Thor: Ragnarok made the God of Thunder cool again. As the seventeenth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor: Ragnarok decided to reinvent the strongest Avenger. Although Thor and to a lesser extent Thor: The Dark World are well liked by fans of the MCU, most people wouldn’t claim them as their favorites. The first movie was more of a cosmic introduction focused on world building, but the second movie went a little too Shakespearean. Unlike Iron Man or Captain America, it took 4 years, 2 Guardians of the Galaxy movies, and a Spider-Man reboot to finally complete the Thor trilogy. So it was clear that radical changes needed to be made in order to make Thor worthy of anticipation.
The Ragnarok title was encouraging since the devastation of Ragnarök is so important to Norse mythology. The event was covered in Marvel comics as early as the 1978 Thor #272-278. The early title reveal hinted at Asgard’s darkest chapter yet, but that changed as soon as offbeat New Zealand director Taika Waititi was hired to direct. The Thor trilogy has the rare distinction of having a different director for each movie. Giving every movie a distinctly different feel. Although I prefer a stoic God of Thunder, I can’t deny that Ragnarok is easily one of the funniest movies in the MCU. My anticipation only grew when “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin was finally played with the first teaser. The hammer of the gods, will drive our ships to new lands…
Thor: Ragnarok needed to answer the question of where Thor and Hulk were during Civil War. According to a hilarious non-canon mockumentary short titled Team Thor, he was laying back in Australia with his flatmate Darryl. There were actually three equally funny shorts released with the Blu-ray for Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and Thor: Ragnarok. On the ABC side of the MCU, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was heading into season 5, but Inhumans was a major disappointment. On the Netflix side of the MCU, The Defenders was a relative success with a Punisher spin-off on the way. The MCU only expanded with The Runaways heading to Hulu as well. Yet despite all my options, I remained a steadfast Thor fan. Although I enjoyed the teaser, I wasn’t a fan of Thor’s hammer being destroyed or his hair being cut. The image of Thor is so uniquely magnificent that I couldn’t help but be bothered by it. Not many superheroes carry a hammer or have long flowing blonde hair. Chris Hemsworth is mostly to blame since he was desperate to reinvent Thor.
Along with his appearance, the thunder from down under was finally given a chance to be funny. Thor always had his moments of levity, but he was typically more serious than his other lighthearted Avengers. Since Hemsworth was easily the funniest part of Ghostbusters and Vacation, Thor took life a little less seriously without feeling like a different character. It has now been 4 years since The Dark World and 2 years since Age of Ultron. So many Thor characters are used and/or omitted entirely. About 90% of Ragnarok takes place in space since Jane Foster, Erik Selvig, and Darcy Lewis would have slowed the movie down. Ragnarok is a genuine 80’s style adventure with cosmic weirdness and several storylines effortlessly blended together. They somehow managed to pull off Ragnarok, Marvel Super Hero Contest of Champions, Planet Hulk, and a Doctor Strange cameo in only 2 hours & 10 minutes. Ragnarok begins with a fiery Marvel Studios logo followed by Thor stuck in a cage on Muspelheim. The hellish plane is one of the remaining Nine Realms I expected to see in a Thor film. The movie’s humor is made clear right off the bat with Thor telling a skeleton what he’s been up to since leaving Midgard in search of Infinity Stones. Thor’s appearance is closer to later comics with a darker red cape, discless breastplate, and his long hair in the usual Viking braid.
