I never try to hide my admiration for superhero films. Whether it’s Marvel or DC, I almost always have fun with them. If there was one character I had to point out as having the weakest films, though – or the ones I’ve enjoyed the least – it would have to be Thor. Don’t misunderstand me: I gave both Thor (2011) and Thor: The Dark World (2013) 3 out of 4 stars. They’re both good movies. But there has always been something about those two films that are just not as memorable as, say, Iron Man (2008) or Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2011), and both would be close to the bottom of a list of my favorite MCU films. Thor: Ragnarok, though, makes up for that by mixing laugh-out-loud comedy with a strong story, and well-delivered message.
Ragnarok is very much a family affair, as both Thor and Loki are back, and are forced to work together to try and stop the Goddess of Death, Hela, from destroying the Asgardian civilization. The problem is, though, that Thor is imprisoned on a planet where he is forced to fight in a gladiatorial arena in order to win his freedom. So not only must Thor face this behemoth, but he also has to deal with his untrustworthy brother, Loki, an Asgardian, Valkyrie, that has become a drunkard, and the Goddess of Death herself, Hela. Thor must get back home to save his civilization, though, “because that’s what heroes do”.
It’s clear that the superhero films of Marvel have made a push toward comedy, which is likely a response to DC’s films pushing more toward the bleaker side of the spectrum. Ragnarok arguably adds in the most comedy of any of the MCU films to date, and most of it works exceptionally well. Admittedly, in the beginning, it did feel like they were trying a bit too hard to set a comedic tone, but after the first twenty minutes or so – I’d say once Hulk is introduced –
these comedic lines and moments start to feel a lot more natural. That’s when they really start firing on all cylinders, and really helped sell me on this film.
There are a few supporting characters specifically that I just absolutely loved thanks to the humor they bring to the film. First, one of the greats, Jeff Goldblum, plays a wonderful Grandmaster. Goldblum is the leader of the planet that enslaves Thor, and the way he holds himself is just hysterical. He’s effeminate and flamboyant in his attire, and intelligent and sincere in his speech, and those characteristics clash wonderfully to bring a ton of great moments. The director, Taika Waititi, voices another favorite of mine who I’ve never seen before: Korg. Korg is a walking, talking pile of rocks that acts as the leader of the gladiators. He’s always blasé about everything going on around him, but has decided that he wants to lead a revolution off the planet. Korg doesn’t play a huge part here, but damn, he had me laughing. His moments with Thor are some of the funniest in the film, and I almost lost it with his silly throwaway lines toward the end of the film.
Another new face that really struck me was Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. This has been a banner year for strong women in superhero films, and though Valkyrie isn’t as big a character as Wonder Woman, she’s arguably just as strong. She’s not quite the role model that Diana is, but her flaws make for an interesting character arc. She shows her bad ass side throughout the entire film, and is just fun to watch. Thompson manages to find a lot to do with her role that could otherwise be simply two-notes. Cate Blanchett plays a wonderful villain here as well, but some of her humor in the beginning is where it felt more forced than it needed to be. Not her fault, obviously, but still a minor flaw of an otherwise outstanding villain.
Karl Urban plays Skurge who arguably has the biggest and most interesting character arc in the entire film. His fight for identity was really well done, and I just loved watching his story play out. Aside from that, we have the normal mainstays of Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, and Mark Ruffalo as Thor, Loki, and Bruce Banner/Hulk respectively. They’re all just as fantastic in their roles as they always are.
The story in Thor: Ragnarok does a nice job of being stand-alone enough for newcomers, but also ties in enough of the established MCU to keep people like myself happy. I loved watching Thor struggle with everything put in front of him, and even him arguing with Hulk about who the strongest Avenger is. It’s the big and small moments alike that make Ragnarok so much fun. This is very much a MCU film, for better or worse. Those that enjoy this universe will have a blast with Ragnarok, but I don’t imagine it will change many hearts if you’ve already decided that the MCU isn’t for you. Thor: Ragnarok is a great time that is easily the best of the solo Thor films, and arguably a top five Marvel Cinematic Universe film overall. I can’t recommend it enough!