“Well, I tried to start a revolution, but didn’t print enough pamphlets so hardly anyone turned up. Except for my mum and her boyfriend, who I hate. As punishment, I was forced to be in here and become a gladiator. Bit of a promotional disaster that one, but I’ m actually organizing another revolution. I don’t know if you’d be interested in something like that? Do you reckon you’d be interested?”
DC has finally gotten a recent comic superhero movie right with Wonder Woman. We’ll know in just a few days if they can bring the streak to two films when Justice League hits the box office this month. Marvel, on the other hand, has a streak going that dates back to 2008 and reaching a truly astonishing 16 films leading up to the third Thor film, Thor: Ragnarok. With three more films on tap for next year, that run could reach 20 films very soon. Not all of these efforts have been great by any means. I found the last Thor film to be one of the franchise’s weaker moments. But all of these movies do have one thing in common. With even the least of these films, they have all been entertaining. And that’s exactly where Thor: Ragnarok fits the mold perfectly. I wouldn’t call this Marvel’s finest moment. I would call it one hell of an entertaining ride through the Marvel Universe. Fasten your safety harness. Remember to keep hands and feet inside your seat at all times. No flash photography. You are encouraged to have food and drink; however, there is a choking hazard, as some of this movie is so funny there could be fountains of popcorn and sugary syrup substances ejected toward the rider in front of you.
Thor (Hemsworth) is battling a creature that has sworn to bring about Ragnarok, which is the Asgard version of the apocalypse. Believing he has succeeded in saving his home, he returns only to find the real threat was a hidden sibling, Hela (Blanchett). She’s got a heavy dose of payback planned with the help of her newfound toady, Skurge (Urban). Heimdall (Elba) has also fallen out of favor and is not at his post when Thor and Loki (Hiddleston) attempt a return to Asgard. The pair end up on another world where a powerful megalomaniac named Grandmaster (Goldblum) forces members of many races to fight in gladiator games against his super-champion, The Incredible Hulk (Ruffalo). Thor must try to find a way to get through to the Bruce Banner inside of the Hulk so that they can escape and save Asgard. Along the way they seek the help of a disillusioned former Valkyrie to save their people. Meanwhile Heimdall is trying to protect the people in Asgard from Hela. That’s pretty much the story in a nutshell.
You might remember that the Thor and Hulk characters were the only major players (so far) missing from Captain America: Civil War, which had pretty much everyone else on board. You might also recall that The Hulk was flying away to who knows where at the end of The Avengers: The Age Of Ultron. Now we know where he disappeared to, and his plight here borrows heavily from the Planet Hulk comic storyline. This film serves as a perfect companion piece to the third Captain America film, filling in the rest of the major heroes.
Thor: Ragnarok is a bit different from the previous MCU films. This is almost a straight comedy adventure that was largely improved by many in the cast. All of the MCU films have that light touch with some very funny moments, but this one plays to that spectrum almost completely throughout. There are a few dark moments that honestly didn’t fit. And while this movie serves as a bit of a break from the heavy continuity of the previous films, it does end up leaving us with some serious repercussions, at least in the Thor end of the universe. The flaw here is that it’s hard to take these consequences as seriously as they have been intended to be taken. It’s obvious that director Taika Waititi had one kind of film in mind but was given a short checklist of things needed to serve the MCU as a whole. They certainly don’t feel like they belong here, and I believe the movie would have been best served as the break from all of that other “stuff” that it ultimately plays out to be. But that’s the trouble with large franchises like Star Wars or Marvel. Each film can be its own thing, but there is always some larger “business” that has to be taken care of along the way. Trust me when I say that this movie is best when it’s simply on cruise control and allowed to take you on a ride.
The movie differs greatly in the score. That’s a plus and a minus in my book. There’s an attempt to use some popular music which was so iconic for Guardians Of The Galaxy. It wasn’t overused or highlighted as much as in Guardians. The songs were actually a nice touch. The minus has to do with the actual film score. It’s straight out of a 1980’s low-budget sci-fi film. It’s all completely intentional and at times makes you feel like you might be playing a 1980’s video game. This is strictly an individual taste thing, but it took something away for me, maybe because I sat through a lot of those cheap movies, and they started to flood my brain at times.
What is not cheap or out of another era is the impressive visuals. Once again Marvel has moved the bar in what you can do on the screen. There are some incredibly alien environments here that literally jump at you from the screen. The Grandmaster’s world reminded me of the future Earth found in Pixar’s Wall-E. There are mounds of trash that are literally from centuries of technologies strewn about the planet’s surface. Asgard continues to be a marvel. But it’s the space and ship scenes that are truly groundbreaking. The edge of Asgard and the Bi-Frost Bridge immerse you in these flights of fancy.
The awesome cast fits every character well. Cate Blanchett is perfectly over-the-top as Hela, who has a bit of a different relationship with Thor than she does in the vintage comics. Complete with wild costume, she takes over the Asgard scenes. Star Trek’s own Bones, Karl Urban, is almost unrecognizable as Skurge, her cowardly Asgardian executioner. Jeff Goldblum takes over-the-top to a whole new level as Grandmaster. If you are having trouble deciding if this is a real comedy, Goldblum’s there to remove all doubt. I hope we’ll see more of Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie. She’s kind of the new badass on the block. One of the sweetest gags has Luke Hemsworth playing a stage actor who portrays Thor in one of the film’s cleverest moments. The theater scene also includes Sam Neill, of course, Goldblum’s Jurassic Park co-star as Odin. Tom Hiddleston continues to impress as my favorite big bad in the MCU. He gets to be much funnier here. Loki is absolutely loose, and you’ll love every minute of it.
I won’t give them away here, but look for some cameos, Easter eggs and two stingers. So be sure to watch the end credits. This will be your last MCU fix until early next year when we’ll get The Black Panther (2/16/18) and The Avengers: Infinity Wars (5/4/18) rather close together. We’ll finish next year with Ant-Man And The Wasp (7/6/18). “Thor, I sense a great change in your future. Destiny has dire plans for you, my friend.”