Nutshell: Taika Waititi swings and hits it out of the gladiatorial ballpark with this laugh out loud action adventure. Hemsworth is game as a newly hammerless (but not humorless) God of Thunder, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie more than keeps up with the two Avengers, Blanchett tears it up as Thor’s sis, with Ruffalo’s Banner trying desperately to keep it together. And let’s face it; Idris Elba looks fantastic in dreads. What more could you wish for? Two end credits scenes? DONE. Grade: A-
“I make grave mistakes all the time. Everything seems to work out.”
Story: Road trip y’all! Well, perhaps an unintentional one, as Thor and Loki’s older sister Hela returns after a long absence (read: imprisonment).
Genre I’d put it in: Bar-setting Superhero Flicks
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Part of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), and the third of the Thor films. Oh, and a definite Planet Hulk vibe.
Gotta say: What’s Thor: Ragnarok? To quote David S. Pumpkins, it’s it’s own thang! And Hulk? PART OF IT. Yeah, the Pumpkins nailed it, because Ragnarok is it’s own crazy blend of humor, action and out-there wackiness that grabs the usual MCU formula by the lapel and drags it into a new direction. That direction? Straight on to funtimes y’all.
Marvel has done a great job with the MCU, but let’s face it, it was getting a bit stale of late. No, I’m not talking about Doctor Strange. That was awesome. I’m talking about the usual plot-boom-plot-boom-bigfinish-endcredits thing we’ve been seeing with the Avengers, Iron Man and the Cap. Yes, a case could be made that ALL films have this basic structure, but things have been looking kinda same-ol’ lately. Ragnarok still has this basic structure, but director Taika Waititi injects his own blend of quirky humor and madcap plot structure that made his What We Do in the Shadows such a hoot.
Writers Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost manage to fit in some powerful characterization among all the campy hijinks and knock-down action sequences. That’s especially welcome here, with newbie Valkyrie entering the mix. The amazing Tessa Thompson (Dear White People) can rock ’em and sock ’em with the rest of the gang, and more than keeps up with Thor and the big guy. Is her Valkyrie being set-up as a love interest for Thor? Maybe. But that’s not shoved in viewer’s faces here. If that happens, it’ll be a slow burn. And kudos to Hemsworth and the writers for wrapping up the Jane romance in such a humorous way.
Speaking of Hemsworth and humor, I’m so glad he’s able to really sink his teeth into some grade-A hilarity here. I don’t think he gets enough credit for his incredible comedic chops, but with Ragnarok he’s really able to show ’em off. Mark Ruffalo plays straight man Abbot to Hemsworth’s goofy Costello, and while Ruffalo’s not on screen as much as he tends to be in MCU films, his fish-out-of-water Banner adds a slight spin on the wacky vibe of the film. Call it uncomfortable humor? Let’s just say there’s a running gag with his pants that Ruffalo really…digs into.
Speaking of digging in. Blanchett does an amazing job as Hela. She’s not given much more to do than sneer and take over Asgard, but she injects a gleeful wicknesss into the role. There’s also a bit of wistful discomfiture, as Hela sees what Asgard has become in her absence. (Hint: not what she’d like, nor what she’s used to.) Blanchett conveys those emotions in a subtle way, hidden behind her lust for power, but they’re moving nonetheless. On the opposite side of the villain/maybe not a great guy spectrum, Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is an interesting one. He’s the bad guy that thinks he’s doing just fine by everyone, thank you for asking. As an immortal Elder of the Universe, his almost childlike, no-nonsense joy in his world is certainly funny, but with that kind of power there’s a definite thread of dread. I’m a poet y’all!
With all the day-glo colors of the movie poster, how’s the film actually look? Glad you asked. It’s Kirby Krakle-icious. The production design is on freakin’ point, with the bright colors of The Grandmaster’s chambers, gritty bleakness of the gladiatorial area, and of course golden Asgard. Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe lets the colors wash over you, keeping things crisp and clear for maximum psychedelic enjoyment. And let me pause for a moment to swoon over the special effects department for their work on that lovely Bifröst /rainbow bridge, and on Fenrir, a giant wolf that’s well known in Norse mythology, and plays a part both in mythological Ragnarok and this film. Here huge doggy doggy doggy. Maybe not…
And oh those themes! Letting go, finding comfort in friendship, forgiving yourself, and so much more to really chew on here. It’s a testament to Waititi, the writers, and the performers that a film so full of comedic moments can also gut-punch you with the deep thoughts. Then it’s back to Led Zeppelin backing a total throwdown that’ll make you wanna fist-pump. A crazy mix of stuff? Yep. But it totally works. And works well.
The lowdown on the really important stuff?
- Yes, there is a Stan Lee cameo here. And after what we saw in GG2 with Lee as the Watcher’s informant, it’s even more of a campy fun time.
- Yes, there are end credits scenes. Two, in fact. (I have a feeling the fiver from GG2 was a one-off.) And with the twofer, you can expect one hint at things to come midcredits, and one goofy tidbit at the end of it all.
- GET THEE TO IMAX. And spring for 3D if you’re able to handle those damn glasses. You’ll definitely want to immerse yourself in Waititi’s wacky world.
#Protip: Cate Blanchett looks like a total badass in this film, and throws down with the best of ’em. How’s that? No, not entirely by stunt-double; she studied the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira in preparation for this film.