Review: ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is entertaining and funny, without losing focus or sacrificing its own personality
Thor: Ragnarok’ might be the best Marvel movie to release this year!
The story stays pretty focused and doesn’t beat you over the head with typical set-up and references.
‘Ragnarok’ is an ambitious venture in that it clearly wants to not only stand out from the previous ‘Thor’ movies, but from the other Marvel movies in the franchise. At this point, the only thing that’ll get anyone’s attention anymore is change. Thanks to ‘Age of Ultron’, moviegoers are more keen to pointing out when the studio just wants to stick to some tried and true formula instead of issuing challenges and breaking away from the norm it set up for itself. This movie does a great job of doing exactly that. One of its biggest strengths comes from its focus and attention to detail.
It’s so easy for these movies to get caught up in this world. Making a reference or hinting at what’s to come is great and all, but those are best left few and far between. This movie, however, managed to make it really seem like these characters aren’t just in a universe that’s owned by the same studio, but actually live in this world together. ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ touched on this a bit, but that movie’s approach was a little less subtle. The inclusion of Doctor Strange here, for example, was a great way to fit in some of the other lives and goings-on of previously established characters in a way that makes it feel organic. We’re following Thor. This is his movie, his story, his journey, but there are others in this world on their own journeys who might cross paths, without it feeling like just a shameless cameo. This is exactly why Hulk blends so well into the story once he makes his appearance.
Hulk clearly has had his own very exciting path blazed by the time we meet him. Granted, his involvement in this movie is more of a compromise considering it’s likely we won’t be getting another ‘Hulk’ solo movie anytime soon, having Thor meet him when he does is necessary for both of them to move forward. Thor is trapped where he is. Hulk prefers his guilded cage. They essentially need each other to return to their lives, and with Valkyrie on a similar journey, a dynamic forms that allows Thor to be at the center of the plot, without anyone else stealing the spotlight…at least not for too long.
The new, more humorous tone is definitely refreshing, although it did need some polishing throughout the movie.
The comedy seemed to stumble pretty early out of the gate. Some of it seems forced and only served to prove that this movie is so different than the last two, at least at the beginning. Eventually, the comedic tone breaks itself in and finds a way to blend into the plot more organically once it’s more fleshed out. Thor’s character always tends to work better with the “fish out of water” type of humor, especially within the context of the other Avengers, but adopting a swarthier, more self-aware presence seems to suit him. As far as his development goes, his newfound light-hearted attitude could be directly attributed to his time with the Avengers. Experiencing so much outside his own vast, yet isolated world of Asgard seems to have added a new perspective to his character that makes him a bit more likable, not to say that was ever really an issue.
The physical gags were still enjoyable, despite their predictability. For instance, the gag involving Mjolnir taking it’s time to get to Thor’s hand was so well received in ‘Avengers’, it was repeated in ‘Ragnarok’…a few times. Mjolnir gags are usually pretty welcome considering you don’t have a whole lot of comedic real estate when it comes to Thor, so the odd, mystical physics of the hammer are a great place to start. In a lot of ways, it actually helps that this is the last we’ll be seeing of it lest we continue to rehash the same bits before they grow tiresome.
While the movie tries to find its own comedic voice, and in many ways succeeds to do so, it can’t seem to help itself when it comes to using the same material as previous MCU movies. They couldn’t even keep themselves from relying on Tony Stark to provide the comedy relief, even though he’s not in the movie at all. From the constant jabs at Tony’s wardrobe to the playful ribbing he planted for his teammates thanks to the sarcastically specific security measures equipped to the quinjet console, they managed to borrow the same humor from previous sources when they were in a pinch for some laughs. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it would be a lot more commendable if the movie weren’t constantly leaning into what they know works comedically, but rather dive into some of the uniquely weird laughs you probably won’t be able to get outside of this and maybe ‘Guardians’.
Our cast of villains broke away from the typical Marvel fare and actually gave the movie most of its personality.
The typical pitfall MCU movies fall into is using the same sky-beaming, forgettable, cookie-cutter villains time and time again. Lately, that trend seems to be breaking with baddies like Michael Keaton’s Vulture in ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ or Kurt Russell’s Ego in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2’. This time around, the villains are probably some of the best parts of the movie. Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum hands-down steal the show. With The Grandmaster, it really is just a matter of casting exactly the right person and they did exactly that with Goldblum. His job was to simply show up and be Jeff Goldblum, which is what he did and no one could’ve played that role better. He was charmingly nonchalant about his enslaved combatants and his disregard for their lives, which might have come off as disconcerting coming from any other actor.
As for Cate Blanchett, her surprisingly sexy and alluring take on the character of Hela aside, she managed to take a simple revenge story and make it completely her own. Even with the lackadaisical implementation of a shoehorned daughter that Odin just happened to have never told Thor and Loki about, she still took her duty to heart and clearly had fun with the character. Her parallel with Thor’s story in the first movie was necessary for her stake in this story, mainly the fact that she was cast out and disowned by Odin, just like Thor. The obvious exception being that Thor learned and grew from his mistakes, while Hela just lost her mind and wants to burn everything down to nothing. Blanchett’s performance alone gives a special kind of twisted life to Hela that makes you feel sorry for her, assuming you’re able to overlook her goals and obvious daddy issues.
‘Thor: Ragnarok’ is ultimately a really entertaining movie. In the now vast library of Marvel Cinematic Universe entries, it’s definitely one of the more visually unique films with a masterful utilization of both color coordination and symmetry. At times, the comedy can come off a bit forced as the movie tries it’s hardest to shy away from the duller tone of its predecessors and aims more for the likes of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, which works with a more successful formula. Despite its few shortcomings, the story stays pretty focused and doesn’t get bogged down by references and set-up for future movies, which is usually one of the major pitfalls for MCU projects. With a gorgeous aesthetic and genuine personality, ‘Ragnarok’ might be the best Marvel movie to release this year.