Thor: Ragnarok Review

Following his absence from Captain America: Civil War, Thor has returned to the big screen for the third installment of his own franchise. With what has been billed as Marvel’s funniest film yet, Thor: Ragnarok wastes no time bombarding the audience with a steady stream of jokes, puns and naked Hulk butts that will be sure to have the casual fan in stitches.

In norse mythology, Ragnarok is the eventual death and revitalization of the world. With a title such as Ragnarok, one would think that the stakes in this film would be incredibly high. However, director Taika Waititi, known for his work on Flight of the Conchords, made sure that the doom and gloom was completely wiped from the slate.

Without going into full details about the entire plot of the film, I’m going to get into my likes and dislikes about this film as well as my thoughts about the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Likes

Like all MCU films, the production value, cinematography and visuals are flawless. The aesthetics of Ragnarok are quite a spectacle. With different characters and beasts like fire demon Surtur, giant wolf Fenris, and The Hulk in full gladiator armor, the CG work was very well done.

Despite the Thor franchise not being the strongest in the current MCU, I’ve always enjoyed learning more about Asgard and the mythologies that go along with it. In each of the Thor films, we’ve gotten to see various locations on Asgard and Ragnarok continues this, which I definitely appreciated. Getting to learn more about Odin’s backstory with the inclusion of newcomer, Hela, was also really neat. We learned about Odin’s nefarious past before becoming more of a benevolent ruler, learned about the legion of Valkyries that were all but eradicated, and got to see good old Heimdall actually do some cool things besides guard the bifrost.

I did enjoy a lot of the banter between Thor and Hulk, although a lot of it also annoyed me, which I’ll get to later on. On one hand, the character interactions felt genuine, as most of them have been around for a number of films and have shared plenty of screen time. I also was happy to see the exploration of the Bruce Banner/Hulk relationship. When we meet Hulk in this film, it’s revealed that he’s been Hulk ever since the events of Age of Ultron, a full two years without changing back into Bruce Banner. When Bruce finally returns, he’s visibly disturbed by the lack of awareness he had while taking a backseat to Hulk and the loss of time also has a major effect on him. The gladiator battle between Thor and Hulk was really fun to watch. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie was a very well-developed character and stood out.

As this is a full spoiler review, I will mention that the eventual destruction of Asgard at the hands of Surtur was a bold choice. While a lot of the film was very cookie-cutter, this action not only added much-needed drama to this film, but also set a precedent leading into next year’s Infinity War. With the theme of Ragnarok being present and the reiteration of the line “Asgard isn’t a place, it’s a people” (or as close to the actual line that I can remember) throughout the film, the fall of Asgard was necessary.

Let’s talk about the main antagonist, Hela. SPOILER ALERT: she’s Thor’s sister! (What, you did not see that coming?) Hela’s backstory, though vastly changed from the comics, was very interesting. She served as Odin’s executioner and was eventually banished by Odin for her thirst for power. Hela was a very formidable villain, shown killing pretty much all of Asgard’s military and besting Thor in combat initially, also killing the Warriors Three (RIP Hogun, Fandral and Volstagg). Touted as the goddess of death, Hela ultimately wants to rule the entire cosmos, which I can get behind. I’ll get into my dislikes on her later on.

Before I start bashing the overuse of comedy in this film, there were a handful of scenes that got a chuckle out of me, but they certainly were few and far between. There were definitely plenty of elements of this film that I did enjoy.

Dislikes

Ok, here we go. I previously posted an article discussing the overuse of comedy in the MCU, and Ragnarok did nothing to change my thoughts on it. If anything, it furthered my thinking on the issue. There are an overwhelming amount of positive reviews on this film out there from fans and critics alike. It seems that the majority of people enjoy the comedic angles shoehorned into these films, and I can understand that. But understand this: it’s one thing for these films to be “fun” and another thing for them to be comedies. Look at it like this: in this cinematic universe we have characters that are talking raccoons, living trees, space vikings and big green rage monsters. The level of ridiculousness is already high. These characters may have been “created for kids” but they don’t have to be portrayed as stupid or silly.

