“Thor: Ragnarok:” Third time is indeed the charm
The black sheep franchise of Marvel Studios has finally found its luck in the third incarnation of a Thor film. This is largely due to the obvious utilization of the tone of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the screenwriting team realizing that Thor simply had not transited well from the comic pages to the silver screen.
The end result is one of Marvel Studio's best films since 2014’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”
“Thor: Ragnarok” is escapism in its finest and most enjoyable form. Sharp dialogue, imaginative world building and most importantly, the smart and sincere direction of Taika Waititi allow this third Thor film to do what its predecessors simply couldn’t accomplish.
The film begins in the midst of Thor’s search for the Infinity Stones, or better known as the gems Thanos (the purple guy in the first “Avengers” post-credit scene) will use to unleash havoc in next year’s Avengers film.
The opening successfully establishes this “new Thor,” as Chris Hemsworth becomes a more Peter Quill-esque character, rather than the serious and unintentional comedy the God of Thunder presented in past roles.
With “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin in the background, the opening action-sequence shows Thor defeating the fire-demon Surtur and stopping his attempt at Ragnarok (an event that would cause the complete destruction of Asgard).
When Thor returns home to Asgard however, he and his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) later learn their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is closing in on death.
Odin tells his sons that when he dies, he’ll be unable to keep his first-born daughter, Hela (Cate Blanchett), in prison. Thus, allowing her to become queen and restart the conquest that initially got her imprisoned.
As Odin bids his sons farewell and perishes, Hela appears and immediately proves herself to be greater than both Thor and Loki, by catching and destroying Thor’s hammer.
Loki calls for the Bifröst Bridge to allow him and Thor to retreat to Asgard, but Hela pursues and knocks both of them out into the cosmos.
Hela appears in Ragnarok and begins her takeover, where Loki and Thor land on Sakaar, a garbage planet surrounded by wormholes, under the rule of the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum).
While Loki is able to get in the good graces of the Grandmaster, Thor is captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and forced to compete in the Grandmaster’s “Contest of Champions” for his chance at escape. To his delight, Thor's first opponent is Avenger ally, Hulk, who went rogue following the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
As one would expect, Thor’s goal after the fight is to find a way off the world and to go save Asgard.
The story isn’t original by any means, but the way it executes all the moving parts is what matters the most.
“Thor: Ragnarok” is more of a redemption story for the main characters, with a straightforward good versus evil story in the background. In the context and logic of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, this works not just well, but to its advantage.
Hemsworth excels at being enjoyable and likable, and is finally interesting to watch as Thor. Hiddleston has already gotten the character of Loki locked down and enjoyable - “Ragnarok” simply allows this character to continue to be the fun trickster seen in past roles with a new Thor to play with.
However, Blanchett and Thompson are the standouts of the film.
Blanchett brings to life what could have been a muddled character in the world’s new tone and atmosphere to an engaging, humorous and vivid villain.
Blanchett’s portrayal of Hela is the fresh villain needed in a cinematic universe recently plagued by underwhelming/underdeveloped villains.
There’s enough written and explained in the film, from the internal mythos of the Asgard world, to allow Hela to be in the forefront, and she is powerful enough that the heroes cannot defeat her outright. Instead they will have to find another way, setting the film apart from the usual Marvel formula.
Thompson’s character meanwhile is well-rounded and enjoyable. Valkyrie has purpose and a backstory the audience can connect with. There was effort put into this character and the end result is an interesting companion to Thor that simply isn’t there to be a sidekick.
Mark Ruffalo’s return to the role of Hulk is another point of interest. The storyline of “Planet Hulk” finally comes to life in a Marvel film, after attempts at making the storyline fit into a solo film and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” sequel fell through.
Meanwhile, Jeff Goldblum goes peak Jeff Goldblum, which could never be classified as a bad thing in a film.
Overall, “Thor: Ragnarok” utilizes wonderful chemistry between characters as well as enough wit and charm that stands out from the pack of Marvel-related films flooding into theaters in recent years.
While one could say it copied the “Guardians” formula, which it absolutely does, the spin on Thor and the enjoyment itself makes up for this and then some.
“Thor: Ragnarok” is a solid home run after two strikes from its predecessors. That continues to fuel the unstoppable force that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe.