I know. Another Marvel movie. How many of these dang things can they make? Aren’t they worried about fatigue? People being burnt out on what always promises to be the “Best Marvel movie yet!” How is it possible that they can justify this glut of films that end up being driven by the exact same formula, just with different heroes and backup dancers?
*Takes quick look at Thor’s projected weekend box office*
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most impressive feats of cinema is recent history, so much so that the shared universe concept has been something that almost every film franchise now aspires to from the get go. In the beginning of the MCU, the most important thing was racing towards The Avengers which, for better or worse, colored the plots of the proceeding movies. Since then, the films have fallen into a more serialized format, allowing for their stars to branch out and focus on some of their own story lines. Team ups are cool, clearly, but a solid solo adventure really feels like a more complete movie going experience.
This is where Thor: Ragnarok comes in and clearly shines all the brighter for it. Ragnarok catches us up with the God of Thunder two years after the events of Age of Ultron. He’s found himself in a rather precarious position that people will remember from nearly every trailer. This early scene really established to overall tone of the movie, heavily drawing from director Taika Waititi’s comedic background. But more over, it really shows how different the Thor we’ve come to know and love is from the first time we saw him on screen.
Chris Hemsworth, Australian Adonis, and second on my list of Male actors that just really have it all to unfair levels (looking at you Gosling), has really evolved this character from an impetuous child into a fun loving, monster fighting, surfer dude. This may stray a bit too far from what people, particularly comic fans, have come to expect from Thor, but I enjoy it immensely.
The Thor movies have always been better for their tongue in cheek moments. The first film in the trilogy was at its best when it leaned into Thor’s fish out of water, Prince and the Pauper story line. And even though Thor: The Dark World relies more on its supporting cast than Thor himself for the yuks, without that comedic aspect, The Dark World would have been a complete dumpster fire instead of just alright.
Ragnarok throws all the best lines and jokes Thor’s way this time and his playful banter seems to perpetuate into all the characters around him. There’s not a lot of heartfelt moments in this movie, even where there could of been, opting instead for break neck scene transitions, a plot that wastes exactly 0.0 minutes getting going. This makes sense considering it has a script that by all accounts was merely a framework that the actors largely improvised within.
As fun as this is, it does fall even harder into the same pitfalls that a lot of blockbustery, CG affairs fall into, where plot is really just a vehicles to get to the next fight scene. This is something that I don’t really mind. Ragnarok comes across as a movies that fully embraces its role as spectacle and delivers from the start.
I can’t believe it took me this long to get to Cate Blanchett, who plays Hela, Goddess of Death, and was a major point of excitement for a lot of fans. She, along with Karl Urban and Tessa Thompson, bring new life into the world of Asgard and all feel like fully fleshed out and interesting characters, something Thor has struggled with with its extended cast in prior movies. Cate Blanchett completely dominates every scene she’s in, reveling in her role as the embodiment of unhinged evil and kicking the ass of every single person on screen with her.
The stand out however is clearly Mark Ruffalo pulling double duty as Bruce Banner and the Hulk. I wasn’t sure how they’d handle improvisation via motion capture and CG, but Ruffalo playing up the Hulk as a super muscular toddler was amazing. And when he eventually emerged from his Hulk shell, his consistent indignation was a cornerstone to some of the funniest scenes in the entire movie. The whole integration of elements of the Planet Hulk story line was just the hit of next level nerdiness a guy like me lives for.
Ragnarok look spectacular from beginning to end, borrowing a bit of flair and style of the cosmic majesty of the Guardians of the Galaxy films. In no aspect is this more present than with the Grandmaster played to overwhelming Goldblumian levels by the legendary Jeff Goldblum. Hearing a lady exclaim “it’s Jeff f@^!ing Goldblum” before laughing hysterical through the entirety of his introduction is a testament to the brilliance of the casting. His technicolor wardrobe and eccentricities are a microcosm for the entirety of the film and its locations. Thor: Ragnarok is weird and filled with offbeat humor and incredibly enjoyable for all of it.
Thor: Ragnarok is clearly the best of the series, and one of the better comic books movies to come out this year. It’s not as serious as Logan or as visually stunning as Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 and definitely isn’t breaking down barriers like Wonder Woman but it is an incredibly funny action movie that continues to paint Thor as the most likable Avenger. Chris Hemsworth has more than enough improv chops to shepherd this movie into the enjoyable action romp it was billed as. With a bevy of talented newcomers more than pulling their weight and a director with a clear vision, Thor goes from being an attempt at revitalizing the genre to a full blown success. The idea that Marvel as a movie production company is willing to mess with its formula and take a more serialized, creator driven approach with its properties bodes well for a film genre that shows no signs of stopping.