Thor: Ragnarok

Thor: Ragnarok ★★★★

The God of Thunder has been away awhile, but he's back and better than ever. Thor: Ragnarok is yet another exciting comic book romp that, while delivering what you expect to see in film of the genre, isn't afraid to get you there and show itself off in a unique way.

The MCU is getting smaller as even though the Guardians of the Galaxy are never seen, their presence is felt. From the spaceships to the ray guns, it's easy to see that we are getting ever closer to the Infinity War. This is further cemented by a rather huge cameo in the first thirty minutes (or less). It kicks things off right and lets its audience know that anyone could show up in this. This may be a Thor film, but he's not exactly standing alone.

As an outside director, Taika Waititi brings the humor to the table, but I'm far more interested in knowing just how much of the decisions in regards to the look and tone he was responsible for. I know he's director so I'm sure it flies or falls with him in the end, but just how much creative freedom is allowed with Marvel? Given what I saw, in Thor: Ragnarok, I'd venture to guess that the visual color palette and the bolder story elements were Waititi and the movie is far better for it. We've seen two other Thor films that could easily be described as rather "by the numbers" Marvel films. Neither is terrible, but this third installment is, without a doubt, the best.

However, two of the more minor issues I had with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are present here. The first being the humor. Ragnarok is the funnier of the two, but both try too hard, overall, to be funny. I appreciate them taking the piss out of the history of the MCU, but not every serious or heroic moment needs to be undercut with a joke. This isn't to say there aren't any genuine heroics going on here, but once you catch onto the concept of making fun of them, you begin to look for it. We could easily see a day when the "heroic moment" is more unexpected because the joke about such a heroic moment is what's become the norm. We're not there yet, but it is something to be mindful of for sure.

The other minor issue is the fact that both GotGV2 and Ragnarok meander quite a bit before getting things going. In the latter, its disguised a lot better, but it takes its sweet time nevertheless. That being said, as I am writing this, I've changed my opinion on this point some as Ragnarok is more guilty of simply being creative about how it tells its story. Now that I think about it, it does progress as a story the whole way through and never gets completely stagnant. Interesting...

Ironically, the film with the best and most visually interesting display of Mjolnir as a weapon is also the one that destroys it in the first half. It's a bold choice, especially with how well put together that opening fight is. Seeing how Thor overcomes such a problem as no longer having his hammer though is exciting and makes for one of the best final fights in a Marvel film as it goes a route I didn't expect and leaves a lasting impact on its titular God of Thunder.

The new minor characters are well executed too. Tessa Thompson is an obvious standout as a believable badass. Her character, Valkyrie's, history, as it relates to Thor, feels natural. Hiddleston is, once again, good in his role as the seemingly unstoppable trickster Loki. The standout for me of the Thor family is Hopkin's Odin. He never gets a whole lot of screen time, but he gets to do the most he's ever done here. When he really shines is when he gets to give Thor a pep talk toward the end of the film and caps it off with a fantastic, sarcasm laced line. He takes what's a rather cliché moment and elevates as only Hopkins can.

The real showstopper here, though, is Cate Blanchett's Hela. I had no doubt she'd be one of the strongest villains of the MCU to date, but how they retroactively weave her into the Asgardian mythos was, for me, unexpected and as well as such a thing could be done. Actually, I recant some of my last sentence. She is the strongest villain in the MCU and that's in regards to both her scene stealing performance and her character's abilities. Her presence is akin to Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent (my personal favorite of the Disney villains). The threat she poses to Thor is the greatest in the MCU when comparing a hero to their respective villain. And while the way the final battle comes to a close is unexpected, when I look back on the movie, I realized its really the only way such a character could be dealt with.

I wasn't worried about Thor: Ragnarok before, but I am impressed by its willingness to go in a direction that's on the unexpected side. It is so "out there" only someone like Waititi could execute it properly. Going forward, I'm not saying every MCU film should be like this one, but I would like to see them strive to be different in how they have their stories play out. Thor: Ragnarok leads by example as how to not be stale going forward.