Thor: Ragnarok is the….*tries to count* umpteenth movie in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. Starring Thor, Loki, and a few other misbegotten members of the larger MCU cast, it somehow manages to be both surprisingly moving and overtly ridiculous at the same time. Is it perfect? No, there are some issues with pacing and I have no idea were any of the post-Ultron movies fit into the MCU as they all seem to run on their own timelines. Thankfully, the somewhat dour mood of the previous Thor movies is completely gone, replaced by a giddy over-clocked mania and a color palate lifted from a five-year-old’s coloring book. If the movie were any brighter they would have to call it Thor: Neon Knights.
The movie opens with a slam-bang action sequence where we find Thor (Chris Hemsworth) trying to recover/steal any artifact that he can find that is connected to Ragnarok, the end of all things on Asgard. In the process of recovering the last major one, the skull of Sutur, Thor is given some unexpected news about Asgard: Odin isn’t actually there. Thor quickly figures out who is actually running the place: Loki (Tom Hiddleston), because it’s always Loki and the end of Thor: The Dark World revealed that Loki was very much not dead. Loki does know where Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is supposed to be, and after a brief interlude with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), they do find Odin just in time for him to spill the beans about their long lost sister and die. Said sister is the villain of the film, Hela (Cate Blanchett). In short order Thor and Loki find themselves a very very long way from Asgard and Hela finds herself reviving her undead army and plotting some conquest.
Where did Thor and Loki go? Pentos? Tatooine? Las Vegas? Well, the last one is kinda close, but the actual answer is Sakar, the galaxy’s dumping ground ruled over by Jeff Goldblum. Yes, his character is called the Grand Master, but it’s really just Jeff Goldblum Jeff Goldblum-ing it up in a crazy outfit. The Grand Master has a number of folks plying around Sakar to find combatants to fight in his Tournament of Champions, currently ruled over by none other than everyone’s favorite pile of muscles, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). After being found/abducted by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), Thor finds himself face to face to the Hulk. Who will win? Who should win? Why is this all in the first 40 minutes? And what the heck is Loki doing in all of this anyway?
Just to get it out of the way, there are no truly major deaths in Thor: Ragnarok. It would make Avengers: Infinity War superfluous if a big chunk of the team was unavailable before it even starts. There are a fair number of minor deaths though. Of course, there are ways other than death to mess things up. By the end of Thor: Ragnarok, things are definitely way more messed up for everyone than when the movie started. It’s a heck of a trip getting to that point though. Between a big Thor vs. Hulk throw-down and the last 20ish minutes of insanity on Asgard, there’s more action than you can shake a brother at. Thor: Ragnarok is also the funniest of the non-Guardians of the Galaxy MCU movies so far. In fact, it might be a little too funny at times. A few big moments are undercut a bit by the jokes jokes jokes jokes jokes lulz atmosphere. Granted, since the movie can’t have any really huge elements stick too hard without screwing up Infinity War, there may not have been much choice.
Performance-wise, everyone who gets more than a few lines is top notch. For whatever reason, Thor’s old posse gets axed early with the exception of Skurge (Karl Urban), who gets recruited by Hela to show her the way around Asgard. Chris Hemsworth in particular seems to be having a ball for a change, flexing a few comedic muscles to go along with his physical ones, along a growing sense that Loki may never be truly trustworthy. He also finally gets to show off that Thor is more than just his hammer. Cate Blanchett does her best to give Hela some life, but she isn’t really given enough screen time to be more than generically evil and all-conquering. Tom Hiddleston is obviously great as Loki because he’s always great as Loki. The biggest surprise is Tessa Thompson’s performance as Valkyrie, which practically steals the whole movie; not an easy task considering the bombast around her. Director Taika Waititi also provides the motion capture and the voice of Korg, a living pile of rocks Thor runs into after being captured.
Thor: Ragnarok is easily the best looking of the Thor movies so far. Given that Waititi had never really worked on a project with the visual scope of Thor: Ragnarok, he shows a very deft hand in shooting the action scenes. You never lose sight of who is going where. The visual effects work is mostly good, though Hela’s big fight in Asgard early on looks kinda awful. While it’s certainly obvious that no human would be able to do a lot of what we see the characters in these movie’s doing, it shouldn’t be so obvious that a character is CGI. The Hulk though looks absolutely amazing. Interestingly, most of the music was done by Mark “Devo” Mothersbaugh, so there are a whole lot of weird synth noises. The Blu-ray set doesn’t have a whole lot of extras, but there a few nice ones. There’s a selection of behind the scenes bits, a gag reel, and some deleted scenes. The best extra is a full-length commentary track by Taika Waititi and his kids. They crash the recording several times. If Waititi isn’t insane, he’s at minimum very, very eccentric and it shows in the fairly ribald humor throughout the movie and the commentary track. Obviously if you’re a fan of the MCU, you should get this movie. If you’re not a fan, well, you’ll probably enjoy it anyway. Seriously, it’s a lot of fun.
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