The 2017 Marvel movie season ends with a bang and a chuckle this weekend with the opening of Thor: Ragnarok. When we last left Thor, he was out to seek answers regarding the Infinity Stones back at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Too many Infinity Stones had been appearing in the Midgard realm, that is Earth to you and me, for Thor’s liking.
This new chapter takes place after the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron and finds Thor in trouble. He loses his hammer. He is imprisoned and forced into gladiatorial combat versus the Hulk. Plus he must stop Hela, Goddess of Death, from bringing about Ragnarok to Asgard and all of the Nine Realms. After he escapes the planet, he is marooned on the first, of course.
The film’s screenplay was written by Eric Pearson, known for the Marvel One-Shots that accompany the DVD and Blu-Ray releases, and Craig Kyle, who is known as a writer from the Marvel animated world. The director is Taika Waititi, who is best known for Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) which won many awards on the film festival circuit.
Thor: Ragnarok reunites many familiar characters from the previous Marvel Cinematic Universe film and adds some new faces too.
The cast includes: Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cate Blanchett (Hela), Idris Elba (Heimdall), Jeff Goldblum (Grandmaster), Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie), Karl Urban (Skurge), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner / Hulk), Anthony Hopkins (Odin), Benedict Cumberbatch (Doctor Strange), Taika Waititi (Korg), Rachel House (Topaz), Clancy Brown (Surtur – voice), Tadanobu Asano (Hogun), Ray Stevenson (Volstagg), and Zachary Levi (Fandral).
The film opens with Thor narrating his struggles while trapped in chains within the lair of Surtur, battling a rising tide of villainous characters and creatures from across the realms. The comedy starts here. That’s right! You heard me right. This is a comedy first and an action-spectacle second. Hard to believe, but perhaps the logical result of the success of those “A-hole” Guardians.
Once Thor concludes his business with Surtur, he heads home. He learns something at the Fire Demon’s lair that has set him on edge and he needs to get to Asgard to investigate post haste. Once he arrives, he discovers the fate that has befallen Odin at the hands of Loki. He is less than pleased.
That takes us back to Midgard to hunt for Odin. Just two bros hanging out, seeking to reconnect with their old man. Weepy stuff, really. Thankfully the venomous relationship that the brothers share suffices to spice things up quite a bit. Also, Dr. Strange lends them a hand, too.
Once the the family reunion is over with, things kick into high gear as that meeting is quickly followed by the entry of Hela, Goddess of Death, onto the screen. Imprisoned for thousands of years and sporting a sweet skull cap that puts Loki’s to shame, she is not happy on a Wagnerian scale. Upside: she is pretty hot.
Once the brothers battle Hela, very briefly, they both find themselves thrown off the Bifrost Bridge and into another realm altogether, Sakaar. This world sits at a bizarre juncture of space-time. Several inter-dimensional portals exists in the sky above this planet. Detritus from countless worlds land in a waterfall, or I should say garbage-fall, of amazing chaos.
The planet is ruled by the Grandmaster and he loves a good old-fashioned duel to the death. He has a stadium dedicated to just this purpose and his current reigning Champion happens to be green and smashy. Thus, Thor is reunited with his work buddy Hulk and the buddy comedy element really kicks into higher gear.
I cannot say enough good things about how the lighter tone here really fits Thor and Hemsworth. The film keeps up a great pace, delivers joke after joke, and still propels forward with the mandatory “hero’s journey” that Thor must undertake. He must somehow get back to Asgard and rescue his home. Did I mention he is hammer-less?
Wonderful to see a well made comedy that happens to star superheroes in spandex. Excelsior indeed.