REVIEW — Thor: Ragnarok, the Buddy Comedy You Didn’t Realize You Needed in Your Life

Movie Reviews
Thor: Ragnarok
Opens: November 3, 2017

The seventeenth installment in the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe is definitely one of their funniest, and by far their silliest, entry to date. Thor: Ragnarok, the third standalone Thor film (following Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013)), is a playful good time and the most fun I have had watching Chris Hemsworth play the titular Asgardian Prince.  There is a big emphasis on quirky and comedy, especially with Loki whose deviousness is toned down in exchange for increased snark and deprecating humor, but we should not overlook several of the battle scenes which are well staged if extremely CGI heavy (when the Hulk is involved, I guess that’s a given).   After the very dark and brooding one two punch of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War, the more recent MCU movies have made a great attempt at levity and heart. This angle worked well in Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and particularly well in Spiderman: Homecoming, and that motif definitely continues in Ragnarok.  You’ll recall that since The Dark World came out, audiences got to see a playful side of Chris Hemsworth in his comedic turn in 2016’s Ghostbusters. Those comedy chops are put to good use in this movie.

As I left the theater, the thing that stuck out most to me was how (a) comfortable Hemsworth has become in his Thor skin as well as his easy chemistry with fellow recurring cast-mates, Mark Ruffalo (as Bruce Banner/Hulk) and Tom Hiddleston (as Loki), and (b) how mature a character Thor has become in his three movie arc.  In 2011’s Thor, Thor was a cocky Asgardian full of himself and not much else.  In The Dark World, Thor was humbled for sure but still being bamboozled by his little brother. But here, we have a complete character that is still cocky but also smart and funny and appropriately humble when necessary.  This Thor is a leader of men Asgardians. We know we’ll see Thor again in Avengers: Infinity War in 2018, but I hope we get to this Thor again in a standalone film where he can shine as the lead versus an Avenger among many.

Tessa Thompson, who makes her Marvel debut in Ragnarok but will be back for Avengers: Infinity War, is a great addition to the Superhero family and as an ass-kicking Valkyrie, female warrior badass, well … we can’t have too many of them.  You’ll know Thompson best from her turn as Charlotte from HBO’s Westworld.   Cate Blanchett as Hela, Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, and Karl Urban as Skurge, round out a strong cast of heroes and villains and weirdos. 

I am giving Thor: Ragnarok 4 Mjölnirs at out 5. 

Before we give you a spoiler laden blow by blow of the movie after the jump, let’s catch you up. We last saw Thor two years ago, at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron, flying off to investigate the Infinity Stones and all the weird shit that’s been going on lately in the Galaxy.  Last year, in the mid-credit scene of Doctor Strange, we saw Strange and Thor meeting in the New York Sanctum Sanctorum. Strange wanted to know why Thor’s trickster brother, Loki, was on Earth and Thor admitted to the Sorcerer Supreme that the brothers were searching for their father, Odin.  Strange agrees to help them, if for no other reason, than to get Loki off of Earth which he is trying to defend from supernatural forces.

Spoilers Ahead. Last chance to turn back.

Still there? Ok. After the jump, we take you through Thor: Ragnarok step by step so you can act like you saw the movie even if you haven’t (or won’t).  Grab your Hammer and let’s go!

Down in Muspelheim, one of the nine realms, Thor is chatting with a skeleton about how he came to be imprisoned after wandering for two years and learning nothing useful of the Infinity Stones.  The fire demon, Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown), emerges to kill Thor and they battle and Mjölnir gets  a good work out. After some witty banter, Thor defeats Surtur, takes his crown, and prevents, he thinks, the start of Ragnarok. Ragnarok is the Asgardian Apocalypse, and Surtur explains that Ragnarok will begin when his crown is joined with the Eternal Flame (safely locked away with Odin’s treasures).  Thor loads Surtur’s crown on his back and calls for Heimdall to open the Bifrost … which doesn’t happen.  Having to flee Surtur’s reinforcements, Thor climbs topside and continues to call for the Bifrost … which continues to not open.

