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In Marvel Studios' THOR: RAGNAROK, Thor is imprisoned on the other side of the universe without his mighty hammer and finds himself in a race against time to get back to Asgard to stop Ragnarok -- the destruction of his home world and the end of Asgardian civilization at the hands of an all-powerful new threat, the ruthless Hela. But first he must survive a deadly gladiatorial contest that pits him against his former ally and fellow Avenger -- the Incredible Hulk!
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And my prediction was right. This is not only Thor's best movie, but easily one of the most entertaining of all the MCU films.
Two years after the events of "Age of Ultron", Thor has been unsuccessfully searching for the Infinity Stones, and is imprisoned by the fire demon, Surtur. Surtur reveals that Thor's father, Odin, is no longer on Asgard, and that the realm will soon be destroyed in the prophesied end-of-days, Ragnarök. After defeating Surtur, Thor returns to Asgard to find his brother Loki posing as Odin. Thor forces Loki to help him find their father, and with some help from Doctor Strange, they locate Odin in Norway. Odin then reveals that he's dying, and that his passing will allow his firstborn child, the goddess of death, Hela, to escape from a prison she was sealed in long ago. With Odin's passing, Hela is freed, and she subsequently destroys Thor's hammer Mjolnir, then forces him and Loki out into space to die. But while she sets out to conquer Asgard, unbeknownst to her, Thor and Loki fall through a wormhole and crash land on Sakaar--a garbage planet where they're both captured, and where Thor is taken to serve as a gladiator for the planet's ruler, the Grandmaster. But after discovering his old friend, the Hulk, has also been living on the planet for some time, along with a long lost fellow Asguardian, Thor rallies together his friends and the planet's citizens to overthrow the Grandmaster and find a way off the planet, so that he may return home, defeat Hela, and save Asgard.
Anyone who's become bored of Thor's character in his previous two films will be pleasantly surprised here. Gone is the traditional Shakespearian talk, and what we get instead is a fast paced, funny movie that dials the humor up to 11 and, dare I say it, is even funnier than the Guardians of the Galaxy films. Even for a situation as serious as Asgard potentially being destroyed (and with plenty of previously established Asgardians meeting their ends), the movie hits the perfect balance of knowing when to be serious, and when to let the humor and absurdness of certain situations shine. (And to any Led Zeppelin fans, yes, the "Immigrant Song" from the trailers is in the movie, and used to great effect.)
About the only criticism I can give is that the plot is incredibly fast paced, particularly towards the start, where a TON of info-dumping is given to explain what happened between "The Dark World" and now, and give backstory to the new characters---thus revealing that many of the previously established lore from the past Thor movies either was a lie, or a cover up. But it's all handled very well and makes total sense (it just goes by fast, so be prepared to pay close attention). Every single character gets their time to shine, and not one person steals the whole movie. Everyone, both hero and villain, is funny and memorable. Hela is having the time of her life destroying everything in her wake; Asgardian newcomer Valkerie has an interesting past (and though as much as I like Jane Foster, Val arguably makes for a better love interest for Thor), and the Hulk finally gets a chance to fully talk and articulate himself, thus leading to the movie not only being about Thor, but also being a small, sly adaption of the famous "Planet Hulk" storyline from the comics. And it all ends with a shocking final battle that does for Thor what "The Winter Soldier" did to Captain America.
So to any naysayers of the Thor films, this third installment will definitely be your cup of tea. With a fast, engaging plot, memorable characters, and witty humor, this is the huge kick in the pants that Thor needed.
