Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Thor: Ragnarok

Grade : A Year : 2017 Director : Taika Waititi Running Time : 2hr 10min Genre : , ,
Movie review score

Can I tell you how genuinely surprising it was to be driving home from Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Ragnarok” last night, and debating its merits with the people I was driving home with? I really did not see that coming after I had spent the last 130 minutes genuinely intoxicated by the third, and best, film in Marvel’s trilogy with the God of Thunder. Of course, it probably shouldn’t have been THAT shocking, because Thor’s solo films have been probably the biggest mixed bag of any Marvel sub-franchise to date. All the more reason to be appreciative of the fresh, original take on the character, in my opinion.

Marvel has become pretty damn good about cutting trailers that give us a clear idea of the type of movie you’re going to get when it’s released, and “Thor: Ragnarok” is no exception. I do not see how anyone can be surprised that the third film in this trilogy is kind of ridiculously funny. This film wears its silly heart on its sleeve when it comes to having a sense of humor, and I absolutely love it. Yes, there is an end-of-the-world plot afoot (when is there NOT for Marvel?), but they can take that threat seriously as well as making a fun, colorful film, in the process, and while there are definitely times when Waititi and screenwriters Eric Pearson and Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost go a bit overboard with the humor, I feel like a lot of the laughs in this film generated by Thor, Loki and Bruce Banner show just how far the characters have come over the movies they’ve appeared it. The evolution of these characters in how they interact with one another, and with other characters in general, makes for some compelling character arcs throughout “Ragnarok.”

One of the elements of “Thor: Ragnarok” I was most looking forward to was the addition of Bruce Banner/Hulk into the film. Since Edward Norton played him in “The Incredible Hulk,” the character has only been seen since in the two “Avengers” films. There are logistical reasons for why he hasn’t had another solo film beyond just creative concerns, but the truth is, Banner is better when part of a larger story than he might be on his own. I really liked “The Incredible Hulk,” but when Mark Ruffalo, who took over the role for the “Avengers” films, has a Robert Downey Jr. or Scarlett Johansson to play off of, he comes to life, as does the character. Hulk, in every way, is a brute force weapon in the Marvel Universe, and that includes as part of a larger ensemble, and it’s invigorating to see him play a role in “Ragnarok.” I’m not going to lie, I was hoping for a bit of a larger arc for Hulk, since the last time we’d seen him he was in a Quinjet flying away from the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” and the first time we see him here, he is a warrior in the Grandmaster’s arena (I was hoping for a bit of Planet Hulk seeping into the MCU arc), but I nonetheless adore what Waititi and his writers have brought to the character’s latest appearance, which may be my favorite to date. In particular, we get Hulk actually talking beyond just grunts, and seeing him go back-and-forth with Thor after they are unexpectedly reunited is one of the best moments the character has had in the MCU. Ruffalo is looser and funnier than any time he’s been given a chance to do in the role, and Hulk and Banner alone make “Ragnarok” worth watching.

“Ragnarok” is a Thor film, however, and we get a more than worthwhile conclusion to the third key solo trilogy in the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. Each film has gotten better as the character has gotten looser. Each movie has been funny in one way or another, but there’s a big difference between the “fish out of water” humor from the first film and Thor cracking wise in this film. Hemsworth does a great job with making Thor’s humor feel very natural to the character, and it’s wonderful seeing him be a sarcastic force when he’s faced with a demonic captor as he continues his quest to try and search out the remainder of the Infinity Stones. It is in this opening scene that he first learns of the possibility of Ragnarok (“end times”) occurring on Asgard. When he gets back to Asgard, he sees Odin just relaxing, but finds out quickly that, in fact, Odin is actually his adopted brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), in disguise. He gets Loki to take him to Odin (Anthony Hopkins), who is not long for the world, and has a dangerous secret for his “sons.” As he passes, his death brings back Hela (Cate Blanchett), who is Thor’s oldest sister, and who was once by Odin’s side as he waged war. Now back, she is ready for her vengeance on Asgard, and as they fight, Thor and Loki are thrown to different places in the universe, which is how Thor, who ends up in the presence of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), and finds not just Hulk but also Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson), who was once a warrior of Asgard.

The Thor trilogy is, at its core, the story of Thor earning the right to take over Odin’s throne, and be the king of Asgard, and on that front, “Ragnarok” (which takes place almost entirely off the Earth) is very much a worthy conclusion to this series of three films. One of the things I find most interesting is how, especially the first and third films, key elements of this trilogy’s story, and thus, Thor’s trilogy, center around lies that Odin has told. In the first one, it’s the realization of his deception about Loki’s parentage that drives the narrative, and in this film, it’s about Odin not telling Thor and Loki that they have a sister who could bring forth end times. That isn’t the only connective thread, however, because all three films center around events that are driven by Odin’s violent past, and it’s the notion of war as a sometimes necessary evil, but can also have unintended consequences. Unintended consequences of actions is a constant theme within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and while I’ll admit that the “Thor” films are not among the deeper ones in the MCU, they have a light touch with that theme that helps bring a level of adventure and fun that is necessary for the cosmic end of Marvel’s universe. Waititi finds a smart balance, I think, and “Thor: Ragnarok” does its job as well as pretty much any Marvel film as done. If you’ve enjoyed the characters who return in this film before, you’ll definitely do so again. You’ll also find great fun in what Goldblum does as a wild leader, what Blanchett does as a scene-chewing villain (you are forgiven for “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” Cate), and Thompson is a kick-ass woman that feels important to what Marvel might have coming in the coming years, and would be a welcome sight as we get ready to watch Thanos bring the gauntlet down in “Avengers: Infinity War.” For an apocalyptic storyline, the humor in “Thor: Ragnarok” might feel a bit out of place, but it takes the stakes of this film seriously, and that is how the film sticks the landing for what may be Marvel’s most flawed trilogy, but also a pretty compelling one, for them.

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