doing with their superhero universe.
Actor/director Taika Waititi, best known for the vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, brings that very self-aware tone to the forefront. As a whole, the writing team doesn’t seem all that concerned with advancing the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a plot sense. Sure, there are mentions of the Infinity Stones and the last Avengers movie, but it’s all in passing. Ragnarok is a kick butt, joyous side movie that will easily please the fans. The comedy is ever present with very cheeky dialogue and physical comedy gags, particularly in the gladiator scenes between Thor and Hulk. There are jokes about wearing Tony Stark’s tight pants and what the Hulk looks like naked. It’s total buffoonery and makes no apologies for it.
Marvel has never skimped when it comes to finding just the right cast for their heroes and villains. Chris Hemsworth has proven before he can handle comedy with his role in Ghostbusters and stints hosting Saturday Night Live. Here he gets to flex those chops in almost every scene he gets. Mark Ruffalo also gets to have more fun as the Hulk. Once he returns into Bruce Banner’s body, we get to see a more confused side of Banner, but one that comes with this childlike wonder that hasn’t been explored in past. Those returning to the franchise include: Tom Hiddleston as Loki, one of the best Marvel villains to date, Anthony Hopkins’ Odin, and Idris Elba as Heimdall, the hidden hero of Asgard.
Giving them all a run for their money are the new players, especially Cate Blanchett. The two-time Oscar winner (The Aviator, Blue Jasmine) is wickedly good, as she always is, as the film’s token villain. You can tell Blanchett is having the time of her life as she can let loose and play into the over-the-top villain angle. Jeff Goldblum takes on the role of Grandmaster who is in charge of the planet Sakaar. Goldblum is one of the few actors I can think of that can play a parody of himself and have it work in every movie. He adds a bit more flamboyance to the Grandmaster than in other roles, and you just want more of him throughout. Tessa Thompson (Creed) is another great addition to the cast as the bounty hunter Valkyrie.
Marvel has kept some of their recent films like Spider-Man: Homecoming and Captain America: Civil War grounded on Earth where the stakes are a bit more tangible. I tend to gravitate toward those films a bit more if I were to rank the Marvel movies. That’s not to say that Taika Waititi’s approach to Thor: Ragnarok should not be applauded. Sure, the plot is fairly simplistic but he went all out it taking a character in the complete opposite direction. It’s a necessary step if you going to continue cranking these movies out. Ragnarok is all dazzle and charm with a winning cast whose energy radiates onto the audience in a Hulk-size way.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Marvel’s comedic approach to Thor delivers on all accounts
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS