Thor: Ragnarok Review

Thor Ragnarok

After sadly missing it in the cinema, I finally got to sit down and watch Thor: Ragnarok this week. It’s an odd film, it seems to want to be Guardians of the Galaxy more than a Thor film, though given the high standard of the former and the low standard of latter, I can see why. It also wants to be a Planet Hulk film, and wants to up the laughs and pull back on the drama, so rolling all those things together makes this a bad adaptation of the Ragnarok storyline from the comics, but makes it one of the funniest and flat out most enjoyable films in the MCU… So, let’s take a closer look!

Synopsis:

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.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Thor Ragnarok 2

Two Norse Gods in Norway! Weird that it’s a first for the franchise…

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) – Son of Odin, Thor has been travelling the universe looking for the fabled Infinity Stones, but has come up empty handed. He now finds himself in the dungeons of Surtur, waiting for a change to stop the Ragnarok that is said to bring about the end of Asgard…

The Hulk / Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) – The Hulk vanished during the Battle of Sokovia two years ago, and was presumed dead by the rest of the Avengers. Instead Hulk (somehow) landed on the planet Sakaar and eventually became their gladiatorial champion, not once changing back into Bruce Banner…

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) – Loki has been pretending to be his father for two years now, fooling his people into worshipping him as a hero who died for their sake, and living the good life… Well, until his brother returns…

Hela (Cate Blanchett) – Hela is the first born of Odin and helped him capture and rule the nine realms. When she started to look into expanding their plans, Odin had a change of heart and eventually locked her away to hold back her desires. When the day comes that Odin dies, she’ll be free…

Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) – The Valkyries were a group of female fighters on winged-horseback, but they were all wiped out while battling Hela many moons ago… Well, apart from one, who ended up on the planet Sakaar…

The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum) – The Grandmaster is an extremely powerful entity who enjoys using people as pawns in his games. He is currently fond of gladiatorial battles in his Sakaar arena, with his current champion The Hulk being a particular favourite of his…

Skurge (Karl Urban) – An Asgardian who has taken over from Heimdall as the guardian of the rainbow bridge. All he wants is recognition and to be taken seriously, but at what cost?

Heimdall (Idris Elba) – Heimdall sees all, and because of this he knows that the current Odin isn’t Odin, but Loki instead. Due to this he has been banished from his position and has gone into hiding…

Odin (Anthony Hopkins) – Odin was sent to Earth due to a spell from Loki, but he soon snapped out of it. It was okay though, it gave him a chance to reflect on his life, as it draws towards its end…

Doctor Strange (Benedict Cunberbatch) – Master of the mystical arts, Doctor Strange has been keeping tabs of potential threats to Earth and is rather unhappy that Thor has brought Loki back to his planet…

Plus many more!

The Good:

Thor Ragnarok 1

An example of the stunning visual effects from the film.

Ragnarok is, without a doubt, a very funny film. It made me smirk constantly and laugh out loud a few times, and that’s a good experience! It may not be what you expect going into a film with Ragnarok in the title, but it’s still good. The journey Thor goes on is an interesting deconstruction of the character. By the half way point he has had his hair cut short, lost Mjolnir and therefore his ability to fly, and is at the mercy of the powerful Grandmaster. Much like the first film saw Thor get humbled by being made to live on Earth without his hammer, this is Thor learning how to be a leader, a powerful leader. By the end of the film he has the ability to wield his lightning-based powers without his hammer, and he saves his people, leading them away from the destroyed Asgard, their new leader (with a missing eye to boot!). The film may not take itself too seriously, but it does at least give proper character development to Thor.

That being said there are a lot of silly moments with the character. His interactions with the Hulk being funny, the latter acting like a giant toddler, and his awkward attempts to charm Valkyrie are always spot on, and that’s not even including the usual great stuff between Thor and Loki. Thor Ragnarok is filled with great scenes involving the lead, you can say that much. Even Korg, the soft-spoken rock man, is a good laugh in his scenes with the God of Thunder, one of my favourite scenes is when an illusion of Loki talks to Thor and Korg suddenly appears and tries to kick the image, shouting “Piss off ghost!”, it made me legitimately laugh out loud.

