Thor: Ragnarok Review
Taika Waititi resuscitates the Thor franchise with a light-hearted comedic tone, highly relatable characters, fun dialogue and enough eye candy to satiate all your visual desires.
The first 10 minutes of Thor: Ragnarok absolutely annihilates the first two Thor films, combined. Thor (2011) and Thor: Dark World (2013) were absolute snoozefests that ultimately suffered from taking themselves too seriously. From the breathlessly whiny “relationship” with the very bland Jane to the plodding narratives that made me wish nothing existed except for Loki; the first couple of Thor outings were the weakest links in the MCU. With Ragnarok it seems the curse has been lifted.
From the very opening of Ragnarok you are immediately grabbed by a sensational Chris Hemsworth as Thor who is finally relying on more than his good looks and body this time around (well those are still in play but there’s way more substance now). The Shakespearean “I weep for thee” angst that was overwhelming pervasive is gone and instead you have, drumroll please–copious comedic timing. Who woulda thunk the way to make Thor movies work was to just let Thor be funny. It makes me wonder how things would have gone if Waititi had the reigns back in 2011.
It’s Waititi’s expert understanding of how to actually have fun that makes Ragnarok really shine. The entire film feels like a fresh start and breathes new life into characterizations that were dull and lifeless before. Thor as a character is much more visibly spry in wit and action; he’s actually in his element and its a world of a difference. Hemsworth seems to be having a genuinely good time in each scene and adds vigor as opposed to the dour tone that has traveled with him through the previous standalone films. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is still amazing and is still a perfectly coiffed, sharply dressed, and irresistible scammer. Idris Elba finally gets to do a lot more than just guard the Bifrost gate like an intergalactic bouncer (relax, Comic Book Guys), and Anthony Hopkins returns as the all knowing Allfather, Odin. Yes Mark Ruffalo reprises his role as Bruce Banner/Hulk but this portrayal is hugely different than how we’ve experienced Hulk in the past. Ruffalo adds a another very intricate layer to Hulk and it ends up working very well. In the newcomers category, Jeff Goldblum does a fantastic job as The Grandmaster, providing a truly interesting and colorful character to join the cast ensemble. Karl Urban joins as Skurge who quickly finds himself on the wrong side of history. Taika Waititi even joins the fray as Korg who will undoubtedly be a fan-favorite.
And then there’s Tessa Thompson and Cate Blanchett.
Valkyrie (Thompson) and Hela (Blanchett) require their own separate paragraph due to how dope they are. From the time of their introductions to the end of the film I gushed over both. Valkyrie is a rebellious, matter-of-fact, clever ally that is also fearless, powerful and yes–you absolutely want to be her when you grow up. Anytime Tessa Thompson appeared on screen I sat up in my seat. She brought raw energy with every line and you feel it bursting through the screen. Blanchett’s Hela is a brilliant bad ass, boss bih that turns everything upside down. In the history of Thor films there has never been a more competent and dominant big bad than Hela. Hela is the first real credible threat Thor has ever seen. From the way she dons her battle armor to her (valid) contempt for just about everyone–you may even find yourself siding with her solely on the fact that she’s so damn cool.
Ragnarok also brings with it a cornucopia of visual delights. From the non-stop cosplay dream-fodder in the costuming that is sure to reverberate through Comic Cons for years to come; to the makeup and the expansion of the universe worlds (Sakaar is one of the most amazing spectacles of a planet I’ve ever seen)–there’s not a point where you won’t feel like you’re feasting straight out of a Jack Kirby panel. Overall the colors and lighting are vibrant and can get psychedelic, especially in high speed situations. The production crew really upped the visual experience so that your mind would match the mood. One of my favorite visual pulls were the multiple scenes in the movie, where everything moves in elegant slow-mo. Most of these were executed during high action situations and at their height they resemble a stunning oil painting.
The pacing of Ragnarok is balanced, with no overly slow or overly fast points. The dialogue was impeccable and as I said at the top–funny. I was constantly laughing at all the quips, jabs, and proclamations each of the characters delivered. Almost everyone, including the CG characters (KORG FOREVER!) were so verbally effective that I found myself wishing I could sit down with some shawarma and have a conversation with all them. The movie is a pure comic book, sci-fi adventure that’s not completely alienating to those who may not have any of the canon backstory. That said, a complete newcomer would be somewhat lost without having some of the details of who Thor, Loki, Odin and the rest of Asgard are. Some of the CG is very obvious but it’s not enough to pull you out of the moment. And while I really enjoyed the mostly upbeat tone of the story, some people who prefer more gritty comic book adaptations may be rubbed the wrong way.
That said, Thor: Ragnarok is easily the best Thor film and was a pure joy to experience. Ragnarok injected the fun and outlandishness of Guardians, the ensemble cast magic of the The Avengers, the physicality and wow factor of Captain America, and the razor sharp Tony Stark dialogue from Iron Man. Ragnarok is an absolutely win for Marvel and all praises due to Taika Waititi’s vision.
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