I knew Muspelheim had to mean the arrival of fire demon Surtur. Ragnarok was sure to include any remaining member of Thor’s mythical rogues gallery. Surtur is a serious threat, but Mr. Krabs himself Clancy Brown does make him a bit less horrifying. Surtur recounts the prophecy of Ragnarök that foretells Asgard’s destruction at his hands. All he has to do is unite his crown with the Eternal Flame in Odin’s treasure room and grow to the size of a mountain. Meanwhile, Thor dangles uncontrollably and mistakes Surtur’s crown for an eyebrow (an inside joke for Marvel fans). What follows is Thor finally going full God of Thunder before he’s stripped of his hammer. Thor easily defeats fire demons and obtains Surtur’s crown in an awesome first fight appropriately set to “Immigrant Song.” I’ve been wanting to hear the song ever since the first movie since it’s the only well known song about Norse mythology. Similar to “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath, it was only a matter of time. Luckily the Guardians of the Galaxy feel of the movie made that a possibility. Thor flies away from a fire dragon, but Heimdall fails to open the Bifröst.
The Rainbow Bridge is now under the not so watchful eyes of Skurge. Karl Urban is no stranger to fantasy worlds, so he put on a thick accent, shaved his head, and got into shape in a way that ended up looking close to the comics. Skurge obtains his signature machine guns (and a Shake Weight) from his travels on Midgard. He’s not very bright, but Skurge does manage to return Thor to his home for the first time in 2 years. Loki sitting on the throne of Asgard disguised as Odin is finally addressed with the God of Mischief building a monument to himself and forcing everyone to watch a play in his honor. The unexpected theater performance puts a humorous spin on the events of The Dark World. The scene of Loki “dying” on Svartalfheim is performed by Chris’ seldom seen brother Luke Hemsworth as Thor, Sam Elliott as Odin, and Matt Damon himself as Loki. The play is the closest thing to an appearance from Lady Sif since Jamie Alexander was busy with her show Blindspot. Thor actors are strangely fickle when it comes to the franchise. If they’re not killed off, they’re either left out, recast, or appear in a limited capacity.
Anthony Hopkins for some reason thought Transformers: The Last Knight was more important, so he doesn’t narrate or wear Odin’s armor. Instead, he also gets a chance to be funny while impersonating Loki in a lounge robe. Thor brings his “father” up to speed while playing with his hammer that he uses to reveal his brother. Tom Hiddleston is the most consistent supporting player since this is Loki’s 4th appearance. His look is about the same, but he does eventually wear more blue than green. Loki has gone from prince to villain to anti-hero to slightly less evil anti-hero. Which is why he’s willing to help his brother find Odin after he was abandoned on Earth. In our brief time spent on Earth, we learn that Odin isn’t in New York, that Jane dumped Thor between movies, and the latter is about to receive a visit from the Sorcerer Supreme. Like I said in my Doctor Strange review, it’s awesome to see the Master of the Mystic Arts show up whenever a magical problem arises. Strange traps Loki in a portal since he’s a major threat kept on a watchlist, and summons Thor to the Sanctum Sanctorum. They chat over a magical beer in a slightly different take than the mid-credits scene. Strange locates Odin with a spell that requires a lock of Thor’s hair, then slings the Asgardian brothers to Norway.
Although Ragnarok may go a little overboard with its jokes, I take solace in the fact that sillier ideas were cut. Waititi very nearly included a scene of Asgard during the 1980’s and had Loki being trapped in a portapotty instead of falling for 30 minutes! The biggest last minute change was having Odin ascend to Valhalla in a much more dignified way instead of become a crazy hobo who dies in a New York ally. The change was so last minute that some of it can still be seen in the teaser trailer. Thor & Loki are instead brought to the peaceful Norway where they share a joke-free moment with their father. Odin reveals the existence of their sister Hela who will arrive as soon as he dies. True to his word, the Goddess of Death immediately makes her presence known. I never expected Hela to become the villain of any Thor movie, but she was the first villainess of the MCU. Unlike the movie, Hela was originally the daughter of Loki who ruled both Hel and Niflheim. Making her Odinsdottir gave Thor a more personal foe to vanquish. Versatile actress Cate Blanchett was perfectly cast as the seductively gothic Goddess of Death. She even manages to make her ridiculous comic accurate antler helmet look good.
