It’s no secret that the first two Thor films haven’t fared well with critics and fans. The God of Thunder arguably has two of the weaker films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (please, don’t remind me of The Dark World). However, Thor: Ragnarok flips the script. We’re treated to a film that doesn’t stray from its identity and owns the fact that, yeah, it’s a comedy more than an action spectacle.
There are rare moments where Marvel allows their directors to, well, direct sans all the heavy-handed studio input. This is one of those moments for director Taika Waititi. Don’t Waititi’s shy resume fool you: What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople are two funny, clever films. His work with both comedies bled into Ragnarok from the onset. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) opens the film trapped in a cage, speaking to a skeleton. Almost immediately do I get a feel for the light-hearted foundation that’s chock-full of jokes. The film doesn’t take long to prove that this installment is different, more genuine and true to itself.
And that’s the reason I loved my time with Ragnarok. I never felt forced to care about a half-hearted plot where the villain struggles to challenge our protagonists. In Waititi’s take, we’re gifted a smarter popcorn-flick coupled with solid acting that never wears down over time.
In Ragnarok, we find Thor faced with the toughest foe of his life: Hela (Cate Blanchett). Hela threatens to overthrow Asgard, conquer its people and wreak havoc on the universe. Sure, sure, the surface value seems generic, but there’s a bit more to it than the obvious — trust me.
There’s a charm to this journey I haven’t sensed in a bit of time with the MCU. None of the characters need to be overly serious, and there’s a care-free air that surrounds the film. It only helps that when Hemsworth delivers jokes, his comedic timing is nearly perfect. When we encounter Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), he expresses personality that meshed well with Thor. As for Loki, well he’s Loki (Tom Hiddleston) — the best anti-hero (or villain, depending on the film) the MCU has to offer.
As the first act neared its end, I wondered how in the world Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle‘s script could keep pace with humor around every corner. Luckily, for all of my skepticism followed reassurance that, yes, this film doesn’t lose steam after two hours and 10 minutes. It’s just flat-out fun. When you have Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song blaring while Thor kicks some serious butt, it’s hard to not want more.
However, many fans would probably ask the million-dollar question: “Does this progress the MCU in any way?” The answer is simply “yes,” but Ragnarok doesn’t rely on universe advancement as a crutch. We don’t often witness moments that produce shock and awe in the grander scheme of things but when it happens, it’s justified. Even a couple special cameo had me giddy in my seat.
For all the praise Ragnarok deserves, I found a couple recurring flaws to be a tad too prominent:
Man, I didn’t have time to breathe in this one. That’s not too much of a bad thing if the action is good — which it was for the most part — but I would’ve enjoyed a few more moments to linger and draw out emotion when developing some of the characters. Another chink in Thor’s armor: While the CGI is generally fantastic, it’s clear where the special effects department cut corners. Green screen is noticeable far too often earlier in the film, which broke immersion. During a sequence where Thor, Loki and Odin (Anthony Hopkins) peer off to the horizon atop a mountain, the green screen is horrendous. Technical issues like this shouldn’t be present when Marvel Studios and Disney clearly have sufficient funds to avoid these imperfections.
The supporting cast in Ragnarok is everything you’d want in a successful superhero movie. Nobody feels glossed over and, outside of the forgettable Skurge (Karl Urban) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) — such a shame because these characters had potential — almost everybody impacts the plot. Actress Cate Blanchett takes the cake with her sinister, cunning Hela. What I expected to be a generic, one-off villain turned out to be a fun antagonist that really served her purpose. Tessa Thompson made the best out of her role as Scrapper 142/Valkyrie, as well. Something I loved was the women in this film pulling together some of the funnier moments while serving strong roles within the story. Also, there’s never a dull moment for actor Jeff Goldblum, who plays the Grandmaster on the planet Sakaar. He’s a scene-stealer and really capitalizes when the spotlight shines brightest.
Unless you’re expecting to hate this film, Thor: Ragnarok is nothing short of a fun, humorous escape for two hours. Waititi delivered a film that rivals Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of comedic value. In moments, it made a good case for the funniest Marvel film to-date.
Thor’s stake in the MCU finally received its staple film that can compete with the best superhero films have to offer. And it’s about time.
I was treated to a press screening of Thor: Ragnarok in 3D thanks to Sly Fox and Marvel Studios/Disney. ❤
Thor: Ragnarok is rated PG-13, runs 2 hours and 10 minutes and debuts in theaters on Nov. 3, 2017.