By Andrew Jenck
Comic books are silly. It can be hard for people to fully comprehend but really think about how we’re only now getting an onslaught of comic book adaptions when these characters have been around for over 50 or even 75 years. The source material has such convoluted story lines, strange imagery, and ridiculous situations that adapting the source is a challenge. As a result, when most filmmakers adapt the source, they water down the material to a more relatable, realistic feel, such as X-Men, Batman Begins, and Man of Steel. That’s not necessarily a knock against comic books or the films, but it is disappointing that some of the ridiculous fun is lost in transition from the page to the screen. The Thor movies are a testament to this. The first was solid but took away a lot of the grand, mystic world of Norse mythology. As with the second, I…barely remember anything because it was so insignificant and dull. Thor: Ragnarok embraces the fun schlock of its source by being an 80s-style fantasy film with wonderful characters, vibrant colors, consistently funny, and overall blast of a journey.
This is the first time Thor is allowed to explore the alternate realms that we’ve only seen glimpses of by having the film off earth 95% of the time. The focus here is that the goddess of death has taken away Thor’s powers, and he must stop her from taking over Asgard and bring about the apocalypse. While that does sound like any other generic action film, it’s executed with such energy that you just roll with it. While I haven’t seen director Taika Waititi’s previous works, I understand his indie, comedic feel and he brings that to this installment. He stages the action in a way that allows for creative sequences in which the comedy feels organically woven into the sequences, as opposed to being forced scenes you’d find in a trailer. Even the world ending climax is given a clever twist that’s foreshadowed well and makes for a clever resolution.
Chris Hemsworth lives up to his full potential here, having great comedic timing while being stoic. While, again, the story arc he goes through is the cookie-cutter plot of “finding out his parent wasn’t entirely who he thought he was,” it’s given enough time that doesn’t overstay its welcome too much and keeps the story on track. Cate Blanchet as Death is delightfully evil, chewing the scenery as a live-action version of a classic Disney. Tessa Thompson is a welcomed addition that I hope we see more in the later installments. Tom Hiddleston has fun as Loki as always. Jeff Goldblum is Jeff Goldblum as a villain is hysterical and only adds to the weirdly enjoyable vibe of the picture. Even some side characters leave memorable impressions, to the point where I want a figure of everyone in here (yes I’m one of those people).
However, the best moments are in fact with the Hulk, being the first time Hulk, not Bruce Banner, interacts with people, allowing for some of the best banter between him and Thor in the MCU. That being said, Mark Ruffalo shines as his alter ego, having the right balance of sympathy and comedy for a man who’s basically the modern Dr. Jekyll. I’ve heard some complained how he’s not in the movie as much, but remember the word Thor in Thor: Ragnarok. This is not his movie, and will continue to develop in future installments. I got everything what I wanted from the Hulk: insulting Thor, acting like an immature child, making the situation more difficult in a believable way, etc. It’s testament to the screen writers how these two weird characters can have such natural-sounding dialogue.
The only major flaw that I can think of is one character that goes through the typical redemption arc and just feels like the filmmakers were required to add levity to Blanchett’s scenes, as Thor spends more trying to get to her rather than fight or interact with her. Still, that’s only a few chips on an otherwise solid film. Thor: Ragnarok may be the most fun I’ve had at the movies this year and will most likely crack my top 10 list. It’s through and through an 80s style action cartoon with great characters, a memorable score, and consistently hilarious journey that I can’t wait to watch a second time.