The MCU goes for full on funny in the latest rendition of Thor on the big screen.
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After Age of Ultron Thor (Chris Hemsworth) seems to have gone on a mission fightin’ his way across the 9 realms. His last mission was to prevent Ragnorok by taking the head of Surtur so that he could not fulfill the prophecy of Ragnarok. When he returns to Asgard, he quickly discovers that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been posing as Odin (Anthony Hopkins) in his absence. When he inquires of his brother as to the whereabouts of his father, Loki reveals that he’s exiled Odin to Midgard aka Earth. The brothers head to Earth in search of Odin. They are quickly abducted by Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who is interested in getting Loki off of Earth as quickly as possible. Strange locates Odin and drops the brothers off with him. All at once, Odin reveals that he’s dying and that his life force has been keeping their sister, Hela (Cate Blanchett), will return upon his death. Within moments of that revelation, Odin dies and Hela returns. After a very brief conversation Hela makes it very clear that she intends to return to Asgard and take it. Loki and Thor try to stop her, but she quickly overpowers them and destroys Thor’s hammer in the process. Loki order Heimdall (Idris Elba) to open the Bifrost so they can try to escape. Hela follows them and knocks them out of the Bifrost and into the void of space.
Thor lands on the junkyard planet, Sakaar. A group of scavengers attempt to capture him. Instead he is saved, and re-captured, by a hard drinking woman that we’ll call Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). She brings him to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who runs Sakaar. The Grandmaster also runs a fighting arena. Valkyrie implants a device on Thor’s neck that can knock him out. This allows the Grandmaster to force him to fight in the arena. He does promise Thor that defeating the arena’s champion will lead to his freedom. Thor also discovers that Loki has been on this planet for weeks already (apparently the Bifrost did some weird, timey-wimey stuff). Of course, Loki is more interested in saving his own skin than helping his brother return to Asgard to save it. After meeting some of the other beings captured by the Grandmaster, Thor reluctantly heads into the arena only to discover that the champion is the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Apparently, after the Hulk flew off, he ended up in space and began fighting for the Grandmaster.
Thor tries to reach out to the Hulk, but Hulk is in full battle mode, with very little of Bruce Banner left in him. They engage in massive battle before Thor taps into a mysterious power that causes his whole body to crackle with lightning. Fearing that his champion was about to lose, the Grandmaster paralyzes Thor, causing him to lose the fight. Thor wakes up in the Hulk’s room where he finds a more talkative Hulk. Hulk doesn’t want to return to Earth, but he does point out where his ship is lying. Thor also appeals to Valkyrie, who is a literal Valkyrie, to return to help him defend Asgard. Valkyrie is the lone survivor of the Valkyries. The rest were wiped out by Hela, so she’s in no hurry to rush back to fight her again. Despite having little back-up Thor heads to the ship, where he’s able to reactivate a recording of Black Widow that causes Hulk to turn back into Bruce Banner. At that point it’s revealed that Banner has been the Hulk for the last two years and that he fears he’s losing control of the monster.
Eventually, everyone sort of has a change heart. Even Loki, who is captured by Valkyrie as a sign of good faith to Thor, reluctantly agrees to help. At first it’s just a ploy to betray Thor, but Thor sees through that and ends up leaving Loki to his own devices. Fortunately, those devices do seem to include actually saving Asgard. Even so, Thor, Valkyrie and the Hulk arrive at Asgard by themselves. By this time, Hella has killed most of the Asgardian forces (including Thor’s old running mates) and the general population has either been subjugated or is in hiding with Heimdall. Thor sends Valkyrie and Bruce to help the people while he tries to fight Hela on his own. When Hela’s forces cut off their escape, Bruce turns into the Hulk in order to help them fight. Loki also appears with a large ship that they can use to fit all of the people on.
Thor tries to fight Hela, but he is over powered and loses an eye in the fight. During the fight and with the fate of the people of Asgard in the hanging in the balance, Thor has a vision of Odin who tells him that his power comes from inside him, not from a hammer. Thor taps into his true power as the God of Thunder and heads off to fight Hela’s forces and save the people. He also sends Loki to retrieve the crown of Surtur from all the way back at the beginning of the movie and use it to start Ragnarok. With the people safe, he realizes that the only way to stop Hela is to start Ragnarok and leave her there to face Surtur alone. The plan works and the Asgardians watch as Surtur destroys Asgard and, presumably, Hela.
