**Thor: Ragnarok Spoilers Below**
In the wee hours of the morning this weekend, I set out to watch Thor: Ragnarok. There was a lot of hype going in to this film, and I feel it was well deserved. Taika Waititi did a wonderful job directing this iteration of the Thor trilogy and managed to make it a standalone film amongst the Marvel franchises. Although there are little blurbs and mentions of Ultron and the Avengers scattered throughout the film, there isn’t anything big that advances the overall plot of Thanos or the Infinity Stones (well, maybe not until the very end!) I will try to keep it as non-spoilery as possible, but there are some things I just have to talk about.
From the beginning of the film, you get a sense you are going to be watching something very different from the title screen. The feel of the movie is set right off the bat with Thor being in Surtur’s realm, dangling around in front of the flame demon who threatens to destroy Asgard. Cue Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” as Thor starts mowing down the forces of the Nether realm with Mjolnir. We are treated to a very small Thor versus a horde of Surtur’s warriors, and Thor seems to be enjoying the battle. The camera at some point follows the path of the hammer as it is thrown, until it makes its way back to Thor. Straightaway with this visual, combined with the music, the audience is reinforced with the idea that the film will be a different flavor of fun than any other Marvel movie.
During the course of Thor: Ragnarok, our main character hops from realm to realm. There’s a certain visual feel with Doctor Strange as the two jump from scene to scene. It’s erratic, but also archaic. Then we get another vibe as Thor goes to Asgard. Yet we’ve seen these places before in other movies. It isn’t until we are taken to Sakaar that we are given these very colorful, popping visuals reminiscent of Jack Kirby’s comic book art style. The costuming, the backgrounds, and the very landscape all seem to scream this brilliant color scheme. We knew that we would get here from the trailers, but to see these landscapes in 3D on the big screen just had my jaw drop. The difference between seeing a trailer on YouTube in 1080 versus what I saw on screen is night and day.
The comic book community had no end to their speculations about the plot of Thor: Ragnarok. The trailers, to their credit, didn’t give a lot of that away. A lot of people were debating Hela’s role in Ragnarok, and her former life and the fight with the Valkyrie. We speculated on Valkyrie’s role in Asgard’s past and how she eventually comes around to helping to save Asgard. Even amongst our editorial staff, we spit-balled ideas about what roles some of the characters had in this film, even debating the existence of Enchantress in this movie. We all had fun making up our own theories. Some of us buried our noses in the comic books, or even dove into Norse mythology to craft up some crazy ideas about how the plot would go.
For me, it looks like most of my speculations and theories were absolutely wrong. Some of it is because the trailers indicated one thing while the movie delivered it in another direction. A lot of it was because I relied too much on the source material and didn’t consider how much of that would fit into the larger scheme of the MCU. The trailers were cut in a such a way to make me think the movie was going to go a certain way. It was like I was lying to myself about how I thought the movie would play out, and I realized the lie I made for myself when each scene played out opposite to what I had scripted in my head.
Yet, it was a happy lie, because I really enjoyed the film in terms of the visuals and the plot. And I think this is a win for Marvel. It managed to not spoil the movie’s plot through the trailers. From this, I’m also expecting other films leading up to Infinity War to follow that same misdirection with their trailers.
In terms of pacing, the movie seemed to move from realm to realm in what felt like an instant. One moment we are in the nether realm, the next we are in Asgard, then Earth, then Sakaar, then back to Asgard. Taking us all over the place seemed a bit disorienting. At times I wanted to just have a little more time on a certain planet, to discover more about it, or just to take more of it in visually.
When it did move, it moved the plot drastically. Earth had a few places to visit, from New York with Dr. Strange, to Norway for Odin. There was a lot to feel from each of these moments. As an audience member, there just wasn’t enough time for me to absorb all of these things with the little screen time of each scene.
Characters – Heroes
There were a lot of characters on screen to give service to. With a history of comic books to cover in such a short span of a movie, it’d be hard to go over the full breadth of who and what these characters were and did. Thor was charming, with a flavor of humor that we weren’t privy to in the other Thor or MCU films. Chris Hemsworth seemed to be having fun with this role. Even Tom Hiddleston in playing Loki seemed to be enjoying the role. Kind of ironic that both Hemsworth and Hiddleston were rumored to be getting tired of playing the roles.
Tessa Thompson’s character of Valkyrie delivered on laughs as well as adding a real badass vibe to the film. The only problem I had with her character is that she identifies as a Valkyrie rather than the Valkyrie. I had hoped they would dive more into that source material to flesh out the Valkyrie character.
An unexpected scene stealer was Taika Waititi’s character in Korg. The soft-spoken warrior managed to deliver on laughs. It helped lighten up some of the more heavier points of the plot. Marvel might want to ask Taika back, if not for direction of another movie, then maybe just to bring this character back for a frame or two in another MCU film for that extra humor.