Up in the Observatory in Asgard, we learn that Heimdall, keeper of the Bifrost, has fled, on the run from Odin who has declared him a traitor. Skurge (played by Karl Urban) stands in his place as the new keeper but its too busy hitting on some pretty Asgardians to hear Thor’s plea. When he finally does, he bring not only Thor back but also the head of one of Surtur’s demons.  Gross.

As Thor heads to the palace, he comes across his father, Odin (played by Anthony Hopkins), relaxing among the people watching a play of Loki’s great sacrifice – a Shakespearean-style telling of the end of The Dark World and Loki’s death. Also, there is a statue of Loki which looms large in all its gaudiness. Fun fact, Sam Neill and Matt Damon are playing Odin and Loki, respectively, in this dramatic retelling. The oldest Hemsworth brother, Luke, plays Thor. Its all very meta.   Anyway, Thor comes across the scene and determines in about five seconds that Odin is not Odin but is really Loki in disguise. This is a sign of the older, more mature, much quicker on the uptake Thor that we’ll see this movie as compared to the previous installments.  After some Mjölnir inspired motivation, Loki abandons the stolen form of their father and confesses to stashing the real Odin on Earth.

Earth.  Sadly, the old folks home that Loki stashed Odin in has been demolished but never fear, Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is here. What follows is the mid-credits scene from the end of Doctor Strange but much more fleshed out.  As noted above, Strange agrees to tell the brothers where Odin is, even though Odin requested his whereabouts not be disclosed.  Strange opens a portal to Norway and shoos the brothers away.

Norway.  The brothers find Odin standing on the edge of a cliff watching the waters of Norway.  He explains to them that he won’t be leaving Norway for his time is at an end. And also, by the by, you’ve got an older sister, Hela, who was a great warrior but is also the Goddess of Death. Which really tells you everything you need to know about her.  Hela has deadly appetites that couldn’t be controlled.  Odin has been keeping her locked her away and at bay through his power but once he’s dead, she’s totes going to escape and return to Asgard and reach unstoppable levels of power. Last thoughts? Ragnarok has begun, even with Thor having taken Surtur’s crown. K? Bai? Good luck, and have fun storming the castle! Odin evaporates into a mist. RIP Odin!

As soon as Odin is gone, Hela (played by Cate Blanchett) emerges from a portal and informs her little brothers that they need to kneel before their queen.  Thor isn’t having that at all so I guess they’re going to fight. Except, when Thor throws Mjölnir, Hela catches it one handed and proceeds to crush it into bits.  Oh, man. That’s not good.  Always the one with impeccable sense of retreat timing,  Loki summons the Bifrost and away they all go, except Hela totally catches a ride.  Fight Fight Fight in the Bifrost and first Loki and then Thor are kicked out mid-Bifrost ride.  Wow, Odin was right, that did not take Hela very long to get back to Asgard at all.  Seeing the writing on the wall, or rather the warriors that Hela dispatches in about 30 seconds, Skurge immediately switches sides. Loyal, that one.

Sakaar.  Thor, winds up on Sakaar which I have wittily called Trashgard. This planet is a giant junkyard filled with portals from many worlds, through which garbage endlessly falls.  Disoriented as to where he is and what’s happening, Thor is captured twice in the span of a minute; God of Thunder, not much of a fighter without his Hammer, huh?

Asgard, Hela appeals to the assembled legion of Asgardian warriors but their loyalty remains to the royals they know, so ya’ll are going to need to fight. Only taking slightly longer than she did with the Observatory warriors, mainly due to the sheer number of forces attacking her, Hela kills everyone, including Hogun (played by Asano Tadanobu), a Thor ally and one of the Warriors Three! RIP Hogun.  Let’s go see her palace, she suggests to Skurge.

