"What are you, Thor, god of hammers?"
Thor has probably been the most inconsistent Avenger thus far in terms of his own solo films. The first movie attempted to be a Shakespearean epic, while the following film, Thor: The Dark World, while having a few ok moments, didn't quite measure up when compared to the likes of the Iron Man and Captain America sequels, especially the critically acclaimed Winter Soldier. Thor: Ragnarok, however, is not only the best Thor movie so far, it's one of the better Marvel films ever produced. It also helps that it is a laugh out loud action-comedy buddy flick with Thor and Hulk.
Thor: Ragnarok is inspired by a great many sources, as well as through the character's rich comic book history that it's hard to know where to begin. There's the four year run of The Mighty Thor by Walter Simonson that is arguably some of the best moments for the Asgardian yet and features plenty of the characters featured in the film. There's also the Planet Hulk run that is touched upon fairly heavily here, albeit formatted in such a way that it fits within the current narrative. There are also substantial nods to the work of artist Jack Kirby that is felt all over the set and costume design.
The biggest influence, however; is that of the cult 80's movie, Flash Gordon. Director Taika Waititi has stated on numerous occasions that the film was the biggest influence of this movie and requested that all the department heads watch the film. Ragnarok borrows much of the color and the camp from the classic film as well as certain sci-fi sensibilities in regards to its design and villain.
Taking place two years after the end of Avenger's: Age of Ultron, Thor returns to Asgard after failing to track down any traces of the Infinity Stones. Upon returning to Asgard, a series of events lead to the return of a long lost evil; Hela, the Goddess of Death. As he attempts to stop her, he is cast out of Asgard and wakes up on Sakaar, a junk planet where he is enslaved to do battle in the Contest of Champions.
With the film being titled, Ragnarok, the movie has this bit of Asgardian prophecy in the background as Thor attempts to find a way back home to stop Hela from seizing control of the realm. It is here, on Sakaar that Thor will find allies in not only Hulk but a Valkyrie who was there when Hela first attempted to conquer Asgard, some many years ago. He will also have to trust in Loki, who has returned to help in taking back his home.
While the Thor character has dabbled in comedy throughout the MCU before, Ragnarok is very comedy focused and actor Chris Hemsworth is given a ton of material to sink his comedic chops into. Whether it's repeating the lines from the calming sequence from Age of Ultron, or exclaiming that Hulk is a "friend from work", there is numerous laugh out loud moments in the film originating from the God of Thunder himself. The film actually opens up with Thor hanging from chains and having to pause the conversation as the chains keep turning him away from who he is having words with. And while I will keep one of the film's cameo's a secret, when Thor summons his hammer in the form of an umbrella, that whole scene is insanely funny and I cannot wait to see these two share the screen again in Infinity War.
This injection of humor immediately shows that Hemsworth is having the time of his life and easily the most fun he's had portraying the character. Each scene is popping with energy and much of that has to do with not only the dialogue but the chemistry he shares with the supporting cast. Mark Ruffalo is here as both Banner and Hulk, and much of the film has Hulk actually speaking with a fairly simplified method of speech. His conversations with Thor are based mostly on competition as each tries to outdo the other, or that of a tantrum when the two have an argument. His scenes with Banner are also filled with humor, especially when Thor keeps repeating the "Sun's getting real low.." lines to keep him calm.
Tessa Thompson plays Valkyrie, who is something of a bounty hunter on Sakaar, always with a drink in hand, in fact, when we first meet her she is completely drunk. She has some fantastic lines with both Hulk, Banner, and Thor, and has one of the more defining character arcs in the movie as she attempts to make up for her past by joining Thor on his quest to save Asgard, something she failed to do the first time.
Joining us on Sakaar are a few new additions to the cast. There's the rock creature, Korg, a fellow prisoner in the Contest of Champions. He's a member of the Kronan race, one of which we witnessed Thor decimate in Thor: The Dark World. He's voiced by the director himself and apart from one line that kind of ruins an emotional moment, he is rather funny in the film. There's the Grandmaster, played by Jeff Goldblum, who goes full-Goldblum with the character and has some pretty enjoyable moments with his own kind of crazy.
Tom Hiddleston is back as Loki and is still as enjoyable as ever. He's found a niche with the character and is almost attempting to redeem himself and be the brother that Thor has wanted for quite some time. There's a moment between the two where Thor understands that their paths diverged some time ago and it almost pains Loki to hear it, but he knows it is true.
Idris Elba is back as Heimdall, and it seems pretty clear that he isn't too happy with his character as he almost seems to be phoning it in. I didn't get the sense that he was too keen on being there and he's expressed interest in playing another character in the MCU, so I don't blame him for this performance here. Replacing Heimdall in the film to transport people in and out of Asgard is Scourge, as played by Karl Urban, making his MCU debut. The character ends up joining Hela as a way to simply just stay alive and has a fairly ok arc here as he isn't in the movie for too terribly long.
The Goddess of Death herself, as played by the extremely talented Cate Blanchett, is my favorite part of the movie. I love her design, the smirks she makes when she knows she has the upper hand, and frankly, everything about her. The fight scene with the entire Asgardian army is wonderfully put together and she just chews through all her lines with confidence. I could sit here gushing for hours about just how impressed I was with her, but I'll just leave it at that.
Thor himself sees quite the arc as well and it is mostly one of discovering the truth about his powers as he is without his trusty hammer for nearly the entire film. He has a tremendous amount of self-doubt until Odin himself asks him if he is the God of Hammers or that of Thunder, prompting Thor to channel lightning through his very body and become an actual God of Thunder. It's a pivotal moment here in the MCU as it has made Thor even more powerful than ever before.
Thor: Ragnarok is a very colorful and humorous movie despite some of the themes and bloodshed that occur in the movie. It has some terrific action scenes with some incredible visual effects that really make the film pop. Hulk has never looked better and the moments on Sakaar are just gorgeous as they ooze the classic Jack Kirby designs and color of the original Thor comics. For those upset that the movie is too colorful, please go back and read the original comics and you'll come off saying the movie wasn't colorful enough. The characters, the costumes, and each and every location is some of the best stuff to come out of the Marvel films so far.
Director Taika Waititi has stated that had Freddie Mercury still been alive, he would have had the man score the film. Since he is not and hasn't been, for decades, he chose the Led Zeppelin classic, and my favorite song, Immigrant Song, as the core musical theme of the film. It's used twice here and is rather fitting for a Thor movie as it talks about the very subject matter of the character with such lyrics as:
We come from the land of the ice and snow
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow
Hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new land
To fight the hordes and sing, and cry
Valhalla, I am coming
While I absolutely loved the film, I can see how some people may be upset at the direction the movie took, as the movie feels far more Guardians of the Galaxy than the previous Thor films. While that is true, it is also for the best as the previous Thor movies are considered the weakest of the MCU films and it made sense to go far bolder and different than try to expand on a formula that clearly wasn't working. Having said that, I applaud Taika Waititi on the incredible job he has done on making the film visually stand out.
Thor: Ragnarok has rather large consequences to the future of Thor and the people of Asgard. It's a high stakes film that makes some very bold moves and gives us a very different take on the God of Thunder himself. This movie is fun, action packed, and often hilarious with one laugh right after another. It may not be my favorite of the MCU films, but it is clearly a film worthy of the title;