This is the kind of film that will capture your love at a certain point. Some moment, some joke, some line of dialogue will hold your absolute attention and no matter what happens after it, your adoration is absolute. For me, it was in the first five minutes. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is chained up from the ceiling, being monologued at by his ancient fire enemy Surtur. Twice, Thor halts the soliloquy when his rotating body renders him unable to see his opponent. I was hooked. Thankfully for the rest of you, the remaineder of the film is one of the best Marvel movies to date.
Fresh off the defeat of Ultron/wherever in the timeline Thor 2 was, our bearded hero has been running around the galaxy, trying to stop Ragnarok (those visions of the end times he received in the second Avengers film). His mission seemingly accomplished, he returns home to discover that Loki has supplanted Odin (Anthony Hopkins) on the throne and stuck him away in a New York nursing home. They actually find him in Norway, where Odin informs Thor that he has an older sister, the goddess of death Hela (a delightful Cate Blanchett). As soon as Odin dies, she will return from her banishment, which Odin promptly does, and Hela also promptly does. And she is much, much stronger than Thor, which she shows by shattering his hammer, throwing him into the wastes of the universe, and conquering Asgard.
Thor finds himself on a junk world planet, run by the enigmatic Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum at his Goldblumiest). He is forced into a gladiator conquest against, surprise, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) Now, with the help of an alcoholic Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) Thor has the backup he needs to retake Asgard.
I was so pumped for this movie for one simple reason: the director. Taika Waititi can do no wrong at this point. He directed two of the best movies you haven’t seen (What we Do in the Shadows and The Hunt for the Wilderpeople). He brings an independent lens to a big budget flick. And he specializes in that unique brand of New Zealand comedy that made Flight of the Conchords such a hit. Waititi infused the movie with the best, consistently hilarious, subtly brilliant jokes in the entire cinematic universe. AND it’s not quite as predictable as you think. I’m sure he wasn’t allowed to deviate too far from Kevin Feige’s plans but his workmanship is clearly here. You can also find him voicing the gut-bustingly funny Korg: an alien made of sentient rocks.
Hemsworth gets to show off his impressive comedy skills. Tessa Thompson has the face of an angel. Hulk finally gets to talk in complete sentences. Cate Blanchett chews the scenes with aplomb, and Loki finally doesn’t make me mad every time he’s on screen.
What the film lacks is what all the Marvel films lack at this point. Some things I’m convinced are unsolvable. Thor is a god, right? How can anyone beat him? But then people do at inconsistent times. What is his upper power limit? No one knows so it’s hard to feel a sense of danger for him as a character.
Why does Earth have any importance at all in the grand scheme of things?
They have not, and will never, figure out how to do romances in these movies. Because they’ll never be able to afford Natalie Portman and Gwyneth Paltrow at the same time. Hilariously handled – “It was a mutual dumping” – but tonally disjointed.
Just kill Loki. Just do it. He’s not a good guy. He’s committed horrible atrocities. He better not ‘redeem’ himself in the infinity war.
All things that irk, but can easily be overlooked. Thor: Ragnarok is easily in the top five Marvel movies for its hilarious script, character growth oriented plot, and excellent rewatchability. It’s a hoot. Go see it.
3.5 out of 4 stars
P.S. did you spot those cameos?