Should I Watch..? 'Thor: Ragnarok'
What's the big deal?
Thor: Ragnarok is a fantasy sci-fi superhero film released in 2017 and is the third film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. The seventeenth film in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), the film sees Thor stranded on an unknown alien world attempting to prevent the total destruction of Asgard at the hands of Hela, the Goddess Of Death. The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Mark Ruffalo, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban and Anthony Hopkins. Directed by relative unknown Taika Waititi, the film was intended to revitalise the Thor franchise after the disappointment of the second film. Released to widespread critical acclaim, the film was a massive hit with global takings of $854 million which makes it by far the most successful entry in the Thor franchise. The future of the Thor series is uncertain as Hemsworth's contract for playing the character expires after the release of Avengers: Endgame.
What's it about?
Two years after the devastation at Sokovia (as seen in Avengers: Age Of Ultron), Thor has been searching the cosmos for Infinity Stones without success. Imprisoned by the demon Surtur who tells him that Ragnarok - the prophesised destruction of Asgard - is coming, Thor escapes with Surtur's crown and returns to Asgard where his adopted brother Loki has been ruling in the guise of their father Odin who is in exile on Earth.
Thor and Loki eventually track Odin down who tells them both that Ragnarok is indeed happening, despite Thor's exploits. Their older sister Hela, who has been banished from Asgard for the duration of Odin's life, will return soon as Odin himself is dying and the Goddess Of Death will be responsible for Asgard's downfall. Sure enough, Thor quickly discovers the extent of Hela's powers after she destroys his hammer Mjolnir and abandons Thor on a strange alien world run by an all-powerful and slightly eccentric Grandmaster. Unable to get back to Asgard to prevent Ragnarok, Thor's only hope lies in his duplicitous brother and an unlikely ally.
Scrapper 142 / Valkyrie
Bruce Banner / Hulk
Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle & Christopher L. Yost*
Release Date (UK)
24th October, 2017
Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Superhero
What's to like?
I never that sold on the solo outings for Thor as both films felt weaker than other MCU efforts like Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger. The first Thor didn't feel like a complete picture despite fancy visuals and Hiddleston's career-making turn as the God Of Mischief. But Thor: The Dark World was Marvel's first misfire - a bloated and incoherent mess with weak villains and a poor script. But this (whisper it) reboot is the real deal, a fantastically entertaining sci-fi epic with plenty of humour and imagination. Hemsworth has grown nicely into the role as Thor but delivers a performance full of unexpected comedy and welcome swagger missing from recent outings. Hiddleston provides yet another brilliant performance as Loki while Blanchett and Urban put on their best pantomime performances as the deliciously evil Hela and snivelling henchman Skurge.
As great as the cast are, the film provides such an unusual landscape to tell its epic story. The alien world of Sakaar is unlike anything else seen anywhere in the MCU, lifted straight from the otherworldly-pages illustrated by Kirby way back in the early Sixties. It's made even more off-kilter by the odd appearance of Goldblum's Grandmaster, who appears to be making things up on the fly. The welcome return of Ruffalo's Hulk also gives not just Thor: Ragnarok a needed boost but also the entire MCU, delivering the best one-on-one scrap seen in any MCU film for ages. But my favourite scene has to be the climatic showdown between Hela and her undead forces and the heroes, brilliantly using Led Zeppelin's Viking-themed Immigrant Song as the soundtrack. Finally, Marvel are speaking my language!
- Director Waititi also provided the voice and motion capture for Korg, a gladiator on Sakaar made of rocks. Waititi based his performance on Polynesian bouncers - "We wanted to change the idea of what a hulking guy made of rocks could be. He's huge and heavy, but with a light soul, and he's funny and friendly."
- Hemsworth's older brother Luke plays Thor in the play-within-the-film while Matt Damon and Sam Neill also crop up as Loki and Odin respectively.
- Hemsworth had to bulk up significantly to reprise as Thor, eating around 6000 calories a day on a strict diet and working out six or seven times a week.
- Thompson took inspiration for her performance from Linda Hamilton's role as Sarah Conner in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Thompson also pushed for her character to be bisexual and pressured Waititi to shoot a scene featuring a woman leaving her bedroom. Waititi agreed but the scene was ultimately cut.
What's not to like?
As much as I loved this film, I can burst the bubble somewhat with four words - Guardians Of The Galaxy. Audiences have already enjoyed space-based adventures with a heavy comedic accent and Thor: Ragnarok doesn't bring anything different to the screen. Tonally, the films are very similar and the sceptic in me believes that Marvel supremo Kevin Feige wanted to simply replicate the formula for this film - which is essentially a reboot in all-but-name. Nothing wrong with that strategy but MCU fans will spot this quite easily. I also missed the female duo of Natalie Portman and Jamie Alexander as Jane Foster and Lady Sif, respectively. Their hinted-at rivalry in the previous film was one of the few things going for it so it's disappointing to find it all-but-forgotten here.
There are also a couple of performances that didn't sit well with me. Goldblum's mad-as-a-bucket-of-frogs Grandmaster is just too weird to be a legitimate threat, only really feeling dangerous when he drops hinting about public executions. Even when he does kill, he seems more appalled at the mess than the ramifications of taking a life. Urban's Skurge, despite looking every inch like the Asgardian warrior he's supposed to be, delivers a curiously conflicted character who swings from overwhelmed underling to able assistant to comic sidekick. It makes the character hard to get behind or understand, which undermines the character's arc. And while she's having fun as the Goddess Of Death, Blanchett never feels right in the role as though she's been miscast. But really, I'm nit-picking - Thor: Ragnarok is the most enjoyable MCU film I've seen in a long time and not only sets up the climatic Avengers: Infinity War but also revives the fortunes of a character I wasn't initially that fond of. Good work all round!
Should I watch it?
For anyone who thought the Thor films were little more than Shakespearean filler, this film will wake you up and finally get behind the God Of Thunder as a character worthy of solo films. Thor: Ragnarok is a wonderfully funny, enjoyable and unusual romp through Norse mythology, old-school sci-fi and genuine comedy. It may have taken a couple of attempts but this is the Thor film I've been waiting for and illustrates how debilitating Marvel's complacency has been for a number of years. The key to success appears to be mixing things up...
Great For: jaded MCU fans, fans of the character, Chris Hemsworth admirers, anyone who enjoyed Guardians Of The Galaxy
Not So Great For: fat blokes like me who will feel inadequate, anyone who had written off the character
What else should I watch?
Up next in the MCU was their ground-breaking Black Panther, a film rightfully celebrated for bringing a mostly black cast to the series and one that shattered box office records all over the world. As Phase 3 of the MCU comes to an end, everything builds up to the game-changing events of Infinity War and the eagerly awaited Endgame - two Avengers movies that appear to signify the end of Marvel's cinematic adventures. The slate after Endgame appears worryingly blank and while rumours swirl of what may come after, nobody really seems to know for sure.
My reason for not really getting behind Thor as a solo film character wasn't just due to his earlier flawed films but the success of his stablemates. Iron Man kicked off the whole MCU by being a wonderful blend of sci-fi, action, humour and Robert Downey Jr being the perfect Tony Stark - the heart of the MCU on which the other films are based. Captain America: The First Avenger was a brilliant revival of the character, mixing the real-life origins of the comic character with a rip-roaring period adventure that also furthered the MCU as a whole. But not every solo film is a hit - The Incredible Hulk shoulders the blame for the character not getting a solo outing since and I was somewhat underwhelmed by Ant-Man.
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© 2018 Benjamin Cox