Imprisoned, the mighty Thor finds himself in a lethal gladiatorial contest against the Hulk, his former ally. Thor must fight for survival and race against time to prevent the all-powerful Hela from destroying his home and the Asgardian civilization.
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Say what you will about Thor: Ragnarok
biting Guardians of the Galaxy
's style or trying to reinvent the hero, what matters is whether a film works or it doesn't. And Marvel's third outing for the God of Thunder works in numerous ways. This is by far the best film with Thor as its main hero; it's funnier, more action-packed, the story has weight, and the cast is firing on all cylinders. Most importantly, Marvel finally has found a place for Thor within the library of its cinematic universe, making him an otherworldly hero with a dry wit.
If you're a Marvel zombie, then it's best to go into Thor: Ragnarok
knowing as little as possible. Director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows
) has done a great job of subverting expectations with the film, and going in clean will be justly rewarded. Assuming this is the last <Thor
movie starring Chris Hemsworth, Ragnarok
holds nothing back for the character and his universe. But the basics of the film surround Asgard being overthrown by Hela (Carol
's Cate Blanchett), the goddess of Death, and Thor being forced into gladiatorial combat on a far off planet, where his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston from Kong: Skull Island
) and the Hulk (Spotlight
's Mark Ruffalo) also happen to be present.
It's a basic revenge tale that isn't particularly unique, but Thor: Ragnarok
's approach to the idea is. The film doesn't go as far as Guardians of the Galaxy
in terms of its use of alien species and characters, but it does enough to make the film feel like its own slice of the Marvel universe. There's unpredictability to Thor: Ragnarok
that makes it refreshing, even if the end destination is made obvious in the first act. Thor, the character, takes a journey that isn't so much about self-discovery, but simply the good guy beating the bad guys. Without a need to expand the mythos of the character or tie into an Avengers
film, Thor: Ragnarok
is free to give the character a story that has great stakes and exciting moments.
After playing the character for 5 films now, Hemsworth feels right at home as Thor, but the most impressive quality of Ragnarok
is how funny he is. Sure, every Thor
film has given the character an opportunity to crack a joke or two, but mostly that felt like the writing doing the heavy lifting. Here, it is Hemsworth who flexes his comedic chops and he excels. This is a real departure tonally for Thor, and it wouldn't work without Hemsworth's talent as an actor.
Similarly, not enough can be said for how malicious Cate Blanchett is as Hela. She is imposing yet alluring and she feels like a villain with real skin in the game. Obviously, it is going to be hard to top Loki, who is arguably the best Marvel villain to date, but Blanchett is still memorable as Hela. She's not some massive CGI creation that's hell bent on destruction, but a deadly warrior with no qualms about the body count she leaves in her wake.
Alongside Hemsworth and Blanchett, the remaining cast does well to slide into a decidedly more comedic adventure. Ruffalo's Hulk is more fully formed than he has ever been, and though he spends a lot of the film as the big green brute his performance still shines through. Jeff Goldblum (The Grand Budapest Hotel
) is suitably campy (he basically plays himself) as the Grandmaster, overlord of the planet Sakaar and its gladiator battles. Truly, it's Tom Hiddleston who gets the shortest stick out of any of the cast members, because Blanchett has the scenery-chewing villain quotient filled. He is still the Loki that fans love, but he isn't as much a part of the story as some may expect.
But even if the overarching beat is predictable, Thor: Ragnarok
is another exciting adventure courtesy of Marvel Studios. It packs plenty of action and major character moments for Thor and the supporting cast, and it's easily one of the funniest movies in the entire cinematic universe.
Most moviegoers will be sold on the fact that Thor: Ragnarok
features an arena showdown between Thor and the Hulk, and the fight more than lives up to the billing. Without spoiling too much, Thor: Ragnarok
delivers on a lot of the big moments that fans have been hoping to see before Hemsworth calls it quits, and the film seems acutely aware of that. Is it the most action-packed or creative of the Marvel films? No. But it is still plenty exciting when the action is there. And the mixture of comedy helps give the action some fun beats.