“Thor: Ragnarok” manages to be one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most enjoyable films yet thanks to director Taika Waititi’s brilliantly casual sense of humor.
Right from the start, the film manages to give us one of many laugh-out-loud moments as Thor (Chris Hemsworth) sarcastically mocks an enemy, and for once his arrogant confidence is presented as a comedic tool and not a character flaw. Structured around fresh action sets and comedic bits, the film has a streamlined feeling. Featuring an ’80s soundtrack with heavy synth, Ragnarok takes us on an endlessly fun ride with hardly any bumps in the road.
Since we’ve last seen him, Thor has been dreaming of Ragnarok, the prophesied destruction of Asgard. Troubled by these dreams, Thor returns home to find his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been ruling disguised as their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Hemsworth and Hiddleston easily fall back into their roles, having portrayed their characters in four previous Marvel films. Fortunately, Hemsworth is given much more humor to work with this time around and is more than up to the task. The brothers travel to Midgard (Earth) in search of Odin. Once they find their father he tells them that Ragnarok has already been set in motion. Shortly thereafter, the Goddess of Death Hela (Cate Blanchett) appears, and claims the throne of Asgard for herself, crushing Thor’s trusted hammer, Mjolnir, and banishing him and Loki to Sakaar.
Blanchett gives an incredibly entertaining and intimidating performance as the ruthless Hela. Blanchett steals every scene she’s in, powerfully strutting around with her horned headdress and giant Fenris Wolf. She mows down anyone who dares to defy her rule, and as the first female villain of the MCU, Blanchett set a high bar for whoever is set to follow. Blanchett only suffers from not having more time on screen. Hela is not the only strong female figure in the film, however.
Arriving on the planet Sakaar, we are introduced to Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) as she captures Thor and forces him to compete against the Hulk – the alter-ego of fellow Avenger, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) in the Contest of Champions. Throughout the film Thor is in awe of her strength, admitting that he wanted to be a Valkyrie growing up…that is, until he realized they were all woman. Valkyrie is a relatively archetypal character – a soldier who drinks to escape from survivor’s guilt and PTSD – but Thompson manages to bring lightness to the role, and a particularly beautiful memory sequence adds depth to the character. Ruffalo’s Hulk fits surprisingly well in Thor’s world as he gets to bounce jokes off the hot headed warrior and Valkyrie, having developed a playful child-like relationship with the latter.
The planet Sakaar is ruled by the eccentric Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who gives us some of the greatest laughs of the first half of the film. The set design of Sakaar, with its colorful garbage dump texture, paired with the Grandmaster’s entertaining presence, help to bring a much different feel to “Thor: Ragnarok.” Goldblum doesn’t really turn into the character so much as he turns the character into himself, with loads of cryptic charisma.
Waititi, who is most well-known for “What We Do in the Shadows,” makes a bold choice to cut the heavy stakes of the film with dry and effortless campy humor. There is no time to process the devastation in the film before someone cracks a joke. Waititi even stars in the movie as Korg, a charmingly self-deprecating alien. He encouraged improvisational jokes and physical humor, managing to get his actors to have as much fun making the film as possible and it shows in every scene. Waititi takes the best of Thor’s humorous moments from previous appearances and weaves them throughout the entirety of Ragnarok. Instead of crafting a completely new style and genre within the MCU, Waititi’s reinvention of the character of Thor gives audiences a truly entertaining adventure.
“10/10 Goldblums” – Jeff Goldblum