Do you remember that really oft putting, creepy scene from Willy Wonka where they go on the boat and Willy Wonka sings and the tunnel is all swirly multicolored, and you really really feel uneasy?  Thor is going through that ride right now, except, in the background, you’re hearing the melody to “Pure Imagination”, a song from earlier in Willy Wonka. The juxtaposition is jarring and you feel for Thor when he screams like a baby.  Welcome to Sakaar and we’d like you to meet the Grandmaster.  I don’t want to overstate this by Jeff Goldblum is in rare form as the Grandmaster.  In the Grandmaster’s palace, lookie lookie, its Loki. Seems Thor’s brother has been here for two weeks already, time is wonky on this planet, and is getting along really well with the Grandmaster. Sorry Thor, but he’s not really interested in messing up the good thing hes got going here.

Asgard.  In the throne room, Hela redecorates by removing Odin’s peaceful stained glass renderings and reveals Asgard’s sinister past which is represented underneath.  It seems that back in the day, Odin used his first born as a weapon of conquest and destruction but after subduing the nine realms, lost his appetite for destruction and flipped the script on Hela when she didn’t want to stop. When her ambition outgrew his, that’s when Odin  locked her away .  Well, Hela is back and shes got simple plans … conquer everyone and everything and rule all.  Down in the treasure vault, Hela snarks on some of the treasures but makes a beeline for the eternal flame. Heading down further into the ancient crypts of the fallen Asgard warriors, Hela uses the eternal flame to reanimate her long dead comrades and her giant wolf.

Sakaar.  The Fighting Pit Green Room.  Thor is in the Grandmaster’s holding pen and meeting some of the locals, including Korg (played by the film’s director, Taika Waititi via motion capture technology), a rock creature who has a really chill vibe about him. You’ll see that Korg gets some of the best lines in the film and steals the show with his easy going, but rebellious nature.  Moving on from this conversation, Thor sees his captor, Scrapper 142, and realizes that she is actually a Valkyrie.  Thor is impressed and confesses he wanted to be a Valkyrie when he was growing up but not like a real Valkyrie because the Valkyries were an “all women” force but Thor really appreciates their kick assness. Thor is a feminist is the take away from this conversation.  Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson) is not interested in leaving Sakaar and certainly not about defending Asgard from Hela.  Thor reminds her that the Valkyrie are sworn to protect the throne.  Valkyrie counters that Thor is about to die anyway fighting the Grandmaster’s champion so its all a moot conversation.  Now, time for your haircut. To no one’s surprise, the barber charged with trimming Thor’s locks is Stan Lee.  If you subscribe to the theory that Stan Lee is really a Watcher who is always in these movies because he is meant to observe important events in time, well, I think the cutting of Thor’s hair certainly counts as historic.  Stan the Man warns Thor that his hands shake a bit so hold on.

In the arena, Thor, God of the Freshest Haircut in the Nine Realms sees that the Grandmaster’s champion is none other than the Incredible Hulk.  This makes Thor extremely happy and notes to the Grandmaster that they know each other, being friends from work.  Hulk is full on Hulk though and proceeds to beat the snot out of Thor.  Catching on that Banner isn’t anywhere near the driver seat, Thor defends himself and the fight evens out with some good blows given and gotten.

After getting Hulk on his back, Thor approaches him using the soothing techniques that previously worked for Black Widow in Age of Ultron, “Hey big guy, sun’s getting real low.” For Black Widow, this calmed Hulk and allowed him to transform back to Dr. Banner.  Here, Hulk grabs Thor and flings him across the arena. HA! The lesson here is no matter how attractive Chris Hemsworth is, he’ll never be Scarlett Johansson attractive.  Anyway, Hulk jumps on Thor and begins literally pounding him into the ground.  As the beating endures, Thor slips in our of consciousness and sees Odin as he was in Norway. While no words are spoken, Thor comes too in the arena and is able to charge his whole body with electricity and zap the Hulk into defeat.

