Since Thor’s first appearance in Marvel comics in 1962, he’s been a larger-than-life over-the-top character who closely resembles his Norse mythology counterpart. In his previous two solo outings, Thor in 2011 and Thor Dark World in 2013, an attempt had been made to make Thor more relatable by locating his adventures here on earth. In this third solo outing, director Taika Waititi embraces the otherworldliness of Thor and allows him to go almost entirely cosmic.
This movie opens with a bit of an explanation as to where Thor has been during the events of Captain America Civil War. After the Avengers defeated Ultron, he went scouring the galaxy for the Infinity Stones, finding none. He ends up captured by Surtur, a large, firey, demon-type guy. After learning that Surtur can only die after merging his crown with the Eternal Flame on Asgard, and then destroying Asgard, Thor removes the crown and heads back to Asgard – to find Loki in charge, masquerading as Odin, and doing an absolutely terrible job of ruling. Heimdall is in hiding, the nine realms are in chaos, and Loki is mostly uninterested in helping. Thor takes Loki to earth, where Loki left Odin and are assisted by Doctor Strange in locating Odin.
Odin is basically Yoda-in-Jedi here, on his way out, and says some cryptic things about his first born daughter Hela (who he has never mentioned to Thor or Loki before) and that she wants to destroy Asgard, and only Odin’s life has been keeping her at bay. Having said this, he promptly dies and Hela promptly shows up – instantly proving how much of a threat she is by destroying Mjolnir and knocking both Loki and Thor out of the rainbow bridge as they were transporting back to Asgard. She wipes out the Warriors Three, employs Skurge, and sets out reclaiming her birthright.
Meanwhile – Thor gets spit out onto Sakar, captured by Scrapper 142 (who he eventually learns is one of the famed Asgardian Valkyries who were defeated by Hela many years ago) and meets the Grandmaster. The Grandmaster swiftly enters Thor into his Contest of Champions to fight his champion – who turns out to be the Hulk, much to Thor’s delight. Discovering Loki is also on Sakar – Thor sets out to gather some allies to return to Asgard and battle Hela.
Kevin Feige and Marvel have once again continued to make all the right decisions by hiring director Taika Waititi for this movie. Waititi is a New Zealand actor, writer, and director who excels at oddball comedy and this movie absolutely shines under his guidance. Thor previously has been a ‘fish out of water’, which did allow for some humorous moments, but this movie fully embraces the potential lunacy of the character and is more of an action comedy than action movie. Waititi allowed for a lot of improvisation, something that really pays off with a cast that has been working together for a long time, allowing the scenes to feel natural and fun. Yes, there are stakes, and yes, the story has a fairly serious end, but I feel that the balance between that and the comedy is beautifully held throughout. The cast truly shines here in what is easily one of the best of the MCU movies.
- Chris Hemsworth really seems to enjoy this outing as Thor. He had previously been getting a bit bored with Thor’s ego and attitude, and here, has a blast revamping the character almost completely as he struggles through the galaxy to save his people.
- Tom Hiddleston once again proves that Loki is sexy even if Hiddleston is not. He and Hemsworth are at their best in improvised scenes together. Loki is never predictable, except by Thor, and proves to be both incredibly annoying and helpful when it aligns with his own desires.
- Idris Elba returns as Heimdall and has traded in his giant helmet for a large wig. Either way, he’s easily the most serious character in the movie as he attempts to move refugees around Asgard.
- Anthony Hopkins has a brief appearance as Odin, as he shows up to say he’s about to die. He also got to have a blast as the Loki-version of Odin that is simply reclining on a couch watching a play and eating grapes. That play was amazing – not just for the cameos, but for how incredibly hilarious it was.
- Cate Blanchett plays Hela, a character who helped Odin capture the nine realms – but when she got greedy and wanted to keep going, he simply banished her to an unknown location where apparently she’s just been waiting and getting angrier until she could get out. Blanchett also seems to be having a blast as she vamps through the movie, acting superior to everyone she encounters.
- Karl Urban plays Skurge, a character I was used to seeing follow around the Echantress as her Executioner on the animated Avengers series. Here, he’s been hired to replace Heimdall, and accidentally ends up working for Hela as she demolishes Asgard.
- Jeff Goldblum plays The Grandmaster, and yes – everything you’ve heard is accurate – he’s just about the best thing in this movie. And no – he’s not really acting, just plays Jeff Goldblum on another planet. He’s hilarious, and endlessly watchable. Also – he seems to completely ignore punctuation.
- Tessa Thompson was the biggest surprise in the movie for me. I had liked her well enough in Dear White People and Creed, but was completely blown away by her performance here. She is badass and angry – and at first has no interest in facing Hela again, but eventually realizes she needs to return to Asgard.
- Mark Ruffalo plays Bruce Banner and the performance capture for the Hulk, who has been in control for two years while fighting on Sakar. The Hulk has finally found a place where he is accepted and loved, and is not ready to relinquish control back to Banner, no matter how much Thor needs Banner.
- Benedict Cumberbatch plays Doctor Strange in a short scene in the beginning of the movie, and honestly, he’s exceptional here – even more so than in his own movie. This Doctor Strange is one that has settled into his new role and powers and is perfectly comfortable bamf-ing around his Sanctum looking for things to assist Thor.
- Taika Waititi also plays Korg – one of the best characters in the movie. He’s another gladiator that Thor meets once he lands on Sakar, a hulking rock creature with a charming voice and personality. He’s hilarious and definitely a highlight – he and his friend Mick.
- Rachel House, who has been in Waititi’s other movies, plays Topaz, who I would describe as Grandmaster’s henchwoman, assistant, device holder, and occasional realism check.
- Clancy Brown plays Surtur who I really loved. He seems just exhausted by everything in the beginning and very clearly states the purpose to his existence, unable to die until he destroys Asgard – which proves to be useful.
- Ray Stevenson, Zach Levi, and Tadanobu Asano return as the Warriors Three, and Hela swiftly eliminates all three of them. This is a shame, because I really enjoyed all of them in previous movies – but I suppose it also establishes that Hela is very powerful. Lady Sif is not around, mainly because Jaimie Alexander is shooting Blidspot, but also because she has a mission elsewhere. This is good news, because it means she will be able to come back at some point.
Overall, the look of the movie is amazing – yes, you should see it in 3D. The colors and scenery are more in line with Guardians of the Galaxy than some of the earthbound MCU movies, which makes sense. The score is a mix of 80s-style synth pop, with the addition of Immigrant Song by Led Zepplin because of its Norse references. The action and fight sequences are fantastic, and the comedy is really and truly hilarious. There are times that I missed the next line because I was still giggling at the previous one. Definitely see it, it’s wonderful and yes – leads into the Infinity War Avengers movie which will be out next year sometime. Now, just hang on until Black Panther comes out in February.
9 out of 10 – near flawless. Gained points for Waititi providing a much needed lightening to Thor.
Bonus – Here's the LAMBcast review that I joined to discuss Ragnarok with other LAMB reviewers! https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/lambcast/episodes/2017-11-07T15_31_31-08_00
Double Bonus - James Corden attempting to launch 4D showings.
Double Bonus - James Corden attempting to launch 4D showings.