Thor: Ragnarok delivers the third installment of the Thor movie franchise, which has been hit and misses so far. The original movie (like other first installment Marvel films) really nailed an introductory story for the character and set up a fun, off-Earth character for the MCU. It was followed up by Thor: The Dark World, which fell flat for a lot of Marvel movie lovers and was criticized for overdoing its humor and coming up short from a story perspective. As a character in the MCU, Thor has always been a fun and carefree addition to the team and his solo films have done a nice job of highlighting these aspects of the character but have never dived into what truly makes Thor so fantastic. One of the biggest problems with Thor is that the films have never truly placed the character in his home setting of Asgard. There have been portions of movies that show off the setting, but usually, Thor always ties back to Earth. Thor: Ragnarok finally seems to get everything right though, bringing together all of the character’s best aspects, nailing the humor, and delivering a story that finally breaks the traditional MCU mold that is so frequently complained about.
Probably the biggest reason Thor: Ragnarok stands apart from all of the other MCU films is because of the director, Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), who is known for his ability to blend a great grasp on comedy with specific genre based films. The director has a keen eye for style and Thor: Ragnarok fully embraces the vibrant color palette that other space-based MCU films have similarly utilized in the past couple of years. The setting is really how Waititi immediately sets the tone for his Thor movie though, quickly diving into the various planets at his disposal. Between Asgard, Sakaar and even the planet that Surtur rules in the movie’s opening (forgive me for blanking on the name if even mentioned), Thor fully embraces the characters origin of existing off-Earth and uses that to its advantage. Waititi breathes life into Ragnarok through the musical choices, visually stunning costume and set designs and the attitude that all of the characters have. While the film has familiar Marvel characters in it, Thor: Ragnarok is a sci-fi fantasy movie that viewers can get lost in, and it is easy to forget that the film on the screen is, in fact, a part of the MCU.
What enhances Thor: Ragnarok is the film’s story, which feels like it (to an extent) breaks the mold of other MCU movies in terms of the plot. A lot of criticism that the MCU receives is that Marvel has a mold that all of the movies fit into, being predictable and very similar in how everything on screen plays out. While certain recent additions to the MCU have done a nice job of somewhat altering that, Thor feels like it has given the character a franchise installment similar to Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The film opens with the Thor that everyone knows and loves, but this story forces the character to mature whether he wants to or not, and with that comes great themes surrounding family, culture, responsibility, and sacrifice. Thor is forced to step into Odin’s shoes and become the king of Asgard, making tough decisions along the way. The movie provides a nice stepping stone for the character into the next chapter of his life with a heavy emphasis on leadership and family. Ragnarok explores the complicated relationship between Thor and Loki, who have always butted heads but at the same time do value one another as brothers. Introducing Hela, the sister they didn’t know about, brings an additional layer of respect to what Thor and Loki have because while they clearly don’t see eye to eye, their battles really do come across as brotherly disagreements. The movie pushes them to look back at their lives and accept everything that has happened along the way. This is one of the biggest leaps in maturity for Thor when he finally acknowledges that he and Loki are different, but that Loki still has the ability to change his ways and Thor still sees him as his brother.
These ideas are echoed through the main antagonist, Hela, who has a grudge against their father for banishing her away when she became too powerful. Hela was an interesting character, but it would have been nice to see her motivations explored a little more in depth. She returns to expose Odin and the history of Asgard but spends no time attempting to convince her brothers that they should join her. Instead, she just immediately wants to take them down and destroy them; however, it would have been nice to explore the idea that Odin manipulated and handled things to best benefit himself. Regardless though, Hela brings to the table the perfect third dynamic for Thor and Loki in this movie. While the two brothers are exploring who they want to be for the next step of their lives, Hela represents the inherent evil and who Loki could easily become. Hela’s biggest problem is her unwillingness to change her views because she is all about conquering in order to prove Asgardians are the master race, but that’s not what makes someone a good leader. It’s nice to see the film show both Thor and Loki that display of physical power is not what makes people respect you or want to follow you.
At the film’s end, this is what really rounds out Thor: Ragnarok nicely and separates it from other MCU films. The idea that Asgard is the people, not the place. The destruction of Asgard represents a major physical loss for Thor as a character, which is rare because he is not able to fully save the day in this movie. He has to sacrifice his planet in order to save his people from a greater threat so that they can survive. The character learns to recognize the long-term gain and how it outweighs the short-term. On top of this, Thor loses his best friends in the Warriors 3, and while their deaths are displayed quick and insignificantly, it is another big blow for the hero. This is what happens during the war though and Thor learns to inspire others to join his quest. The supporting cast also does a great job of creating this unusual team in Thor: Ragnarok. The addition of Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson), Hulk/Bruce Banner and Korg enhanced how Thor has to step into a leadership position. The character was forced to connect with each of these people as individuals and learn to respect and work with them while at the same time inspiring them to come together as an odd team. Valkyrie’s background provided a really nice added connection to the history of Asgard and the arc of her return to glory, is proud to put on her old uniform, and represent her planet again was emotionally satisfying.
In the end, Thor: Ragnarok defined itself as the most diverse Thor movie that the MCU has seen so far. It continues the recent trend of being unique to the character and fully embracing the director’s vision. Taika Waititi has delivered another solid hit for himself but also at the same time shows that directors can very easily still operate creatively under the Marvel banner. Thor: Ragnarok really shows a new side to this character and going forward should change the landscape and expectation for Thor movies. The technical aspects are all superb, but what really gives this film life is the themes presented in the story. Thor: Ragnarok displays real growth for Thor and Loki, which will be important going into the future, and it shows that Thor is now more than just a hunk with a hammer, but a hero for his people and someone more than worthy to follow in Odin’s footsteps as the king of Asgard.
– Taika seriously knows how to nail humor. I don’t think he has put out a movie I have disliked and his use and portrayal of Korg were phenomenal.
– Shout out to whoever made that Matt Damon cameo happen. So great. Also, shout out to (I assume) Taika for bringing in his buddy Sam Neill in for that scene as well.
– Happy the movie included Fenris!! I knew Surtur was in it from the trailers but was curious how deep it would pull from the actual Ragnarok comic. Hype that these characters got screen time!
– I’m pumped they took away one of Thor’s eyes. Two would have been too radical as far as the movies go, but again, nice to see them sticking to the source material.
– The Infinity War connections here were interesting. 1. The gauntlet being fake and 2. Loki DEFINITELY taking the Tesseract at the end. Just makes me more excited to see how that film will play out but I’m happy they didn’t do anything more than this.
– Jeff Goldblum is a treasure. I loved that this just lets him go all the way.
– I love Karl Urban but I feel like he was underutilized. Fun character but was hoping to see a larger presence from him.
– Ruffalo really nailed his role in this movie for me. I love his acting so much and think that he brought so much life to the character normally known only for turning into the big guy. It was a nice change.
Thor: Ragnarok is now playing in theaters.