Asgard. Hela appoints Skurge as her emotional executioner but also, his physical executioner as well.  Let’s begin our continued conquest of the realms, shall we?  Unfortunately, the Evil Duo discover the sword that controls the Bifrost has been stolen so, ain’t nobody leaving Asgard anytime soon.  Hela demands that the rebels be rounded up – time to demand some answers.  At this same time, we see some fleeing Asgardians being hunted by Hela’s undead forces. Luckily, Heimdall (played by Idris Elba) is there and he’s yielding the Bifrost sword so, that’s lucky. Also, Heimdall has been secretly hiding all of the Asgardians that were able to flee.

Sakaar. Back in the Grandmaster’s Palace, Hulk and Thor are both resting up from their fight. Hulk, i should note has a decent power of speech now and is not just a destructive brute but is in fact capable of intelligent thought.  Maybe Banner is in there somewhere.  Anyway, he explains to Thor that he crashed on Sakaar in a Quinjet … which happens to be down in the junkyard outside. Convenient!! Thor tries to persuade Hulk to leave Sakaar and return to Earth with him but Hulk has no interest in going anywhere. He’s a god here on Sakaar and people cheer for him. Not so much on Earth.  After some school yard name calling, Hulk leaves to train and Thor summons a psychic connection to Heimdall who can in fact see Thor but advises him he is very far away.  Heimdall astrally projects Thor to Asgard and shows him the destruction Hela and her forces are bringing to bear and tells Thor he needs to get there stat. How, Thor asks? You’re on a planet full of portals – go through one.  Heimdall!  Always with the helpful advice.

Sometime later, Thor fails (again) to convince Hulk to leave, this time to defend Asgard and Valkyrie is equally disinterested. Also, Valkyrie? She might have a drinking problem. Even for an Asgardian.   Left with no options, Thor smashes his way out of the Grandmaster’s Palace and heads to the Quinjet.  Stuck by the voice imprint verification, Thor has to use Tony Stark’s nickname for him, Point Break, in order to get the Quinjet fired up.  Hulk eventually joins him but freaks out when Black Widow pops on the screen trying to get Banner to return from Hulk form and get the Big Guy to return with the Quinjet (this was the last thing Hulk saw as he was fleeing Earth at the end of Age of Ultron).  Thor is finally able to get Banner to return but he is even more freaked out as he’s lost two full years of his life, trapped inside the Hulk.

As you know she must, Valkyrie gets on board, after subduing Loki, and Thor makes his grand pitch to form Team Revengers.  The name needs some work but they all make the loose pact to work together to free Asgard and stop Ragnarok.  Even Loki is on board … until he tries to betray Thor in the Grandmaster’s ships hangar. But, Thor, having seen the first two Thor Movies, predicts Loki’s betrayal and incapacitates him.  I like this smarter than an average bear Thor.  Leaving Loki behind, Thor, Banner and Valkyrie have some mid air combat scenes as the Grandmaster has sent all of this pilots after them.  They fight fight fight and eventually make their way to the Devil’s Anus (the largest portal out of Sakaar and probably the Great Portal from the comics which is how Hulk came to be on Sakaar in the first place).

Before we leave Sakaar for good, I should mention Korg and the other rebels of Sakaar pick up Loki on their way to steal the Grandmaster’s flagship, the Commodore.

Asgard. Settle in, we’re on Asgard the rest of the movie now.  As promised, Hela instructs Skurge to begin executions until the location of the Bifrost Sword is revealed.  A man gives up Heimdall and his compatriots before the ax falls even once. Man, these Asgardians have no stomach.  Weak!

Now back on Asgard, Thor tells Bruce and Valkyrie to head to Heimdall in the mountains and help him get the remaining Asgardians off of the planet, while Thor will head to the Palace and distract Hela. Which he does.

Final Battles. On the Rainbow Bridge, Heimdall and Valkyrie are whooping ass but Banner needs to Hulk out once more to take on Hela’s reanimated mega wolf. The two monsters go at each other hard and fall over the side of the Rainbow Bridge.  In the nick of time, Loki and the Sakaaran Revolutionaries arrive to load the fleeing Asgardians onto the Commodore.

