The weakest link in the Marvel Cinematic Universe has always been Thor. While it’s great when playing off other characters in the team-up movies, his own films usually miss what makes a Marvel flick interesting or memorable.
After the disappointingly average “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” this past Summer, I had high hopes for the stylish looking “Thor: Ragnarok.” Thankfully, Marvel returns to form with a hilariously action-packed ride that simultaneously revealing the ever larger cracks in the superhero foundation.
This third “Thor” film begins with him stopping the apocalypse, known as Ragnarok, only to discover that time spent away allowed Hela, the goddess of death, to begin taking over Asgardian civilization. After losing an initial fight, the god of thunder finds himself on a distant planet trapped in a gladiator match with Hulk. Now Thor must form a new team of heroes to reclaim Asgard and stop Hela from spreading her domination across the universe.
Director Taika Waititi is best known for his indie comedies like “What We Do in
Shadows,” which use awkward humor and go against expectation to create hilarious and quotable films. In “Thor: Ragnarok,” Waititi is given free reign to make this one of the funniest and most entertaining films in the Marvel pantheon.
The humor is sharp and near-constant, ranging between crass puns, slapstick, and ad-libbed conversations. This new direction for Thor is a welcomed change to the nearly
humorless predecessor “The Dark World,” showing that these characters have great potential to rival the “Guardians of the Galaxy” in terms of comedy.
Waititi also proves he knows how to film an action scene. The opening scene features Thor single-handedly takes on demonic monsters in a hellish cavern in tune with Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.” Sequences like these are throughout the film and each
utilize sequences utilize slow-motion and rhythmic timing to make every punch, shot and stab feel weighty, turning every battle a true spectacle. The highlight of these scenes is when Waititi uses a mixture of slow-motion and special effects to create mythological paintings out of the action, truly embodying the spectacle aspect of a blockbuster.
Within these eye-boggling visuals lie great actors, with the entire cast giving performance that range from good to start-making. Chris Hemsworth finally adds the comedic edge to Thor to make him interesting, while Mark Ruffalo is given a chance to play Hulk as a character instead of a green smash machine.
The biggest stand-outs are Cate Blanchett as Hela and Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, one of Thor’s allies on the planet. While Hela has little to do plot wise, Blanchett makes up
for this with her sinister and playful performance, making this villain one of the more effective in the Marvel franchise. Thompson is fantastic, simultaneously being a hilarious badass while also maintaining a subtle character depth.
Despite these high praises, not everything in “Thor: Ragnarok” works as well as it should. There are scenes in which Thor speaks with his father Odin that serve as the emotional crux of the film. These sequences are great thematically and lead to one of the best revelations in any Marvel film, but they are done so cheesily that it’s difficult to take them seriously.
The other issue is more indicative of the entire Marvel franchise. The Marvel story structure formula serves as the base of every Marvel film, and “Thor: Ragnarok” is no
exception. There were only a few story beats I could not see coming, as every plot point fit perfectly in the mold of what a Marvel movie is supposed to be. Only “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” has managed to escape this formula, and I wish Marvel Studios would take more chances and try different plotlines and genres.
Despite the familiar structure, “Thor: Ragnarok” is still one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Not only does it finally take Thor in interesting and exciting places, but it also manages to incorporate outside elements like Waititi’s comedy to make something that is entertaining and memorable.
Samuel Goodrich, Staff Writer