With Thor: Ragnarok hitting theaters we are now only mere months away from the Infinity War! Ragnarok brings the two Avengers that were noticeably absent from the Civil War conflict back to the forefront in a film that is part Planet Hulk, part intergalactic buddy road movie and ultimately the Thor film we’ve always wanted. With Alan Taylor leaving the franchise (or maybe he wasn’t invited back after Terminator Genisys?), we now have Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople) who’s more well known for his comedic chops taking the helm. We got a preview of his new direction with the God of Thunder with the hilarious Team Thor shorts and this is a much different superhero film than we are used to from Marvel/Disney proper.
In the first act Thor: Ragnarok wastes no time unleashing Hela the Goddess of Death (Cate Blanchett) and her fury on Asgard, banishing Thor and Loki to the planet of Sakaar and giving Thor his Infinity War character update. The film spends the majority of the narrative flip-flopping back and forth. We witness Thor forced to face the Hulk in gladiatorial combat for the amusement of Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), the eccentrically psychotic ruler of Sakaar and brother of the Collector, as Hela literally takes on all of Asgard by herself. The film is a race against time as Thor must gain the trust of the Hulk who has been living in this form on Sakaar now for two years since Age of Ultron, so he can find his way back to Asgard to try and defeat Hela to save his people.
For me, it was nearly impossible for anything to live up to that initial teaser trailer as I watched in shock and horror as Mjolnir was effortlessly crushed at the hands of Hela. But Ragnarok somehow manages to hold its own as we see Thor’s journey of self-discovery that started in the first film was nowhere near complete, as he is once again tasked with making sense of Odin’s legacy and its continuing repercussions. Amid the comedy, these stark thematic elements just under the surface begin to evolve into the Son of Odin’s final trial before he must face Thanos. The Thor we meet at the beginning of Ragnarok is a much different hero than the one seen standing at the end credits.
Ragnarok is hilarious and visually stunning. The best way to describe Thor: Ragnarok visually speaking is it’s like the living embodiment of the cover of the most badass Atari 2600 cartridge you could possibly imagine come to life on screen. I mean Taika Waititi gives us Mjolnir vision! The film’s heavy 80’s vibe is only amped up by the film’s retro color pallet and an amazing synth score by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh culminating in the strongest cohesive vision in the Marvel canon since the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Hemsworth is the funniest he’s been and it’s a stunning contrast to the dry humor of the cunning Hela who is the most formidable Marvel villain yet. Ragnarok is a welcome change of pace after the all that Civil War drama and exemplifies these films are at their best when they’re fun and Ragnarok indeed that.