The real winner for me was the Hulk. The character progression of the big green guy seems to have taken off during his time on the alien planet. We now have a character forming sentences, reflective, and actually valuing the company of others. He seems less like a monster and more like a small child, playful, and throwing tantrums. During the course of the film, we are given more insight to the inner struggle the Hulk has against Bruce Banner. At every instance, we hear the Hulk denying him control or vocally trying to deny his existence. Banner has some fun moments as well, as Mark Ruffalo does well to play off the scientist stranded on a strange planet, lost to himself as well as to any familiar surroundings.
My big disappointment with any character was mostly with Odin. Don’t get me wrong, Anthony Hopkins is a great actor. Yet, it seemed like his lines to Loki and Thor were more flat messages rather than heartfelt final words. Here we have a character with an eon of regret living as a conqueror with maybe a few years of trying to do right by his people. And now he finally hears the call of a long-lost wife, to be with her in some other eternity. There’s some real depth of soul searching stuff for a character with such a history. The writers didn’t feel like putting as much thought into this dialogue or Hopkins wasn’t feeling it. Either way, it didn’t deliver like I hoped it would.
Cate Blanchett does a fantastic job of playing the goddess of death, Hela. Yet, I wanted more of her in the movie. The strength of any plot pivots on the convictions of both the protagonist and the antagonist. I think it was a disservice to her character by brushing over some of that past. Not delving more into her convictions for conquest and that severed connection with her father, Odin, kind of took away some heart from the villain. Having a villain with a heart kind of humanizes the character in the view of the audience. And it makes for a more dynamic movie.
Skurge, at his introduction, is mostly a comedic character. His path eventually goes down the wrong direction when Hela arrives on the scene. She enlists him to her side and eventually makes him her executioner. The pain of reluctance at his role in executing his fellow Asgardians is apparent throughout Thor: Ragnarok. He eventually does something akin to his actions in the comic to redeem himself. I was kind of expecting it, so it didn’t give me a the “wow” factor at his character that it may have if I hadn’t known about his comic book history before going in.
The other villain or obstacle our hero has to overcome is in the form of Jeff Goldblum’s character, the Grandmaster. To say that the Grandmaster is an eccentric is an understatement. The casting choice for Goldblum was perfect. It allowed him to be as Goldblum as he wanted to be in that character. He also manages to maintain this air of authority given his position as officiator for the coliseum style fights. I think there was more Grandmaster in this film than there was Hela, to be honest. I think spending that time on his character to discover how he came to power would’ve been some great Easter Egg service to comic book fans.
The movie was a thrill ride to be sure. The plot of the movie went in a completely different direction than I had expected. There were some definite unexpected things and I daresay that even now I’m doubting the validity of that “leaked” trailer for Avengers: Infinity War. There were some delightful deliveries from characters, some I was expecting, and others were complete surprises. But in that same vein, a few characters just didn’t live up to my expectations. The visuals of Thor: Ragnarok were abundant as colors popped and fight scenes sparkled. At times I wanted to spend more time on a certain scene so I could take more of it in.
I can understand some of the critical review that didn’t want to put it up there with Dark Knight. And I believe this is justified. The strength of the movie relied on Hela, at least from what we gathered from the trailers. We don’t have enough screen time with Cate Blanchett’s character to solidify that strength in my mind. And the film suffers because it lacks in that strong point. We have our hero suffering from the loss of his strength and ultimately finding it within himself. Even though we have a stellar actor in Cate Blanchett, we don’t get enough of her to have Thor’s equal.
It is a fun movie, to be sure. But it just isn’t that critically acclaimed film that makes people question their values. It didn’t make me reflect on society and the boundaries we make that define right and wrong. And Taika didn’t set out to do that in Thor: Ragnarok, which is fine. The movie sets out to be a hilarious thrill ride. So it shouldn’t have to vie for bragging rights with films of maybe a darker genre.
Thor: Ragnarok is currently doing well with a big box office grab over the weekend. I expect Thor: Ragnarok to set a certain tone for future MCU films. Maybe giving Inhumans another shot with that aesthetic. Maybe give us something in Infinity War with that feel. Kirby’s style is no joke when it comes to visuals, and this film is the payoff evidence for that.
To sum it all up, I enjoyed Thor: Ragnarok. Did I enjoy it as much as some of the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? I haven’t really decided yet. It is the best Thor film, to be sure. Is it the best MCU film?
If you haven’t yet, check out Thor: Ragnarok and see everything I’m talking about for yourself.
- Great character development for Hulk/Thor
- Kirby visuals are brilliant additions to MCU
- Humor throughout the film makes it a fun ride for audiences
- Hopkins doesn’t have a scene that displays his acting chops
- Blanchett’s character doesn’t get enough screen time to display her acting chops
- The pacing of the plot doesn’t give audiences enough time to absorb it all