It’s no secret that I love the Marvel superhero movies.
And while I have enjoyed the THOR movies, I’ve preferred the IRON MAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA films. They’ve had more life, and I just haven’t been a fan of the THOR plots which have taken place in the doom and gloom of Asgard, Thor’s home world.
THOR: RAGNAROK (2017) sheds its seriousness within its first few seconds, and immediately becomes as playful and humorous as a GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie.
A lot happens in THOR: RAGNAROK, so the less said about the plot the better. The very evil Hela (Cate Blanchett), the first-born of Odin (Anthony Hopkins), which makes her Thor’s older sister, sets her sights on conquering Asgard in order to make it her own, and it’s up to Thor (Chris Hemsworth) to stop her. But this is a fight that Thor cannot win alone, and so he enlists the aid of the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the warrior Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Heimdall (Idris Elba), his estranged oftentimes evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and even Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch).
The result is an action-packed often hilarious adventure that entertains from start to finish.
The best part of THOR: RAGNAROK is its lively script by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher Yost. Evidently, the writers were influenced and inspired by the John Carpenter action comedy BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986), a flick that is not among my favorite Carpenter movies, as it’s downright silly at times, but that being said it’s still colorful and entertaining, and it stars Kurt Russell.
Now, I can easily see this influence. In fact, even before I knew of this connection, while watching the movie, I felt that this THOR film was playing out as if it had been directed by John Carpenter. And Chris Hemsworth’s Thor in this film reminded me of Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton character in BIG TROUBLE, from the over-the-top dialogue like “because this is what heroes do,” to the moments where the bravado and boasts come back to hit our hero in the face. In short, it’s fun to see Thor not take himself too seriously.
The dialogue is fun throughout, the situations exciting and comical, and the characters are all well-written and fleshed out.
Also, like most Marvel superhero movies, THOR: RAGNAROK boasts a cast that has no business being in a superhero movie. The combination of superior acting and strong writing creates both lively characters and compelling situations.
Chris Hemsworth can pretty much play Thor in his sleep these days. He owns the role. And while previous THOR films haven’t been among my favorite Marvel movies, it’s not because of Hemsworth. He’s always been excellent as Thor. And he’s just as good if not better here. He dials things up a few notches on the humor meter, which isn’t completely surprising, since he’s always given Thor humorous moments. Not only is he funny here, but he’s completely believable as a hero strong enough to tangle with the Hulk.
Speaking of the Hulk, the giant green guy is the “guest Avenger” in this film, and Mark Ruffalo is back once again playing the character. This time around we see more of the Hulk and much less of his alter ego, Bruce Banner. This is also the first time that Ruffalo is voicing the Hulk. In previous movies, it’s been Hulk veteran Lou Ferrigno providing the voice. Ruffalo does just fine, and I actually preferred his voice this time around.
As I said, Tom Hiddleston is back as Loki, Thor’s villainous brother who continually shows up in these Marvel movies like a bad penny. Now, I’ve never been a fan of Loki in these movies, so it’s saying something about THOR: RAGNAROK that this is the first time I’ve really enjoyed Loki. Hiddleston seems to be having a good time playing him, and we get to see Loki taking stock of his character, as he joins forces with his brother to take on his evil sister. It’s fun to see Loki fight for the common good while still not shedding his darker side.
Cate Blanchett is icy cold as Hela. She’s the first major female villain to appear in one of these Marvel superhero films, and that’s long overdue. In general, the Marvel movies tend to stumble with their villains, who are usually the weak link in the stories. Not so here. Blanchett’s Hela is a formidable foe for Thor and friends, and she’s both sexy and evil when she’s on screen.
Even better than Blanchett is Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. Her tough warrior heroine would give Wonder Woman a run for her money. She was one of my favorite characters in the movie.
Jeff Goldblum chews up the scenery in a scene-stealing performance as the Grandmaster, and his arena of death is right out of a John Carpenter movie. I half-expected to see Snake Plissken show up.
It was good to see Idris Elba get more significant screen time as Heimdall, and Karl Urban also provides solid support as Skurge, a character who finds himself drafted by Hela to be her local enforcer.
I could keep going, as there are still more solid supporting players here, including Anthony Hopkins as Thor’s father Odin, who’s more enjoyable here in his brief screen time than he was in the previous two movies, and Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s on hand briefly as Doctor Strange.
Director Taika Waititi has made a colorful, action-packed superhero tale which fits in perfectly with the Marvel universe. It’s closer in tone to a GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY movie than a THOR movie, but that’s okay. From its opening scene where Thor battles a giant villain and things don’t go as planned, to Thor’s first meeting with the Hulk and their subsequent banter, it gets the humor right.
The action sequences also do not disappoint. The battle in the Grandmaster’s arena is a good one, as is the climactic showdown with Hela.
For most of the movie Thor is without his hammer, and he sees this as a disadvantage, and he questions his strength without it, but his father Odin tells him otherwise, which provides Thor with a telling and powerful moment later in the film.
But other than this, there’s not a lot of seriousness here. THOR: RAGNAROK is all fun and games, and this is a good thing. It’s the perfect Marvel vehicle.
It’s easily the best of the THOR movies.