That panel, assembled at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con, gave away the tone of the movie. Although, you only had to look at who's directing to suss out that this one won't be a shining specimen of sober Shakespearean dramaturgy. I think when Taita Waititi was a young lad and realized he had that silly kind of name, he gave up all aspirations of being a somber person. Taita Waititi, who directed five episodes of The Inbetweeners, is given steerage of a blockbuster Marvel movie and drives it like a boss. Those saying Thor: Ragnarok is the best Marvel movie ever, calm down. Ragnarok lacks the gravitas of, say, Captain America: Winter Soldier. What makes Ragnarok so spectacular is also what sinks it some. Me, I laughed my ass off start to finish. I thought every jokey flourish worked. But I agree that the sheer breadth of levity comes at the occasional expense of genuine emotion and a disservicing of the high stakes involved. Still, Thor: Ragnarok is incredibly fun. It's better than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Not to say that there weren't genuine emotions worked in. There are serious, serious stakes. You only have to glance at the movie title. I say Thor, of all the core Marvel heroes, ends up being the one who suffers the most loss. I didn't even think of that until much after the movie, because when the movie was going on, I was too busy chortling and trying not to spray soda and popcorn from my nose. Thor: Ragnarok is Marvel's take on the buddy comedy and the road picture. For those who were grumbling that Thor is always tooling around on Earth, well, he's only on Earth for two minutes. Most times, he's gallivanting around either on Asgard or in deep space, and this is where the Jack Kirby influence is the most felt. Praise Taika Waititi, who directed Eagle vs. Shark, for doing honor to King Kirby. This movie is a riot of bold imagery and vivid colors, and never more so than during Thor's time on Sakaar, a junk planet what's home to the lost and unloved and, also, site to the Grandmaster's gladiatorial Contest of Champions. The Grandmaster is played by Jeff Goldblum at his most Jeff Goldblumy. This is a wonderful thing.
Timeline: It's been two years since the Age of Ultron, and we get caught up to what the Hulk's been up to and what Thor's been up to. We learn that when Thor wasn't hanging with his Aussie roomie, Darryl, he was out and about searching for Infinity Stones. Thor: Ragnarok quickly ties up loose ends left dangled from Thor: The Dark World. Loki's impersonating Odin. Where Thor and Jane are at. Or, put another way, Thor: Ragnarok ruthlessly discards the excess baggage in Thor's universe. There are other call backs that I'd be a real jerk to mention, so I won't, except there's something that Thor says to Hulk when they meet in the arena that had me cracking up.
One question not addressed: Where the heck was Lady Sif?
There are more nods to Planet Hulk than I'd dared hoped. I love the hell out of Korg, the stone guy with the self-effacing kiwi accent who is voiced by Taika Waititi himself. I would say that Korg steals the movie, except that everyone gets a turn stealing the movie. Chris Hemsworth proves again that he's got impeccable comic timing. An enduring strength of the Thor series has always been the sibling rivalry dynamic between Thor and Loki. Hemsworth and Hiddleston are always great together. Cate Blanchett seems very aware of what kind of movie she's in. It's obvious she revels in playing the irredeemable goddess of death, but she takes care to not cross over into self-caricature.
Who's the most badass in the movie? It's not Thor or Hela or even the Hulk. My two cents is that it's "Scrapper 142," as fleshed out by a sultry, swaggering Tessa Thompson who, from memorable entrance to last shot, is simply tremendous. While most other characters are, in one form or another, bound to a role they must play, Scrapper 142 is one character who is given liberty to have an arc that can go wherever.
Off the top of my head, other things I love: The Flash Gordon-type synth score. The Immigrant Song finding its way from trailer to movie. Several unexpected cameos. The "Help Me" ploy. The Thor-Hulk bromance. Hulk now with the vocabulary of a sulky two-year-old.
In a movie that brims with snappy lines, my favorite - and I don't know why - is Thor's jab at Surtur: "Oh, that's a crown. I thought it was a big eyebrow." Heh.
If you do a binge-viewing of all three Thor movies, you may get whiplash from the tonal transition from Thor: The Dark World to Thor: Ragnarok. This may be the funniest Marvel movie yet. It's easily the best Thor movie. I reiterate that the relentlessness of the humor does undercut the movie's several dips into melodramatic content. In spite of that, I love this movie lots. This is a self-aware movie that delivers on giddy fan service, and I mean "fan service" in the best way. The action is grandiose and bombastic. Thor comes into his own as a Thunder God. And the Hulk still comes off as the most viable response to an extinction-level threat. Man, just go see the movie. It'll turn your frown upside down. My eyeballs hurt from never blinking, that's how much I didn't want to miss out on anything, and I probably did anyway. This movie comes at you fast.
If you're inclined, stick around for a mid-credits scene and a post-credits scene.
Some parting stuff, and a ***SPOILERS*** alert now:
- I wasn't down with how the movie spends so much time emasculating Loki; I thought it weakened his character some
- Karl Urban's Skurge starts off great but then gets stuck in a one-note rut
- When Thor goes into thunder god mode and starts crackling with electricity, that must've been a hell of an insulated chip on his neck to not get shorted out
- Stan Lee is the worst barber ever
- I hope, hope, hope we get Straczynski’s Asgard in Oklahoma story arc
- I want to go out the way Odin goes out, with a gentle poof of glitter