Thor & Loki get into god mode with Thor striking his umbrella just like how Donald Blake did in the original comics. Hela proves her might by destroying Mjolnir less than an hour into the movie. Before we have time to process that, Loki is sent hurtling out of the Bifröst and Hela does the same to Thor after engaging in a brief fight. The Warriors Three are on the other end of the bridge, but they’re killed so unceremoniously that it feels like a slight slap in the face. Ray Stevenson at least gets a few lines in before Volstagg is killed. Fandral being killed at least gave Zachary Levi a certain other hero to play the following year. The only warrior who gets a fighting chance is Tadanobu Asano’s Hogun trying to hold off Hela with the armies of Asgard. Hela easily takes them out with her magically forming weapons. Although I would have prefered Amora the Enchantress, Hela is a logical second choice to make Skurge the Executioner. He’s given his comic accurate axe and the task of rounding up Asgardian citizens. Idris Elba plays a far more renegade Heimdall with dreadlocks who reclaims his sword and grants most of Asgard sanctuary in a very Lord of the Rings part of the realm.
Most of Asgard sees Hela reveal its true past as a warmongering people led by Odin and Hela using Mjolnir. Hela executes her plan by resurrecting her dead army, including the giant Fenris Wolf. It’s also in the treasure room that Hela finally confirms the Infinity Gauntlet easter egg seen in the first movie to be a fake. Meanwhile, most of the action takes place away from the Nine Realms on the waste planet Sakaar. It’s there that Thor is stripped of half his cape and must contend with fighting without his hammer. But he’s ultimately taken prisoner by Scrapper 142 otherwise known as Valkyrie. I was expecting the leader of the all-female Valkyrior to be the obvious love interest after Jane & Sif were gone. Although I’d prefer the blonde Brunnhilde, Tessa Thompson does have natural chemistry with Hemsworth. They’re just depicted as warriors who grow a mutual respect for one another. Valkyrie’s costume is similar to the comic without the metal breastplate. She’s also a heavy drinker who wants to forget her past after Hela killed most of her sisters during the ride of the Valkyries. The sequence is like a painting since Waititi takes full advantage of comic book imagery. Sakaar is very much modeled after colorful Jack Kirby artwork.
The ruler of Sakaar is the hedonistic Grandmaster. He’s just as eccentric as his brother the Collector, but his skin isn’t blue since Jeff Goldblum already played a blue alien in Earth Girls Are Easy. Goldblum takes full advantage of his improvisational skills with a hilariously off-kilter performance. Frequent WaItiti actress Rachel House plays his chief enforcer Topaz. Valkyrie takes Thor to the Grandmaster where he forces him to fight in his Contest of Champions. Unlike the superhero filled comic storyline, the contest is gladiatorial combat between unwilling alien lifeforms. Thor also runs into Loki, who’s been there awhile and gained favor with the Grandmaster. Watiti is no stranger to superhero movies (*cough* Green Lantern), so he was perfect for the voice of the CGI Korg. It’s at this point that the Planet Hulk influence becomes more obvious. Unlike the storyline that I read, the arena is more like a sporting event with a less serious take on most featured characters. Korg is still a Kronan rock alien, but he’s more like a soft spoken Polynesian with a ton of funny dialogue. Alien ant warrior Meik is also less tragic with a purple exoskeleton and robot body. Thor begins to grow indifferent to his brother’s constant deception, which begins to affect Loki. He at least tells Thor about the Grandmaster’s astonishingly savage champion before disappearing.
As Thor readies for battle with a new weapon, Stan Lee himself cuts his hair in a wacky cameo as an alien barber. Hulk returns after 2 years in order to do Planet Hulk within the Thor franchise. In the comics, Hulk was exiled from the Earth for being too powerful. Eventually having to fight for his life on Sakaar where he becomes a hero and even finds love with an alien. The movie manages to keep some of that by having his Quinjet fly into a wormhole. Hulk is beloved by the people of Sakaar in his new gladiator role. The Hulk CGI has changed slightly to incorporate Mark Ruffalo’s facial features. All because this is the first movie to finally have the Hulk speak more consistently. Like the comics, he talks like a toddler and was able to suppress Bruce Banner all this time. Although I’m not crazy about him becoming comic relief, his trademark smashing makes up for it. A short haired Thor gears up with a winged helmet and greets the Hulk as a friend from work. Their long awaited rematch after The Avengers is everything you want to see from the strongest Avengers.
