“Thor: Ragnarok” Electrifies The Superhero Genre With Marvel’s Best Adventure Yet
Many like to compare the films made by Marvel Studios to those made by DC Films/Warner Bros., but I think the most apt comparison for Marvel is The Beatles.
Both had a large string of hits devoured by the public, and once that formula got stale, they both switched gears and began to make what is arguably their best work. Following the character-driven “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and John Hughes’ tribute of “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the delightful “Thor: Ragnarok” continues the tradition of shaking up what a superhero can be.
Directed by Taika Watiti (“What We Do In The Shadows”), it’s easy to imagine many hating this film. For starters, it throws out the tone, look, characterization and basically everything about the previous two films in the “Thor” trilogy. Even our lead feels very changed from his previous four appearances.
Yes, Chris Hemsworth still returns to play Thor Odinson, yet he is nearly a completely different character. He’s self-assured, self-aware, self-deprecating (in a playful way), and, dare I say, much, much more enjoyable to watch. This is in no small part due to Hemsworth getting the chance to flex his sizable comedic muscles along his equally sizeable physical muscles.
This time around, Thor returns from a mission only to discover that his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has been in Asgard masquerading as their father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins). He removes Loki from the throne quickly and forces him to take them both to the real Odin.
They transport to Earth, where- following a show-stopping encounter with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)- they eventually find Odin. However, there they are confronted with something more pressing: the goddess of death, Hela (Cate Blanchett).
Summoning her dark magic, she banishes them across space so she can take over Asgard and bring about “Ragnarok”- an apocalyptic event that could lead to the destruction of the Nine Realms.
Thor awakens on Sakaar, a planet ruled by a tyrannical Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) who forces him to battle in a gladiator arena. It is there he encounters none other than the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).
Where the story goes next is very much worth seeing for yourself.
From start to finish, “Thor: Ragnarok” is a jolt of fun that doesn’t let up until the credits roll. I’m usually not a huge fan of too much comedy in superhero movies. However, Watiti completely makes me reconsider in this movie. Every punchline, every gag, every small moment elicits at least some sort of smile.
It helps that he has such a strong cast at his disposal.
Hemsworth’s strong leading performance is augmented by a superb over-the-top turn from Cate Blanchett, loads of dry wit from Jeff Goldblum, a hilariously unexpected role from Taika Watiti as the rock creature, Korg, and Mark Ruffalo’s best go at the Hulk yet.
Surprisingly, the best part of “Ragnarok” performance-wise turns out to be Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. As a hard-drinking, mercenary badass, she steals every scene she’s in. Thompson has a certain charisma and depth to her performance that goes above and beyond what could’ve been a stock action hero role. At this point, I’d be enthralled to see Valkyrie appear in far more Marvel films.
Although the cast certainly heightens the enjoyment, the biggest delight in the film is found in its incredibly unique aesthetic.
Make no mistake- this is a campy, 80s-style sci-fi. For aficionados of the genre, this film does it justice and then some. The plain-awesome score by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh only scratches the surface.
The city of Sakaar is a marvel (no pun intended) of production design. Its angular, asymmetric structures and legions of varied alien creatures, not to mention the bright colors, are a feast for the eyes.
That extends to most of the images in the film, which go for clear iconography that looks like, well, a comic book. I’d reckon so far as to say this is easily one of the best-looking superhero movies.
And let’s not forget about the action! With several sustained sequences of battle, we get to see Thor and his team kicking ass like we’ve always wanted to. Watiti knows exactly what we came for, and absolutely delivers.
Honestly, that sentiment extends to the rest of the film.
“Thor: Ragnarok” does the impossible in this day and age by giving us a truly original, mesmerizingly fun blockbuster. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s evident Taika Watiti has made something special here.
Even it took three tries for lightning to strike, I’m so glad it did. “Thor: Ragnarok” is Marvel’s very best and a complete creative triumph.