Thor Ragnarok Review Chris Hemsworth Mark RuffaloYear: 2017
Director(s): Taika Waititi
Writer(s): Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost
Region of Origin: US

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, 1.90:1 (IMAX)
Rating: PG-13
Digital, Color, 130 mins

Synopsis: Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization. (Source)

After two solo outings and two team ups, The Avengers’ resident God (of Thunder) has enjoyed a nice rise from obscure myth, to d-list superhero, to household name. Though most of us love Thor, it’s also a fact that he’s been consistently underserved. Thor’s solo films have struggled with identity, to say the least, and as a presence, he’s always unwittingly out-shined by his ensemble. With Thor: Ragnarok, director Taika Waititi changes the status quo, shattering Thor and his world to pieces in order to build him up bigger and better than ever. By uprooting Thor in such a brazen way, Waititi also gives Marvel an operatic space farce that’s as achingly funny as it is epic. Marvel’s aesthetic has never been deconstructed in such an irreverent way, and Thor comes out on top from such a bold reimagining. This is hands down one of the wackiest, most insane cosmic riots ever, brimming with inventive spectacle, mischievous humor and Waititi’s singular swagger. If, like me, you’ve been waiting for Thor’s moment to truly shine, then Ragnarok is a dream come true.

When we first meet up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), he’s intentionally gotten himself captured by the fire god Surtur. Hoping to prevent Ragnarok (the prophesied destruction of his homeward Asgard), Thor makes quick work of his adversary, thinking that the threat’s been quelled. In doing so, he discovers that his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has impersonated their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), posing as Asgard’s king while leaving it vulnerable to unforeseen threats. After a quick jaunt to Earth, Thor and Loki find their exiled father, but learn that dark machinations have already been put in to play. They soon come face to face with Hela (Cate Blanchett), the goddess of death, who destroys Thor’s hammer while leaving him and Loki stranded on a mysterious planet named Skaar. Under the captivity of an eccentric egomaniac named The Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), Thor reunites with Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), befriends a shamed Asgardian named Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and attempts to win over his two-faced brother in order to save his home and its people from certain destruction.

Thor Ragnarok Review Tom Hiddleston Tessa ThompsonWithout question, Waititi’s singular sense of tone, character and humorous style are what make this new outing feel so fresh. Most noticeable, this latest film finally capitalizes on Hemsworth’s natural comedic timing, empowering Thor with a sense of humor that’s always been there, but never used in such a commanding way. With Thor and his personal awakening at the center, Waititi’s all-or-nothing mentality gives the plot a breakneck pace, hardly ever stopping to catch its breath, and certainly never to look back. Armed with self-aware humor that pokes fun at Marvel itself, Waititi allows the God of Thunder to finally have fun and let loose, while still offering cathartic, emotional advancements to the family dysfunction that’s defined Thor’s story. The entire thing feels like a satiric superhero story, but above all, celebrates what makes this series so endearing. Overall, the film fully embraces the absurdity of Thor’s world, pushing it way beyond the boundaries of what we thought possible and into its own realm of eccentric, cosmic adventure.

Going hand-in-hand with Waititi’s eccentricity, is a breathtaking visual language that feels inspired, rather than devolving into dull, sensory overload. Don’t get me wrong, the film is constantly a barrage of colorful sets, costumes and character interactions, but it somehow feels homegrown. As in Waititi’s previous films, there’s a sense of childlike imagination and ingenuity to everything, and even armed with a budget, these ideas feel pure. Skaar in particular is jam-packed with artist Jack Kirby’s trademark aesthetic, featuring defined lines and colors which immerse us into each frame. The icing on the cake, is the film’s action sequences, which rank among some of the Marvel universe’s biggest and baddest. From the Hulk and Thor gladiator battle, to the high-flying bookending battles that solidify Thor as one of the wildest and most powerful Avengers, this thing is an infectious feast for the eyes that leaves us begging for more.

Thor Ragnarok Review Cate Blanchett Karl UrbanNot to be outdone by all of the spectacle, the film’s ensemble rocks just as hard. At the heart of it all, Hemsworth proves that his comedic chops are the real deal, but still manages to make the story’s fleeting emotional beats matter. Over the course of each film, Hemsworth has taken Thor through a gamut of emotions, and ends up here with something fully formed and as magnetic as ever. Hiddleston’s Loki takes a slight backseat, but is as deviant and conniving to the core. Hiddleston’s chemistry with Hemsworth is the backbone of the film in many ways, and their relationship is the story’s heart. As Hela, Cate Blanchett is pure fire. The woman owns the sinister nature of her character, but oozes charisma and a commanding authority – she’s as entrancing as Loki was the first time out, and the film uses her well. Rounding things out, Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is worth the price of admission alone, while Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and Waititi’s endearing rock monster Korg, are both knockouts in more ways than one. The Marvel universe REALLY needs these three characters in other films, so here’s hoping there’s more where that came from. Lastly, Ruffalo continues to delineate Hulk and Banner as two unique parts of the same whole. There’s a sadness to Hulk and Banner that takes us deeper into the duo’s relationship, and this film sets up some interesting possibilities moving forward. As in any Waititi film, it’s really hard to pick a favorite character. Everyone here is so enjoyable and the film feels like a full-on party at times.

In the best way, it’s almost impossible to keep up with Thor: Ragnarok. No one can go all in the way that Waititi does, and yet the film never feels like a mess. Sometimes it’s a heavy metal album cover, other times an 8-bit video game. What it never stops being is a relentlessly funny and fitting adventure for a character usually drenched in self-serious, easily mocked pantomime. Even with high expectations, Ragnarok delivers and then some. This is another easy hit for Marvel thanks to its director’s colorful voice, and if it’s in fact the last solo Thor film, it’s one that resets the character as one of the most powerful, fun and engrossing Avengers yet.

SG