Thor uses a pair of swords, but ultimately picks up Hulk’s giant hammer. He even tries to calm down the Green Goliath with the ol’ “Sun’s getting real low” speech before Hulk uses the same body slamming move he used on Loki. Hulk starts to gain the upperhand, but Thor suddenly gains control over thunder without the use of his hammer. The Grandmaster cheats by incapacitating him with the shocking device on his neck. After Thor’s fourth obligatory shirtless scene (and a surprisingly naked Hulk in a hot tub), Thor plans to escape using the Hulk’s Quinjet. They argue like children, but Thor eventually gets through to him. He even manages to get through to Valkyrie with a speech about what heroes do. Valkyrie & Loki are tasked by the Grandmaster to find the prisoners when they turn up missing. Hulk only becomes Banner again when Thor activates a message from Black Widow. Bruce is understandably disturbed by the fact that he’s been the Hulk for 2 years. Tony Stark is referenced twice with a clever callback to his Point Break nickname and Bruce wearing his clothes on their way off the planet. Although he’s still fairly reserved, this was also Ruffalo’s chance to be funny.
They avoid detection in a Hulk parade and encounter Valkyrie, who takes them to a chained up Loki. Probably the best bit of improvisation is Thor’s hilariously out of nowhere story about Loki becoming a snake when they were children. An earlier joke references a time from the comics when Thor was turned into a frog. Loki agrees to help for safe passage. The brothers come to an agreement of never seeing eachother again while shooting blasters in a hallway. Thor even does “Get help” after bringing it up in the elevator. It’s only after one too many betrayals that Thor leaves Loki on Sakaar with a shocking device attached. Korg finally starts a revolution as a distraction and the rest escape using the Grandmaster’s pleasure vehicle that he uses for orgies. The flying scene calls back to one of the few highlights from The Dark World. A ship destroying chase leads them to the crudely named “Devil’s Anus.” As they return to a war-torn Asgard, the Revengers prepare for battle on the Bifröst. It’s a unique take on a bridge climax that sees Thor waiting for Hela in the throne room, Valkyrie suiting up in a less than comic accurate white costume, and Banner attempting to Hulk out in order to fight Fenris Wolf. The fight between Hela brings back the lesson Odin taught his sons when they were children about never seeking war, but always being ready for it.
As Thor fights with his father’s staff, Hela takes out one of his eyes. Loki arrives in his bended horns with Korg and more gladiators to rescue Heimdall and the Asgardians. Never thought I’d see Hulk fighting a giant CGI wolf on the big screen, but it’s just as cool as it sounds. Thor seeks help from Odin in a vision and he tells his son that the power was inside him all along. Leading to another kickass “Immigrant Song” fight where Thor unleashes all of his thunder on Hela and her undead army. Skurge even gets redemption by using his machine guns in a worthy sacrifice. When they fail to stop Hela, Thor realizes the only option is to allow Ragnarök to happen. Loki unites Surtur’s crown with the Eternal Flame, but not before staring at the Tesseract (remember that!). As Surtur rises to destroy Asgard, Hela is defeated once and for all. In the end, the people of Asgard lose their home, but gain Thor as their king. He wears an eye patch like his father and Loki agrees to stay by him. After a few more jokes from Korg and a stylish credits sequence, things get deadly serious in a mid-credits scene where the Asgardian vessel on its way to Earth is overshadowed by the enormous warship Sanctuary II. Things lighten up again with a humorous after-credits scene of the Grandmaster calling Sakaar’s revolution a tie. Thor: Ragnarok is a fun spectacle that gave the God of Thunder a fighting chance.