OMFG THAT WAS AWESOME!!!
Uh… I mean… let’s all take a moment to give a totally unbiased and critical eye to the newest offering from Marvel Studios, the third in the line of Thor films. Yes. That’s totally what I meant to say.
Nah, fuck that. This movie is fucking awesome.
Okay, so, since I’m going to be reviewing the first Thor film later this month anyway, let me just go ahead and tell you guys that I am not a fan of the Thor comics. I don’t hate them or anything. They just weren’t ever something I got into. Movie Thor, on the other hand, I freaking love.
Some of this comes down to excellent casting. Chris Hemsworth is perfect as Thor, capturing not just the physicality, but the fact that Thor isn’t exactly the brightest bulb in the box, but is damn brave, selfless, kind, and worthy of being a hero. Tom Hiddleston is, obviously, Loki incarnate, and never stops being fun. Idris Elba as Heimdall, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Jamie Alexander, and frankly, the whole regular cast of the Thor franchise has been wonderful.
Granted, The Dark World was a bit of a jumble, but it had a lot of heavy lifting to do for the overall MCU, so I find it forgivable that it had problems being a movie in it’s own right. Being the middle child sucks. So much expectation, almost no appreciation.
Not that I speak from experience. Nope.
So, what about Ragnarok? Obviously, I thought it was awesome, but how was it as a Marvel Film?
Right, so, we all remember that back in Age of Ultron, Scarlet Witch kinda screwed with Thor’s head, making him see visions of the fall of Asgard, right? We do? Fantastic. Cause, this movie kinda needs you to remember that.
Mostly because the whole plot is built on it, but also because it explains where Thor was when Iron Man and Captain America started punching each other. Turns out, it wasn’t Australia, either. He’s been searching for answers, and a way to stop the visions, and recurring dreams they have given him, from coming true.
Which has lead him to the throne hall of Surtur, a fire giant that claims he is seeing Ragnarok, the end of Asgard, when Surtur himself will destroy it. He’s voiced by Clancy Brown, who a few of you will be old enough to remember as the Kurgen in Highlander, and hopefully all of you are hip enough to know as the voice of Lex Luthor in the animated Superman series. I mention this so you know that Surtur sounds like a badass, even when he’s arguing with Thor about his horns being a crown, and not giant eyebrows.
After kicking Surtur’s ass, and fighting a dragon, Thor returns to Asgard where he discovers that Heimdall has been replaced by a guy named Skurge, played by Karl Urban, who really sucks at his job. He also discovers that Loki has replaced Odin, mostly due to the horrible play he sees, which is based on Loki’s death scene from Dark World, but features Sam Neill as an actor playing Odin, in front of Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins, who is actually Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston.
Got all that? Good. No reason it should be confusing.
Thor is, understandably, not okay with this, so he and Loki go to pick Odin up from the retirement home Loki dumped him in, only to find it has been torn down. Before they can do anything else, Loki gets yanked away, and Thor finds himself having a chat with one Doctor Stephen Strange, who really wants Loki not to be on Earth. Promising to take him away as soon as they find Odin, Strange decides to help, and pops them off to Norway, where there is a very touching family reunion, followed by a death, followed by a really terrible family reunion, followed by another death.
So, turns out, Odin’s being keeping his bratty teenage daughter Hela locked up in a prison. When he turns to sparkles, she comes a calling, and Cate Blanchette joins the Marvel Universe as the biggest badass ever, destroys Thor’s hammer, kicks he and Loki’s ass, and takes over Asgard, turning Skurge into her number one.
He is less than thrilled by this, but as we learn, he’s actually a janitor, and a coward, so he goes along with it all.
Thor, meanwhile, finds himself on the planet Sakaar, which is run by Jeff Goldblum, and Loki’s there, sucking up like crazy. Thor gets caught by a drunken badass lady, who sells him, and next poor Thor knows, he’s in an arena, fighting for his life against the Hulk, and making friends with some really strange aliens, specifically, Korg and Meep.
Determined to get home and save Asgard, Thor has to find a way to convince Hulk to help him, recruit the violent drunken woman who sold him, an actual Valkyrie from Asgard, played by Tessa Thompson, and stay one step ahead of his duplicitous brother.
How hard can it all be, for the God of Thunder?
Really, really hard. So hard, it’s hysterical.
Which brings me to the first thing about this movie I loved. It’s funny as hell. Yes, it’s epic, with the fate of Asgard on the line, and there’s a ton of heavy, dark, stuff that happens. Overall, though, the movie is funny. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is more or less over his desire to rule Asgard, the Earth, or the universe bender, and just kind of wants to mess around, making him a delight, and really allowing him to sell Loki’s somewhat redemptive character arc.
Hemsworth really gets to go nuts with the comedy, as well, and delivers all of it with enthusiasm and a smile, making it that much more fun. Back when the remake of Ghostbuster’s came out, we got a taste of Hemsworht’s comedy chops, but they are on much better display here, as he gets to be the hero, and funny, all at the same time.
