Title: Thor: Ragnarok
Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote:
Comic Book Guy: Oh, my heart is pounding like Thor's hammer on Dr. Doom's titanium-infused faceplate.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Marvel finally goes the buddy-comedy route.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: Three and a half Uranuses out of five.
Tagline: “Thunder Will Reign.”
Better Tagline: "Apocalypse: Goldblum"
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis, Led Zeppelin Version: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) hasn't quite been Ten Years Gone from Asgard, and he returns from his Ramble On a distant world to find Good Times, Bad Times, namely Loki (Tom Hiddleston) masquerading as their father. Through a Communication Breakdown, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is exiled to Earth, where his sudden passing frees Hela (Cate Blanchett), Odin's eldest child (surprise!). Hela doesn't have a Whole Lotta Love for her little brothers (though she does have a Black Dog), and when they try to ascend the (Rainbow) Stairway to Heaven, Hela sends them Over the Hills and Far Away to Sakaar. There Thor finds himself temporarily Dazed and Confused, before realizing he has to fight and give No Quarter to an old friend (the Hulk, it's the Hulk).
“Critical” Analysis: You’ve got to hand it to Kevin Feige: In the ten years since assuming the role of President of Marvel Studios, he’s not only built a (mostly) wildly successful, multi-franchise movie empire (the MCU), he’s done so by utilizing a wide variety of cinematic styles. The various phases of the Marvel Universe have embraced everything from sci-fi (Guardians of the Galaxy) to fantasy (Thor) to quasi-political thriller (Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Only with, you know, be-muscled folks whomping on each other.
A somewhat less-heralded aspect of this success is Feige’s (and parent company Disney’s) willingness to bring on less-established directors to helm their films. One could make the argument that hiring someone like James Gunn was a relatively safe proposition, GotG being a lesser-known property and all, but it was a gamble that paid off. That brings us to Thor: Ragnarok. The beefy Asgardian’s MCU entries have arguably been the weakest of the lot, but he’s still an Avenger, so handing the reins over to Taika Waititi feels like a slightly riskier move. Fortunately for them – and us – Waititi has given us a Thor movie that's both meaningful and funny as hell.
Backing up a bit; the problem with Asgard in the MCU is it never feels…immediate? Thor joins Cap and the others in defending Earth, but he’s a freaking god who fought the Hulk to a draw in the first Avengers. His sinister premonitions in Age of Ultron also didn’t resonate much after Tony Stark’s “all dead” vision or Black Widow’s flashbacks (they also don’t have anything to do with Ragnarok). Waititi makes Hela’s threat to Asgard very real, and humanizes both the stoic Heimdall (Idris Elba) and the (initially) treacherous Skurge (Karl Urban).
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Also: Maybe don’t put a guy named “Skurge” in charge of the Rainbow Bridge. I mean, come on.
But if the Asgard scenes play as the most traditionally “Marvel” aspect of the film, they’re also the weakest. This isn’t to say they’re “bad” – a near impossibility given how thoroughly Blanchett is enjoying her heel turn – but the MCU formula here is in full effect, with all that implies. The real joy in the movie lies in the Sakaar scenes. Goldblum’s Grandmaster is like a combination of GotG’s Collector (they’re actually brothers in comics canon) and Trelane from Star Trek. He, like Blanchett, is having a blast.
Which you can (finally) say about everyone in the movie. Hemsworth benefits the most from the loosened up script, while Ruffalo isn't so much the usually twitchy Banner as he is mostly annoyed that he’s been set aside for two years by the Big Guy. Squint your eyes a little (okay, a lot) and his arguing with Thor looks a lot like Jerry and George bickering on an episode of Seinfeld. Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) proves to be a formidable early adversary, while giant rock gladiator Korg (voiced by Waititi) almost steals the show. Hell, even Loki isn’t that annoying. For once.
The effect is enhanced by Ragnarok's overall look, which is reminiscent of GotG. Since it's one of the few MCU movies set on another planet, this was perhaps inevitable, but Sakaar owes its design to everything from Heavy Metal to longtime Thor comic illustrator Walt Simonson. In the end, Waititi succeeds in making Thor both relatable and relevant, and gives us the freakiest — and one of the best — movies in Marvel's ongoing juggernaut.