For disclosure: after Thor: The Dark World I didn’t really have high hopes for a another Thor film. I didn’t hate the film like most people did, but it wasn’t as inspiring as the other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I then changed my mind when I heard that Taika Waititi was going to be directing Thor: Ragnarok. I’ve mentioned this director before in my review for Jojo Rabbit and how much I’ve loved pretty much everything he’s directed that I’ve seen. Was that the case here? Let’s find out and there will be spoilers ahead.
In the third entry in the series, Thor: Ragnorak finds our hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth) captured by one of his enemies Surtur (voiced by Clancy Brown). While Thor is confident that he would escape, Surtur informs him that Ragnarok (a prophecy that Surtur will destroy Thor’s home world of Asgard) has already began as Odin (Anthony Hopkins) has not been on Asgard and has left Asgard vulnerable. Eventually, Thor escapes and quickly heads back to Asgard where he finds his adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in charge of the throne though he’s disguised as Odin. Soon Thor blows Loki’s cover and forces his brother to reveal the location of their father. Eventually they find him in Norway and when they approach him, he tells them that his time is at an end. Odin also takes this moment to inform them of their sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) A.K.A the goddess of death will soon appear as he imprisoned her a long time ago. Soon after Odin vanishes Hela appears from a portal and confronts the two brothers. After a not so great first impression Thor tries to make a preemptive strike with his hammer, Mjolnir, but not only does she stop the attack but ends up destroying the hammer leaving Thor and Loki speechless. With the odds against them the two brothers try to teleport back to Asgard, but Hela follows them and knocks them both off course sending both Thor and Loki to the planet of Sakaar. From there Thor is imprisoned (again) and is forced to fight in a gladiator arena for the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), the ruler of Sakaar. Meanwhile Hela makes it to Asgard and proclaims her dominance as their new leader to the people of Asgard, which then leads to a massacre. From there, Thor must not only find a way out of Sakaar, but also stop Hela from causing more damage.
Thor: Ragnarok, in my opinion, is unanimously the best Thor film to date thanks to the fun/new direction and its message that has stuck with me since me since I first saw it. As the old saying goes, third time is the charm, at least when it came to this series. To put it bluntly, it is a straight-forward fun film thanks to Waititi. His approach to the material brings new life into this franchise that was much needed after that last film. It also helps that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, as was a problem from not just the last two Thor films, but other MCU movies as well. Not to say there aren’t serious moments in here such as Odin’s passing and when Hela massacres Asgard’s army, but Waititi found that great balance of emotion that he was able to apply here. If you’ve seen Jojo Rabbit, then you’ll know what exactly what I’m talking about.
Another great element here in Thor: Ragnarok is the new and familiar faces that we get to spend time with. Even though we already know Thor and Loki’s characters after several films in the MCU, the movie still gives us minor character development that not only is needed, but shows us a different perspective of the bond of the two brothers that I really liked. As far as the new characters go, it was a blast to see their interaction with Thor and their contribution to the film. Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster was such a joy to watch on screen, but then again I’m always happy to see Jeff Goldblum in a film even if it’s a mediocre one. Another new character that I enjoyed was Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). She was someone that I didn’t care for at first, but once the film went along she became a more prominent character that I enjoyed seeing. I’m glad though that she’ll (hopefully) be a recurring character in future Marvel films. The one character, though, that stole part of movie was The Hulk A.K.A. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). While he may not be a new character (though new to the Thor film series), it was a lot of fun seeing the green giant in a different tale that we’re used to. In fact, as of right now this is the only MCU film where the Hulk has a lot more screen time than his alter ego Bruce Banner, and I’m glad that the filmmakers took that approach. This allowed us to explore the Hulk’s point of view through conversation, which is something we’ve never seen before. Too bad we won’t get to see him in that state again due to the events of Avengers: Endgame.
The biggest line that I always remember from Thor: Ragnarok back when I saw it in 2017 was “Asgard is not a place, Asgard is the people.” This was said by Odin to Thor during a vision. What Odin means is that Asgard is the people who live in the kingdom not the kingdom itself. This phrase is very relatable to me right now in my life especially during the pandemic going on in our world. As of this review, the option to go to a parish for Sunday Mass (at least at the diocese my parish is a part of) is still unavailable due to Covid-19. The only way to receive mass is via Facebook. That doesn’t mean, though, that St. Stephen’s (the name of my parish) isn’t present when I watch the service on my TV. Whenever I’m at virtual Mass I look at my family and notice St. Stephen’s is around me and no matter what happens and that parrish will always be a part of me. Thor takes his late father’s words to heart and let the prophecy of Ragnarok go forward, which leads to the destruction of his home world. While this may be a great loss for our hero, the silver lining is that he was able to save the remaining Asgardians from Hela’s wrath and start anew at a place where they can be safe.
As much as I’m praising Thor: Ragnarok, it does have some problems that are noticeable compared to the great material that this film offers. While I do like the character of Hela as the villain, her subplot was the weakest element in the film. Her story was necessary to drive the plot, but I feel like it could’ve been done in a better way. It was basically a subplot to explain expositions to another characters, like Skurge the Executioner (Karl Urban), about her past and her plan moving forward. It was interesting, but it felt way too long and slowed the momentum of the film. That subplot does merge into the main story once Thor makes it back to Asgard towards the third act and the momentum is back in familiar territory.
Thor: Ragnarok may not be inviting for those who haven’t had much experience with the MCU, but for fans this is a well-deserved treat full of fun moments and laughs. Taika Waititi is truly a genius director that can bring new life into something that felt stale. I’m excited that he’ll be continuing his partnership with Marvel as he’ll be director of the sequel Thor: Love and Thunder. Like I said earlier, third time’s the charm.