Movie Review: 'Thor: Ragnorak'
Lighthearted 'Thor' Delivers Comedy and Adventure
Thor: Ragnorak is a heck of a lot of fun. Director Taika Waititi is the first director to fully tap the potential of the Thor character and star Chris Hemsworth. Though we’re aware from The Avengers’ movies that Hemsworth is a real talent, he’s not had a solo, leading man effort that has lived up to the outings of Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man or Chris Evans as Captain America. Even Tom Holland had schooled Hemsworth by making his Spiderman: Homecoming this past summer one of the best reviewed and well-loved movies in the Marvel canon.
Thor: Ragnorak picks up with our hero having still not returned to Asgard, nursing a fear that his presence may be what leads to Ragnorak, the Asgardian apocalypse. The visions that plagued Thor in Avengers: Age of Ultron have kept him moving about the universe in search what may be the source of his paranoid visions of the end of his world. The opening scene, however, has left him still unsatisfied but with only one alternative, finally returning to Asgard.
We already know what is waiting for Thor on Asgard as we recall Loki (Tom Hiddleston) had usurped his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and taken on his likeness in order to rule Asgard. When Thor returns, Loki’s ruse is quickly uncovered and the search for Odin is on. What the brothers find however, is their father in the last moments of his life. Odin is dying and nothing can stop that. Worse yet, his death means the return of Hela (Cate Blanchett), The Goddess of Death.
Odin’s life force is all that has kept Hela at bay for centuries but without him she will return and Thor and Loki will not be able to stop her. There are a few major secrets that come to light with Hela but I won’t spoil them here, the secrets don’t matter all that much but they’re still secrets and this is intended as a spoiler-free review. Thor and Loki are quickly defeated in their first encounter with Hela leading them both to land on a strange scavenger planet where Loki charms the planet’s ruler, played by Jeff Goldblum, while Thor is turned into a gladiator and forced to battle an old friend who's been on the planet for some time and doesn’t immediately recognize his old friend.
The pieces that Taika Waititi puts in place in front of his star, Thor, are a lot of fun, even if they do feel a little like stalling. The gladiator stuff, the reveal of The Hulk, aka Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), spoiled in the trailer and the introduction of the Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) are necessary but the action that takes place on the scavenger planet has little baring on the rest of the story. It’s cool and fun and very, very funny but in terms of furthering the story, these scenes, especially anything involving Goldblum, are all padding because the final battle with Hela isn’t enough to fill a theatrical run time.
Thor: Ragnorak does spend a lot of screen time spinning its wheels but at the very least, everyone seems to be having fun seeing how fast those wheels can spin. Thor: Ragnorak ranks right next to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies as the laugh out loud funniest movies in the Marvel universe. Hemsworth has developed a hearty sense of humor and his willingness to be the subject of numerous gags is a terrific way to expand the character. Thor has always been heroic and appreciable but here he is genuinely charming for the first time in the series and while that isn’t much of an arc, it’s damn entertaining.
Blanchett steals much of the movie with Hela. The first female big bad in the Marvel movie universe, Blanchett’s Hela is wry and intimidating, simmering and sensual. There is an edge to The Goddess of Death that few other big bads have shown in Marvel movies. Hela has complex motivations based on her past and is one of those rare villains who aren’t just evil by default. Hela has some serious points to make about the way she was treated and how she envisions the universe.
Taika Waititi gives weight to his villainess while making his hero a little more light-hearted and relatable and while it results in a movie that is maybe a little too lighthearted, there is no denying how entertaining the movie is. Thor: Ragnorak is wildly funny, gorgeous to look at, colorful in both scenery and tone, and when it swings for the fences in the 3rd act it’s a home run. I would have liked the journey to get to the 3rd act to have a little more weight but I am too entertained by the movie to be all that disappointed. Thor: Ragnorak is far from perfect but as comic book adventure comedies go, it’s one of the best.