As for the other “hero” characters, Hulk is good in his role of child-man, but Bruce Banner, when he finally returns to the form, is hilarious. Finding himself on an alien planet two years after he was last awake, he is a bit miffed to say the least. His fear that the next time he transforms into the Hulk could be the last is a nice storyline, although it kind of gets wasted later…

Valkyrie is a good “hard drinking bad-ass” type, and plays off the rest of the cast well. Loki has some good scenes, especially when he’s tied up at Valkyrie’s place and taunted, or the scene when Hulk appears in the gladiatorial arena and he looks frightened (a nice call back to the classic “puny God” scene from the first Avengers film) but it’s safe to say they’ve ran out of ideas with him, even Thor thwarts one of his betrayals and tells his brother that he’s getting predictable. Heimdall is fine as the leader of a resistance group, but he doesn’t get to do much else, which is a shame with an actor like Idris Elba. Odin, likewise, has a good scene when he says goodbye to his sons and passes, but there isn’t much else to say there.

The two lead villains on the other hand are great in that both Cate Blanchett and Jeff Goldblum are having a blast playing their characters. You can say that both lack the kind of build up or interesting backstory to make them compelling villains, and you’d be right, but there’s something about a villain who’s being played up and hammy by an actor/actress who’s clearly having the time of their life that makes it really fun. Hela has some great scenes, both action-based and some sneary dialogue, and her relationship with Skurge is at least one thing that stops her from just being a bitch who kills everyone. Skurge the Executioner is good fun here, again he made me smirk and laugh throughout the film, but he never once even uses his classic (from the comics) axe, and turns on Hela at the end, meaning he never really got a change to be a villain at all. He was good though, I won’t put it in the bad because it was just different from the comics, not necessarily bad or worse.

The Grandmaster is so over-the-top that it helps Hela look pretty normal! There are some fun moments, Grandmaster pardoning someone “…FROM LIFE!” and melting him with a weird staff was amusing, as were his interactions with his attendant, but in general he’s just your classic arrogant ruler type, and it works for the middle chunk of the film. The few scenes with Doctor Strange are funny as well, and it’s nice to see Strange become part of the wider MCU before his appearance in Infinity War.

Visually the film is stunning as well, with some great CGI and special effects that properly wow you. Overall the film is quite the roller coaster, full of fun and dazzling lights that after its over leaves you buzzing…

The Bad:

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Surtur makes his MCU debut! … Sadly.

There are times to be funny, and times where you need to be serious, and sadly this film misses this on a few key moments. Bruce Banner, not knowing if he’ll ever return to himself again, jumps out of a plane to turn into the Hulk to help everyone, and… fall flat on his face, before a few seconds later turning into the Hulk. That was so out of place given all the build up and what the decision means to the character. Then the worst part is Surtur is summoned and destroys Asgard as it was the only way of stopping Hela and saving what was left of the Asgardian people, and it’s all played up for laughs as Korg makes some jokes. Wow… Such a pivotal moment in the MCU and it’s all a big joke… What a misjudgement!

Speaking of misjudgements, I know there are (presumably) no more stand-alone Thor films, but the fact that Surtur was thrown in as a gag villain to be mocked at the start of the film, and then be the butt of a few jokes at the end (as he destroys Asgard no less!) is such a waste of the character. I’d rather Surtur never make his MCU debut than make it like that…

Oh and speaking of misusing comic characters, man the Warriors Three got screwed here. Two of them instantly and unspectacularly daggered by Hela in a throwaway scene, and then one at least going down fighting with the Asgardian army. A shame really, not that I was particularly that attached to them or anything…

Overall Thoughts:

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She’s not very nice, if you can’t tell…

Thor: Ragnarok is a really fun two hours-ish, I was never not entertained and it’s constantly funny, it’s just a shame that the jokey atmosphere managed to make its way into the more dramatic and poignant scenes (thankfully with the exception of Odin’s death, which is at least handled well) somehow robbing a film about the destruction of Asgard via Ragnarok of any drama or impact. Still, I can’t hate on a film that entertained me this much, it’s still a great time.

4 Star Watch

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