*Photo Credit: © 2017 Disney/Marvel
I’m a self-proclaimed Marvel fanboy, so it’s no surprise that I made it out to the theater to catch the MCU’s latest installment, Thor: Ragnarok (2017). However, since this is my third Marvel film review, I figured I’ll skip the perfunctory introduction wherein I pretend that this movie is something wholly unique and that you need me to convince you that it’s worth your time.
So, I’ll skip to telling you can expect to see in this new film, so that you can either go enjoy the film and geek out in confidence or smugly sit at home tweeting about how basic and lowbrow it is to do fun things, such as watching Marvel movies. Whichever you choose, this guide to Thor: Ragnarok will give you all the crunchy bits to regurgitate in whatever Marvel-related conversations you are lucky/unlucky enough to find yourself in.
Let’s start with the basics.
The Hero: Thor (duh).
The villain: Hela.
Good question. Keeping with Marvel tradition of introducing virtually all-powerful antagonists with the sole justification being “it’s time to make some moh-nay,” Ragnarok presents Hela, the goddess of death and Thor’s older sister. Having been imprisoned eons ago by Odin — their father — she is now free and intends on claiming the throne of Asgard and leading its conquest of the known universe beyond the Nine Realms.
“Is she different than other Marvel villains?”
Not really. She’s got an army of undead henchmen who are almost more useless than Ultron’s minions from Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), but she also has a really big wolf! (Also undead, of course).
However, her backstory is actually quite well-developed, preventing her presence from feeling contrived. Oh, and she lives up to her title of “goddess of death,” showing ferociously formidable power. For the first time, we actually get to see Thor face a villain who is actually on, or even above, his level (sorry, Loki).
New and Exciting: First and foremost, Ragnarok takes place primarily on an entirely new world, Sicar. Located on the fringe of the galaxy, Sicar is billed as the place where “all lost things are found,” which is a hand-wavy way of putting a lot of important stuff in one place.
Running the show on Sicar is the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), who is truly the most Goldblum-esque character ever put on a screen. The eccentric and neurotic Grandmaster hosts the Contest of Champions, wherein he pits the many lost heroes, villains, and generally roguish beings who somehow wind up marooned on Sicar against each other, gladiator style.
Working for the Grandmaster is the Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson). As the last remnant of the fabled Valkyries of Asgard, she rounds up contenders for the Grandmaster’s Contest, leading her to find Thor, who winds up there for plot purposes—I MEAN FOR TOTALLY LEGITIMATE REASONS. Anyway, despite her resistance to joining Thor in his mission to stop Hela, she is truly the biggest gem of this film, displaying raw awesomeness in both her epic combat skills and her sardonic personality.
Rounding out the crew of significant newbies is Skurge (Karl Urban), who has replaced Heimdall as the vanguard of the Bifrost. (For those who don’t speak Marvel, he controls the bridge through which Thor travels to different worlds). A generally cowardly and dorkish character, Skurge is recruited by Hela to be her chief executioner, putting his desire for easy power at odds with his commitment to Asgard. While a predictable and uncreative subplot, Skurge’s internal turmoil is still entertaining, even if it adds little to the film.
Returning Favorites: Well, as teased in the trailers, the Hulk has a big role in Thor: Ragnarok. Thor finds very quickly that the Grandmaster has made the Hulk his champion, and the ensuing battle between the two Avengers fully lives up to the hype. (Who wins? That’s for you to decide).
Also making a highly anticipated return is Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother. Charismatic and deceitful as always, Loki breathes personality into every scene he is in. As one of my personal favorite MCU characters, I was disappointed that he was not utilized more; I truly believe that Loki is a character who cannot get old.
The best returning character, however, is the one who gets the least screen time. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange, now undoubtedly the Sorcerer Supreme, makes a brief appearance in the film, answering the questions asked by the post-credits scene of Doctor Strange (2016). Despite his minor role, it is evident that Cumberbatch’s contribution to the MCU will be among the best in years to come. Whoever cast him should get a Nobel Prize.
Assorted Tidbits: Director Taika Waititi brings a light-hearted humor to the Thor franchise. Whereas the first two Thor movies were far too self-serious, I feel as if this film swings too far in the other direction, going beyond the bounds of levity into straight-up comedy. However, the humor is still entertainingly witty, if a bit out of place at times.
For critics of the first two films, take heart: literally none of Thor’s earthly companions make an appearance. It appears as if the days of Jane Foster and Dr. Selvig have passed, which means that we no longer need to see them shoehorned into a plot where they have no real business getting involved. The God of Thunder is finally among peers, rather than mere mortals.
Also, there’s a surprise cameo early in the film. To give it away here would violate my spoiler policy, so all I’ll say is this: watch carefully, you could miss it.
Wagner’s Watch-worthiness: 8/10