The movie ends with Thor, now with Odin’s eye patch, taking his place as the new King of Asgard. With his people all aboard this stolen space ship, Thor and Loki head off to find a new place to settle. The movie’s mid-credits scene suggests that this may not go smoothly as they seem to be flying right into the path of a giant ship. Most sources agree that this is, in fact, the ship of Thanos the Mad Titan.
- As part of their plan to escape Sakaar, Thor and Loki start a revolution with the other arena fighters. In the movie’s post-credits scene, we see the people finally close in on the Grandmaster. Grandmaster steps out of his crashed ship and congratulates the people and himself on a successful revolution.
- The Hulk and Valkeyrie are kind of an item in this movie. Not really romantically (because, how would that work), but they definitely like each other.
What did I think?
It’s funny, when I wrote the recap, I realize that the plot of Thor: Ragnarok actually makes it sound like a pretty straight forward super hero, action movie. It’s hard to tell how hard this movie is trying to be funny. It kind of makes me realize how much it doesn’t make sense for it to be funny given the subject matter. Fortunately, the movie has so much charm and humor that it finds a way to make the combination work. This movie could’ve easily tried to turn itself into a grand epic, instead it’s more of a fun romp; more Guardians of the Galaxy than Captain America: Civil War. The creative team realized that the audience likes the characters just as much, if not more, than the story and they really laid into that. Characters are allowed to breathe, express and laugh a lot more in this movie than they have in any other Thor movie. They have personalities instead of just being a bag of character traits.
While that freedom does allow for a lot more comedy, it does come at the some of the sanctity of what the characters are “supposed” to be. A great example of this is when Thor is first introduced to the Grandmaster. He’s taken through what equates to a warped Disney World ride which results in him screaming like a little girl. Another is when Thor has to beg a ridiculously dressed Stan Lee not to cut his flowing hair. These are funny moments, but not something you’d ever really expect to see form the “God of Thunder” depicted in the earlier movies or the comics. Still, I can forgive it when the moments actually work for a laugh.
Ironically, the biggest casualty of this approach to the story was the Ragnarok story line itself and, by association, Hela. This movie is more about Thor’s trip back to Asgard than it is about actually dealing with the threat that Hela poses to Asgard. Essentially, the A Plot is turned into the B or C Plot in this movie. As a result, Cate Blanchett is completely wasted in this movie. In contrast, it is a strong use of Tessa Thompson who plays the simultaneously tragic and sassy Valkyrie. She was a real surprise in this movie, but she plays off of the trio of Loki, Thor and Hulk perfectly. She’s especially refreshing because she’s a powerful woman who has absolutely no interest in Thor romantically. I guess it’s natural that some things have to take a back seat in order to highlight others.
The other thing that feels a bit uneven in this movie is the action scenes. The highlight of which is obviously the big fight between Thor and Hulk. You can tell that that’s where they put a lot of their time and effort. On the other hand, there’s a lot of big group fights. Well, there’s two or three, but that still feels like a lot and some of them don’t look great. They have some blurredd, blocky looking participants that don’t even seem like they were meant to not look like they were CG. It reminded me a lot of the end of the multiple Agent Smiths fight in the second Matrix movie and the final fight in the third Matrix movie. Like those fights, these are passable, but lackluster visuals do take something away from it.
Overall, Thor: Ragnarok is the much needed punch in the arm that the Thor movies needed. The characters are allowed to have as much personality as they do in the big, ensemble movies. Action comedy seems to be the sweet spot for the Thor franchise.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
- They really went out of their way to make this movie funny
- Low-stakes good time with plenty of screen time from the characters you expect to see
- Hulk vs Thor fight
- Jeff Goldblum's performance steals the show
- Movie does borderline on feeling a little too silly
- Never really addresses a lot of the major beats of the comic book storylines that it's based off of
- Some of the earlier fight scenes looked like they belonged in the Matrix 3