Over tat the Palace, Hela is giving her little brother the ass kicking that every big sister wants to give the little brother that dad loved more.  She even takes his eye!! He is Odin’s son!! Out on the balcony, with a view of the ongoing fight on the Bifrost, Hela reminds Thor that she’s the Goddess of Death, what’s he the God of?  Beaten and near death (Hela has the power to kill fellow Asgardians), Thor once again goes to Norway in his mind but this time has a conversation with dear old dad.  Thor confesses he can’t beat Hela without Mjölnir  but Odin counters that he’s not the God of Hammers, he’s the God of Thunder dammit!! Mjölnir was only ever but a tool to help him focus his power but its all there inside him.  Cue Immigrant Song (again, it was used earlier but its much cooler here):

Returning to his senses on the balcony, Thor blasts Hela off of him just as she’s about to end his life. Temporarily relieved of battling his sister, he he joins the Revengers on the Rainbow Bridge for some classic Thor ass-kicking. After all the baddies are defeated save Hela who remains standing even after Thor’s most might electric punch, Thor realizes that they need to fulfill the prophecy of Ragnarok. He sends Loki to Odin’s treasure vault to join Surtur’s crown with the Eternal Flame, hence beginning Ragnarok. Down in the vault, as Loki passes by the Tesseract, we see his eyes linger a moment too long. We don’t see him take it but for plot purposes that will reveal themselves shortly, he definitely 100% stole the Tesseract.

On the Commodore, Skurge completes his redemption arc by sacrificing himself so that the ship of of refugees can escape the onslaught of Hela’s never-ending horde of undead soldiers.

Having been reawakened by Loki, Surtur has returned as a ginormous, Asgard destroying fire demon and predictably goes on about he will be Asgard’s Doom.  Hela is NOT cool with this and turns her attention to Surtur, if anyone is going to destroy Asgard and kill all its people, it will be Hela, god dammit.   As Surtur and Hela destroy Asgard and each other, Thor destroys the Rainbow Bridge trapping Hela and anything else left on Asgard and then jumps on the Commodore as it flies away.   In our final view of Asgard, we see Surtur drive his fire demon sword through Hela and then the planet explodes.  But, as Odin reminded Thor, and Thor reminds them all, “Asgard is not a place, it’s a people.”

Assembled n the great hall of the Commodore, we see the Asgardian refugees, the Contest of Champion rebels of Sakaar, led by Korg and his not dead sidekick, Miek, Valkyrie, Heimdall, Loki, Hulk (who survived the fight with the giant Wolf), and of course, Thor. Who is now rocking a very stylish pirate patch over his missing eye.   Thor takes his seat as King of the Asgardians and, after some consultation,  decides to head to Earth.And Scene.

The movie may be over but don’t go anywhere! In the tradition of MCU Movies, we have a mid-credit scene.   We find Loki and Thor staring out into space as they discuss whether its really smart to bring Loki back to Earth, but their conversation is interrupted when a very large ship, think 4X the size of the Commodore, rises up in their view and blocks the path of the Commodore.   The ship looks to belong to the Chitauri which makes sense since they are known to work with/for Thanos who we all know is doing “it himself” vis a vis collecting the Infinity Stones for his fancy gauntlet.   More on that in Avengers: Infinity War.

The post-credits scenes is a call back to the Grandmaster on Sakaar.  We see the Grandmaster falling out of a trailer of some sort in the many junkyards of his world and a swarm of revolutionaries surrounding him, looking for blood.  Ever the show man, he takes a moment to applaud the revolution but also his own role in it because, as he notes, “You Can’t have a revolution without a person to revolt against.” And scene. Is it the best after credits scene? No. But, it was pretty funny albeit, very, very short.

Thor: Ragnarok is rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material).

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