Really, the whole film has a sense of humor to it, and has a lot of fun with the characters, setting, and story, all without ever once losing sight of the fact that some really bad stuff is going down. It’s a delicate balancing act, but one that it manages with expert skill, thanks to the director.
Taika Waititi, a New Zealander who I am now sad to say I wasn’t familiar with before this, really nails it, balancing humor, action, epicness, and character development with such a deft hand, it’s amazing. There’s plenty happening in Ragnarok, and at no point did the movie feel like it dragged. Two hours went by in a blink, and I was extremely entertained the entire time. I can’t wait to see what Waititi does next.
Getting Cate Blanchette for the villain was also a major win, as she just chews the scenery into confetti in every scene she’s in. She’s gleefully evil, but not without purpose, as what she wants makes sense, at least, from a certain perspective. She’s fun, and a nice change of pace from the emotionally wrung out bad guys we usually get.
Tess Thompson is also a nice new addition, as Valkyrie, a former warrior for Asgard who saw too much battle, and now, finds peace in the bottom of a bottle. Her last battle was against Hela, and she’s in no hurry to revisit that old wound, but Thor’s determination, and the lives of everyone in Asgard, turn her into a reluctant hero by the end, and one they would have been lost without.
Karl Urban is the real scene stealer, though, as Skurge, the reluctant villain of the story. While he may be an Asgardian, Skurge is a coward, and too afraid for his own life to fight back when Hela takes over Asgard. Utilizing nuanced acting, though, we watch Skurge’s stomach turn, and his anger slowly build to a breaking point, until finally, the hero he always wanted to be emerges. It’s an amazing performance by a very skilled actor, and a great piece of writing for a character that would have been little more than the muscle in any other movie.
Mark Ruffalo is back playing Banner, who after two years as Hulk, finds himself on an alien planet, with Thor, and no idea what’s happened in between. Still the goofy guy he has been in both of the Avengers movies, Ruffalo adds that extra element of silliness, as he freaks out at everything, and slowly, realizes that his sense of self is less important than Hulk’s ability to save lives.
Speaking of Hulk, he talks now, and damn, is he funny as hell. Since Hulk is basically a living manifestation of the Id, he’s written to reflect that, and is an impulsive, selfish, childish figure, who just wants to be adored and told he’s good. Regardless, when the time comes to be a hero, Hulk knows the drill, and isn’t afraid to step up and do what is right.
And in one case, do nothing, even though he really wants to fight the giant monster he sees right in front of him.
Last, while every Thor movie has had Idris Elba in them, this one actually makes good use of him. Elba gets plenty to do, and is a hero in his own right, making it all that much more awesome. I’m a huge fan of Elba, so seeing him get to really go crazy with this role was a delight.
There’s a ton of Easter Eggs in this movie, too. Like, so damn many. Too many to count, really. Of course, Age of Ultron gets name dropped a lot, and Black Widow has a brief cameo, as a recording, from her last conversation with Hulk from Ultron. Benedict Cumberbatch returns as Doctor Strange, making Loki’s life hell, and being funny. We get to see the Tesseract, the Infinity Gauntlet, which Hela describes as fake in a bored tone, and some other fun stuff.
The best one of the whole film, though, is without a doubt, the play which Thor returns to see not Odin watching. As I mentioned, Sam Neill plays Odin in the play, but Thor in the play is played by Chris Hemsworth’s brother, Luke Hemsworth, in a really hysterical bit of casting, while Loki is played by none other than Matt freaking Damon.
It’s funny as shit, guys. Just, hysterically funny.
Of course, we get a cameo by Stan Lee, as is to be expected, playing the barber who cuts Thor’s hair. It’s a great scene, and always a pleasure to see Stan having fun living in the world he he had such a huge hand in making what it is. He is, as always, gleeful as shit to be doing, too.
There’s so much more, of course, than what I’m hitting on. Jeff Goldblum is wonderfully nutty, and somewhat terrifying, as The Grandmaster. Rachael House, who plays his chief assistant, is amazing. Korg is a delightful, if somewhat dimwitted, rock creature who really is just trying to be a nice guy in a harsh world.
Then, there’s Led Zepplin’s Immigrant Song, which you hear in the trailers, and actually appears in the movie, twice, to some of the most epic scenes the film offers. It’s crazy, amazing, and everything I could ever want from a Thor movie.
Like I said at the top, this movie is awesome. It’s fun, it’s action packed, it has great character work, a solid plot, and does some really heavy lifting leading into the next Avenger’s movie. All without breaking a sweat, too.
Guess they just needed the right guy directing to make everything work right.
Do yourself a favor, and go watch Thor Ragnarok. It’s not just the best of the Thor movies, it’s one of the best Marvel movies yet.