Greetings from the Edge!
Today I’ll be talking about the latest offering from Marvel/Disney, Thor: Ragnarok. After Thor: The Dark World came out to lackluster reception by both critics and fans, can the third film in the series end the cycle on a high note? Starring Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie, and Cate Blanchett as Hela. With excellent support from Idris Elba, Karl Urban, and a wildly eccentric performance from Jeff Goldblum as The Grandmaster, an Elder of the Universe.
We open with Thor trapped in Niefelheim, the fiery realm of Surtur, wielder of the sword Twilight destined to bring about the destruction of Asgard, home of the gods. After a pretty amusing dialogue between Thor and Surtur, the action starts and honestly, never really stops. Which normally I would find boring, but between the action, both comedic and dramatic, there are enough quiet moments to give you time to absorb one scene before moving onto the next.
I was impressed with the way director Taika Waititi paced the movie, both briskly enough to keep you from pondering the sometimes slightly thin plot while never making you feel like you were drowning in exposition or merely being bombarded with pretty pictures in an attempt to simply numb the viewer.
I feel I need to bring something up here that Thor: Ragnarok did well that the current crop of DC movies has failed so abysmally in: the use of color, vibrant and beautiful, so refreshing after the grey and muddy world that DC has been offering, even counting the breakout success of Wonder Woman that finally brought a little sunlight into DC’s benighted world… at least until Diana reaches war torn WWI Europe, but hey, it was something, right?
The effects in Thor: Ragnarok are every bit as good as you would expect from such a blockbuster franchise, and I would particularly like to say that the Hulk has never looked better, feeling more like an actual presence than ever before. There was a wound effect on Thor at the very end of the film that I’m not entirely sure was successful, but it was certainly nothing egregious. I think my favorite effects had to be Cate Blanchett as Hela wielding her dark power against Thor and the forces of Asgard.
It would have been simple to go the easy route with generic energy effects, but instead she dispatches her enemies with weapons made of some dark obsidian-like substance. This gives the visual effects department liberty to make all kinds of dark magic swords, spears, spikes, and other nasty pointy implements.
As a long time fan of Marvel’s Thor comics, I can see where some fans might have a problem with some of the liberties taken with Thor’s mythology. However, I can’t help but feel that the changes are coming from a place of love. Thor: Ragnarok maintains a fairly light tone for a movie about “The Twilight of the Gods” and I don’t think that is a bad thing. Tragedy does stalk Thor: Ragnarok, but like the myth, it reflects that Ragnarok is not about death, it is about sacrifice and the fight for rebirth.
For me, the greatest Thor writer will always be Walt Simonson, and while his stories are often tinged with sorrow, he always left the reader feeling uplifted, feeling that sacrifice has purpose, that heroism is a reason unto itself, and that even in the darkest night, life goes on and joy is nothing to be ashamed of. While I don’t think Thor: Ragnarok manages all that, I certainly don’t find fault in its optimism and humor at a time I think we all could use a health dose of those particular emotions.
I highly recommend Thor: Ragnarok if you enjoyed any of the other Thor films, because I feel that Ragnarok is the best of the trilogy. It is a fun, funny action romp with a little more heart than you might expect, and if you have enjoyed the rest of the Marvel films, it won’t disappoint. If you want a heavy pretentious pseudo-drama that thinks it has hidden depths and smears its whole world in grey misery because “Like, life is pain,” ( Batman V Superman “cough” ) Thor: Ragnarok isn’t what you’re looking for.
It can be silly, funny, and even at its darkest, doesn’t take itself all that seriously, but if you want a spectacle, a wild ride and a little heart, give Thor: Ragnarok a try and do it while it’s still in the theater. It’s big enough to deserve a real screen viewing and there is not only an ending credits scene but a very end of the credits scene. So unless you had the extra-extra large soda, you might want to stick around for that as well.
Nerdy Speculation Corner: Warning, may contain both spoilers and dangerous amounts of geekery!
I’ve tried to be very non-spoilery in my review, but I can’t help but take a moment to speak to the other comic fans about a few fun moments and a small personal disappointment.
Firstly, did anyone else spot Beta-Ray Bill’s face on the Grandmasters citadel? I would have loved it even more if we’d gotten to see him, but maybe that means we’ll get to see him in the Infinity War movies?
Does anyone else think that the valkyrie that saves… Valkyrie ( Did Tessa Thompson really not rate a full name? ) in her flashback look a lot like Brunhilde, Marvel’s classic valkyrie?
Thor’s mace in his arena fight with the Hulk is pretty much the spitting image of his good friend Hercules’s adamantine mace… probably not a coincidence.
While Karl Urban does a fun job as Skurge, I’m afraid that Thor steals a lot of the Executioner’s thunder and left me wishing that Urban had a little more screen time to flex his muscles and give us the truly epic last stand we saw in Thor #362. A story that elevated itself from comic into modern myth.