Good things come to those who wait. After two okay Thor movies, the third one is a charm. I’m trying to think of another comic book movie series where the third movie is very different and better than the first two. A month after Thor: Ragnarok is released in theaters I finally watched it and I had a blast. I left the theater in a really good mood.
A comment from another review said that Thor: Ragnarok is the Thor movie we’ve been waiting for. I agree. I also believe Thor: Ragnarok would not have worked as a first or second entry into the franchise because the world and characters needed to be already established. Thor: Ragnarok plays off of what we know about the franchise as well as the broader cinematic universe. The meta-humor is a joke with in joke or perhaps like a play within a play. The characters aren’t exactly like themselves but neither do they stop being themselves.
Judging by all the positive reviews, Thor: Ragnarok’s off-beat quirkiness is a hit with fans. Sometimes you can tell when a movie has a particular vision but it fears falling flat on its face and comes off as unconfident. That’s not the case here. Director Taika Waititi goes all in, feet first, from the opening scene onward.
There will always be a place for dumb, big blockbuster movies. I also want to believe that the movies we will be talking about glowingly years later won’t be the formulaic ones. Movies that gain traction usually offer something that’s a distinctively fresh take. Guardians of the Galaxy’s instant popularity for a relatively unknown property is one example of that, among several reasons.
Marvel Studio’s approach is to work with directors like Waititi who can create their own unique world in a way that appeals to a broad audience. In some cases it doesn’t work out like what happened to Edgar Wright and Ant-Man. Now, I wouldn’t say Thor: Ragnarok is exactly original. It loosely draws from very old myths, archetypes and other comic book stories. The approach should be to renew and reinvigorate all of those elements for the modern audience. And that is what Thor: Ragnarok does.
Much of the zany banter is quotable. Some of images are equally memorable. The visual storytelling is on point and it gets me more absorbed into the movie. The Valkyrie flashback scene in slow motion has a very cool look and vibe. The orgy spaceship flying into Asgard from below is another lasting image. And the whole gladiator scene makes me feel like I’m in the battle at certain points as the camera takes you up in the air and comes smashing down. Even humorous moments are get more mileage because of the way certain shot are set up and framed.
The cast deserves a lot of credit too. The must have had a lot fun on set because it comes across on screen. When Chris Hemsworth was originally cast as Thor he looked the part and showed he could carry the lead role in a superhero action movie. He also has comedic abilities on top of that. The benefit of casting a talent like Tom Hiddelston is his versatility can open up possibilities for Loki to go in different directions. Loki had plenty of screen time, I still wanted something a little more.
It’s hard to go wrong casting Cate Blanchett. Just put the camera on her face and let her do her stuff. In this case, it’s a better approach than a CGI villain or a villain with tonnes of prosthetic facial make up. Is Hela a great villain? Probably not, but she’s more fun than your typical one-off villain. Jeff Goldblum is comedic gold. Tessa Thompson is a promising addition to MCU as Valkyrie and like everybody else is fair game to be the butt of a self-effacing gag: Her intro scene is falling off her own ship in a drunken stupor. She also her own past and motivations that tie into the bigger story. The big cast were utilized pretty well, of course that meant other characters like Jane Foster were dropped. I’m more than fine with that.
The trailers and posters advertised that Hulk is in Thor: Ragnarok. So technically it is not a spoiler, although the moment that Hulk is introduced would have had a bigger impact for me if it was a surprise. Thor is interacting with Hulk (not just Bruce Banner) in a way we haven’t quite seen before, mainly for laughs. I like the back and forth banter between these two Avengers which build their chemistry. There usually is less time for these smaller character moments in the bigger team ensemble movies. Since we probably won’t be getting another solo Hulk movie anytime soon, at least Marvel is doing what they can to incorporate him elsewhere and in a very different context than we’ve seen him before.
Thor: Ragnarok is a fun, breathe of fresh air for MCU. It’s one of the strongest comic book based films in recent years and probably the most enjoyable of 2017 for me. I have a feeling that fans are going to be referencing many memorable moments for years to come. Despite some flaws, Thor: Ragnarok is a humorous and action-packed superhero blockbuster done right.