I find myself in a bit of a crossroads writing this Thor: Ragnarok review. For I feel that this is one of those cases where the early reviews of the film painted it in such a way that the result was me not understanding why they loved it so much. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved the Thor film, and I loved Thor: Ragnarok, but not as much as other people clearly have. If I was to point to why, it’d be two-fold. One, is that the Asgardian elements are kind of disregarded, and two, the comedy is way too high.
Let me break it down for you. Thor: Ragnarok is a full-on sequel to what happened in Thor: The Dark World, in that Thor finds out that Loki has cast out Odin so he could rule, which was great. But then he gets caught, they find Odin, who dies, and in his death they find out the two have a sister named Hela, who is the Goddess of Death, and the firstborn of Odin. Naturally, she’s not a happy woman, and she promptly beats the two and takes over Asgard with the hope to conquer the Nine Realms.
You might be wondering, “What’s the problem with that?” The answer is…nothing. The Hela storyline is actually quite awesome…but it’s relegated to a B-story of sorts. Which is sad, because Cate Blanchett is absolutely amazing as Hela. She’s the first female “big boss” in the MCU…but…she barely has any screentime, and that boggles my mind. Her telling the true story of Asgard’s rise had me on the edge of my seat, and it was a fascinating tale…but the movie didn’t seem to care about that. Instead, they show her in a few important moments, then cut away to the OTHER story so that we don’t have to see her much until the main battle. Oh, and she dies in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment that is both profound and incredibly weak. Or in other words…just like pretty much every other MCU villain.
Before I get to my other beef, let’s talk Planet Hulk. Hulk was put into this movie because of the rights dispute between Marvel and Universal (who owns part of the rights to Hulk in films), and the idea of him being on Sakaar for a few years is very enticing. And yes, the throwdown between Thor and Hulk is every bit as great as you would expect. But, while we are introduced to some great characters via this “detour”, it doesn’t make up for the fact that we spend a LONG time on Sakaar. And for seemingly no reason other than comedy and staying away from the Ragnarok story.
On the plus side, seeing this “advanced” Hulk was fun. He was part adolescent teenager, and part warrior. While not how he’s interpreted in the real Planet Hulk, it kind of made sense here. And it would make sense why the Hulk would want to stay on Sakaar, he’s beloved here, while he’s more-or-less feared on Earth. So when he transformed to Banner, and we got to see the other side of the equation, it was eye-opening.
Then there’s the Grandmaster, played by the one and only Jeff Goldblum. Yep, he rocks the role, and portrays him just like an evil dictator should…if he was a party boy. Not that I’m insulting him! He was really great. And had some great organic comedy that the others can’t always say.
But the real showstopper for me was Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson. There was “controversy” over her casting, as the Valkyrie in the comics is a blonde-haired white woman, but you won’t mind that here. Especially since they talk about what the Valkyrie are in the Norse mythology, or at least in the Marvel mythology. Her “I don’t care” attitude, mixed with her playful and fun banter with Hulk and Thor was really cool, and you felt for her more than any other character, to be honest. It was great seeing her reclaim her honor and glory, and she’s just freaking cool.
…ok, let’s talk comedy. You might think that this Thor: Ragnarok review hates the film because of its comedy, not so, I love comedy…but in moderation or intent. The first Guardians of the Galaxy film (which I gave a perfect score) was meant to be fully comedic with a serious sidestory. Thor: Ragnarok had a serious story…that was treated like a sidestory in lieu of more and more comedy. See the difference? No? Let me explain.
Loki, the Grandmaster, Hulk, they all were more-or-less comedy characters, and it worked for them more-or-less. But Thor? He went so off the reservation in terms of character that I was wondering who I was watching. For example, in the first scene (which was really great), he’s talking to a legendary Marvel villain (and major Thor big bad), and he continually jokes about not being able to talk to him because he’s rotating on the chain he’s tied up in. Funny? Sure. Sounds like Thor? Nope. Moreso, you know that Thor looses his hair in the film when he reaches Sakaar. Thor…wait for it…begs for his hairs life in the most wimpy way every. How is that Thor? It’s fine for him to be funny, but what worked in the original Thor and The Dark World was that it was unintentional comedy, he didn’t fully grasp that what he said was funny, and that’s what made it funny. Here, he came off as a frat boy at times, or as one review promptly called it a “space bro”.
Again, Thor being funny is fine, but they went a bit too far here. And that really came off when they were trying to make him serious in one scene, but then a one-liner machine in others. Oh, and the name of the key wormhole we see on Sakaar? Really?
Which brings me to my biggest complaint, the respect of Asgard. Or better yet, the disrespect of Asgard. In the course of this film, five major Thor-characters (not named Hela, we all knew she would die) died in this film. Of ALL of them…only one was deserved, and that was Odin, for it was a major part of the plot. Did you like the Warriors Three in the original films? They die. Two of them die with one line between them. The other dies better, but still, they wiped them out. The other death is Skurge, who to be fair, had a decent arc himself, but then died a bit needlessly.
Now yes, Valkyrie is here, and “technically”, Sif is still out there, but that’s a lot of co-stars and supporting characters that have died in this film. If there is a Thor 4 (and early indications are that it will happen), it makes me wonder who’s left to tell a story about.
Which brings me to Ragnarok itself. It’s a major Thor event in the comics, yet here, it’s kind of phoned in. They bring in Surtur, and then use him as a brilliant catalyst for the endgame…but by the time we get to it, it feels hollow. And though Odin (still played masterfully by Sir Anthony Hopkins) gave us a glimmer of hope and purpose for the future of Asgard, it still felt cheap that they went out like that.
I get it though, they wanted to “break” Thor in this film, and they did that. But the extent they went to make Asgard seem weak and easily destroyable felt very odd. And while paradigm changes are nothing new in the MCU, they took it a bit far here in my opinion.
Oh, which reminds me. Loki! He’s still a great character, he’s still played masterfully by Tom Hiddleston, and he has some of the best scenes in the film no doubt, but are you seriously telling me that no one noticed how differently Odin was acting? Really? And are we seriously saying that Loki is that bad of a ruler after he fought so hard to get that throne? Again, that feels hollow.
Make no mistake, Thor: Ragnarok is a fun film. And if you’re just looking for a fun superhero film to go to this year (even though there have been many to be fair), then you’ll definitely want to see this. It’s got beautiful effects, epic fight scenes, a great music score, and laughs galore.
But, if you’re looking for a film that truly lives up to the comic material? Both on the Thor and Hulk side? You might be disappointed.