Take for instance our villain, Hela. She has killed countless soldiers and is then shown cracking jokes with her flunky, Skurge. The fire demon, Surtur (one of Thor’s most powerful adversaries) has Thor bound in chains as he gives exposition about bringing on Ragnarok, but all Thor can do is crack jokes before easily handling the ruler of Muspelheim. I don’t think there was more than a full minute in this film that didn’t have some kind of a joke, gag or pun in it, and to me, that’s just unacceptable. It’s ok to add in some humor here and there to break tension and have some fun. But when it comes at the expense of good storytelling, there’s an issue. If you read my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 review, you’ll know what my thought about this very issue were with that film as well.

I could go on and on about the humor topic, but I’ll digress and move along. Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster character was just terrible. He was a purely campy character that brought absolutely nothing to this film and pretty much wasted screen time.

I also feel like this film tried to do too much in terms of storytelling. In it was the actual Ragnarok plot (which was underdeveloped), Hela’s quest for universal domination, and the Planet Hulk arc. Half of the film was spent on Sakaar, which I really didn’t care about at all. Another thing that really made no sense was Odin’s death. After Loki banished him to Earth in The Dark World and started posing as the king of Asgard, Odin’s life force seemingly dwindled. When Thor and Loki find him in Norway, thanks to Doctor Strange, all of a sudden he just disintegrates on cue and Hela shows up. It was a really bad way for Odin to go out, especially with the huge funeral that his wife Frigga got in The Dark World.

The tone of this film was all wrong. When it tried to be more dramatic, it just didn’t have the right feel with the onslaught of humor being thrown at the audience. It felt like everything Thor said and did was just a setup for a joke and at no point did I feel like he really had any other emotion other than just trying to be funny.

Presumably, Hela was killed by Surtur when he destroyed Asgard. If this is the case, Marvel missed out on a huge opportunity to continue her arc and a possible plot with Thanos. And oh yeah, where was Lady Sif?

Final Thoughts

Thor: Ragnarok, when first announced, was one of my most anticipated films of 2017. The entire premise of the advertised plot, the inclusion of The Hulk, and the correlation with Infinity War just over the horizon, I was really excited for it until we were finally shown trailers, promotional TV spots, and other marketing. I was extremely letdown by this film. Here’s hoping Black Panther can stop this current trend of comedy movies set in this film universe, especially as Infinity War is right around the corner.

Easter Eggs

Like all MCU films, Ragnarok was full of easter eggs. I did my best to pick out what I could, but I’m sure there are plenty that I missed.

  • Jurassic Park’s Jeff Goldblum appears as the Grandmaster in a more prominent role, however his co-star Sam Neill also appears as an actor playing Odin in a play. Chris Hemsworth’s brother, Luke, also plays Thor in the same play as well as Matt Damon as Loki.
  • Doctor Strange abducts Loki as he and Thor appear on Earth, dropping a sheet of paper with the address of the Sanctum Santorum for Thor to find. Doctor Strange introduces himself and tells of his actions of observing beings from other realms on Earth. He also helps Thor and Loki locate Odin, who is in Norway.
  • Odin’s treasure room is shown again just like in the first film. Artifacts like the Casket of Ancient Winters, The Tesseract, and The Eternal Flame are shown. The Infinity Gauntlet is also in there but is revealed to be a fake by Hela.
  • The planet Xandar from Guardians of the Galaxy is mentioned
  • Thor loses an eye an dons an eye patch like Odin
  • Thor, new king of Asgard, is bringing his people to Earth like in the comics
  • Stan Lee makes a cameo as a character that cuts off Thor’s hair
  • Black Widow’s video message to Hulk from Age of Ultron is played again and the line of dialogue she uses to calm Hulk down is used by Thor multiple times
  • Thor gives Bruce Banner Tony Stark’s clothes from Age of Ultron to wear
  • In a post credit scene, Thor and the ship’s inhabitants come upon a much larger ship, though it’s unknown who it belongs to

 

 

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