If you ask anyone (like me) who has seen the previous 16 movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), a good number of them will tell you that both Thor movies are among their least favorite. It’s not to say they’re bad, but they’re easily forgettable compared to the other superhero outings we’ve seen from the MCU. But finally, the god of thunder gets his justice with Thor: Ragnarok, a memorable, rickrolling good time that emphasizes the word “comic” for comic book movies. Easily surpassing the previous two Thor outings, Ragnarok’s intrepid attitude and overzealous moments make it not only the best Marvel Studios release of the year, but also arguably the funniest Marvel Studios movie to date. With the latest Thor sure to Ragnarok you like a hurricane, strap yourselves in for a fun time at the theaters this weekend.
Imprisoned on the other side of the universe, the mighty Thor finds himself in a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against the Hulk, his former ally and fellow Avenger. Thor’s quest for survival leads him in a race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home world and the Asgardian civilization.
As far as the story goes, you won’t much care for Ragnarok’s because it’s the same thing you’ve seen time and time again from this cinematic universe where *insert part of the cosmos* is in trouble and must be saved. But where Ragnarok feels somewhat different from other MCU films and makes it such a fun ride is its humor, where one liners zipping by from the movie’s ensemble cast never cease to make you laugh. Sure, we’ve seen humor executed well in Marvel Studios movies before, but Ragnarok’s self-awareness and bromances (Thor and Hulk, Thor and Loki) make this feel different. It’s as if you’re watching a big budget Saturday Night Live episode, where its skits (scenes in this instance) are so funny and so highly entertaining that you’ll be talking about them for days. And what’s even better is how the characters act so nonchalant throughout the movie, yet appear to be on the verge of laughter as if they’re actually performing skits from Saturday Night Live taping in front of a studio audience. Kudos to the movie’s near-impeccable humor belong to director Taika Waititi, where his style of humor from his two comedic gems What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople can be seen throughout Ragnarok’s running time.
Ragnarok’s humor would not stick the landing if not for the movie’s cast, which is great from top to bottom. In his third solo outing as the hammer-wielding Avenger, Chris Hemsworth does more than flex his muscles or burst out cocky statements; he’s able to show off his comedic chops that expand beyond his character’s fish-out-of-water scenario that play strongly to the movie’s style of humor. Tom Hiddleston, as you would expect, is as cunningly good as ever as Loki, the god of mischief. And Mark Ruffalo is good in his return to the MCU as Bruce Banner/Hulk, whose character is given a good explanation for his absence since the events in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ragnarok’s comedy really stands out whenever these three main characters come into contact with each other. Whether it’s firing off insults or making casual conversation, the chemistry between Thor and his two colleagues is as strong as any in the MCU movies. As far as newcomers go, Tessa Thompson is a bad ass as Valkyrie, a once legendary warrior of Asgard (and one that deserves to be seen in future MCU movies). The best new addition to the cast of Thor is Jeff Goldblum (who is a delight as usual) as the Grandmaster, ruler of the planet Sakaar. A perfect fit as the pleasure-seeking ruler of the place where a good portion of the movie takes place, Goldblum doles out the movie’s best lines. And like Thompson’s Valkyrie, I can only hope Goldblum’s Grandmaster returns sooner rather than later in the MCU. Also, Karl Urban has a small but notable role as Skurge, whose small backstory results in one of the movie’s best moments. And finally, Cate Blanchett plays Hela, the goddess of death and villain of Ragnarok. While she does fine with what she’s given, her role certainly fits the same mold of previous villains of the MCU, where it just doesn’t feel like enough.
Thor: Ragnarok conjures up the same blueprint we’ve seen work successfully in almost all of these Marvel Studios movies: great cast, action aplenty, spot-on humor, and a somewhat bland villain. It’s not necessarily a knock on Ragnarok itself, but you know what to expect in the MCU movies in terms of what they deliver. But what’s good in Thor: Ragnarok is really good, even if we’ve seen it before. Aside from the great cast and humor already mentioned, the action in Thor is easily the best in the series. From the opening fight scene to the climatic final battle, Ragnarok finally gives us a movie that shows off the true power from the god of thunder (literally). Coupled with the action scenes are great visual effects, which are among some of the best you’ll see in a movie this year. Planets and other worlds look detailed as ever for a MCU movie and combat scenes don’t feel like conglomerate CGI messes. While you witness eye candy galore, it’s all played to the beat of an exuberantly techno-like score by Mark Mothersbaugh.
It’s amazing to think that 17 movies later, Marvel Studios is still able to put a fresh spin on their cinematic universe with products like Thor: Ragnarok, which, though not among the very best, now ranks in the top half of the MCU movies. In a cinematic universe showing no signs of slowing down, Ragnarok is a surprising breath of fresh air that delivers thunderous applause for its character, who by movie’s end receives a couple of interesting developments that should play big in next year’s Avengers: Infinity War. With next year’s biggest superhero ensemble ever assembled, finally, audiences have a Thor movie that brings down the hammer with gratifying results.