About a month ago, Alky wrote a post regarding Thor: Ragnarok and why it needed to be successful. A big part of his argument was the general state of the Thor films and how they haven’t met the critical and financial success that Iron Man and Captain America’s film franchises have reached. Not exactly panned for being boring nor has the God of Thunder’s films haven’t made Marvel boatloads of cash, Thor’s movies have shown that he’s the least popular of the main Avengers trio. This is probably why, if you’ve watched Thor: Ragnarok’s trailers, you may have noticed that it doesn’t feel like the previous films in his series. It isn’t set on Earth and is actually more goofy and silly now.
Are these changes a good thing? Well, I recently saw it and I have a few thoughts on the matter… But before I do go on, don’t worry; this will be a incredibly SPOILER FREE review of Thor: Ragnarok.
The basic premise of Thor: Ragnarok is Hela, the Goddess of Death, has returned to Asgard, destroys Mjolnir and sends Thor and Loki to the planet Sakaar, which is ruled by the Grandmaster. Thor must find a way to return to Asgard to stop Hela from taking over the Nine Realms and the entire universe. If this sounds like a barebones summary of the film, frankly, it is. there’s much more to that. There aren’t any major twists like in Captain America: The Winter Soldier that totally change the overarching plot or anything like that. But there are a few neat secondary storylines sprinkled throughout the film’s 130-minute runtime. The overarching plot feels rather bland and, in hindsight, forgettable. There were a few times when I was left scratching my head because of some leaps of logic. There were even a few moments when something happens that totally contradicts events and plot points that happened earlier. I still forgave the overall weak story because of how generally entertaining Thor: Ragnarok is.
What sets Thor: Ragnarok from its predecessors is how goofy it comes off. It’s definitely not as dour as the God of Thunder’s two previous entries. In fact, there are a lot of times where it seems like the film is copying another Marvel movie franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy. There’s a lot of physical humor and punchy dialogue. The soundtrack borrows a lot of synth music stylings from the ’70s and early ’80s. The planet Sakaar is filled with bright and vibrant colors, giving it a rather psychedelic look.
If you liked the look and feel of the original Thor films, you might be a little perturbed by this tonal shift. I personally liked it, though. It’s different for sure, but it’s a good kind of different. It’s a refreshing take of the character and it does work for the most part. I actually have to mention the dialogue of the film because I thought it was well written. There were some moments where I laughed out loud because of what the characters were saying. That’s not to say that the film can’t take itself seriously as there are a few dramatic moments and some beautifully executed action scenes but the comedic tone generally overshadows those brief moments. I will say that Thor: Ragnarok can even get a little too comedic for its own good. With the fate of Asgard and the Nine Realms at stake, it can be a little off putting at times to see Thor and his friends goofing off and acting all awkward like.
Once again, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston don the mantle of Thor and Loki, respectively. Mark Ruffalo also returns as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. You will see Thor talking to either Loki or Banner very often in the film so it really helps that Chris Hemsworth does seem to have a lot of chemistry with both Tom Hiddleston and Mark Ruffalo. Their banter does sound natural. Note that I didn’t say “realistic” because what they say and how they say it definitely isn’t. However, it does come off as authentic and believable. Cate Blanchett’s performance of Hela is deliciously evil and one of the better villains to come from the Marvel movies. She imbues the character with a lot of personality and presence that most Marvel villains are lacking. Despite being the Goddess of Death, she still does have one or two funny lines, which did catch me off guard.
Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster, the ruler of Sakaar, is also a treat to watch. However, Jeff Goldblum gives another Jeff Goldblum-ish performance for the role so it’s nothing really spectacular. Karl Urban’s Scourge, on the other hand, surprised me as the actor even changed his distinct deep voice to make the character. If I didn’t know he was Karl Urban, I probably wouldn’t know it was him! Sadly, the weakest performance comes from Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie. It’s not a terrible performance, mind you. It’s just that her character comes off as dull. Valkyrie doesn’t really do all that much throughout the film other than act like a cocky girl who can hold her own in a fight. Her story arc also comes out of nowhere and, even when you learn about her motivations of why she is the way she is, it never hits you in a way that you empathize with her. Also, every time I saw her on screen, it made me miss Lady Sif, who doesn’t make an appearance in Thor: Ragnarok.
While Thor: Ragnarok was an enjoyable movie, the overall pacing was wonky. A lot of it has to do with the fact that it’s basically telling two stories. One is set on Sakaar and the other is set in Asgard. As such, the film has to juggle these two stories that are happening at the same time. This leads to a lot of cuts as the film jumps to and fro both locations. These jumps can get jarring because you’re bouncing back and forth very often. I’m not sure how to actually fix this problem, though, as both stories do eventually merge at the end. Even if it was necessary to the overall experience of Thor: Ragnarok, I still wish these jumps were handled better to have the story flow a little more cohesively.
Additionally, Thor: Ragnarok relies heavily on a lot of the previous films to get the most out of it, and I’m not just talking about the other two Thor films; you have to be really familiar with even The Avengers films. There are more than just a few callbacks to scenes and moments throughout the movie to events that transpired in the Thor and Avengers movies to the point that Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t feel like it can stand on its own. Fans will get a kick out of seeing those scenes but casual fans may not get them.
I will say that I did enjoy Thor: Ragnarok a whole lot. I can’t say that it’s one of the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has to offer. However, I liked it a whole lot more than the other Thor movies. It’s a good, goofy and fun movie. If you loved Guardians of the Galaxy or Marvel’s lighter fare, you’ll enjoy Thor: Ragnarok. If you liked the original tone of Thor’s other films, you may want to steer clear of this one.
Have you seen Thor: Ragnarok? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!