This week’s box office will be dominated by Marvel Infinity Wars, the latest Avengers movie and the culmination of everything Marvel has been building up to in the last decade. Since the film is setting records for pre-opening ticket sales, you might find it difficult to get a seat at your local cinema. And you probably should not go to see Infinity Wars until you’ve seen the two most recent Marvel offerings Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther.
Below is my review of Ragnarok. Next Friday I’ll post a review of Black Panther.
Ragnarok is an unexpected delight. Unexpected because the first two Thor solo movies are considered some of the weakest offerings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I should say I enjoyed the first Thor movie and found the second one ok but not great, but Ragnarok is definitely the God of Thunder’s finest hour.
Ragnarok succeeds by ramping up the humor, thus taking advantage of Chris Hemsworth’s gift for comedy, without sacrificing an exciting and meaningful story.
In addition to Hemsworth the film features strong performances from Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s adopted brother and ultimate frenemy Loki, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/the Hulk, Tessa Thompson as newcomer Valkyrie, who starts out as foe but turns into an ally. Valkyrie has one of the best back stories in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as she is a former Asgardian warrior whose experiences turn her into a cynical alcoholic slave trader who finds redemption fighting alongside Thor to save Asgard. Hopefully she’ll turn up in future Marvel movies. Also putting in stellar performances are Jeff Goldblum as the Grandmaster, a powerful being who runs Gladiator-type events, Anthony Hopkins as Odin, Idris Elba as Heimdall the all-seeing guardian of Asgard who assumes leadership of the people after Thor must flee, and Cate Blanchett as the villain Hella, the goddess of death.
The movie revolves around Thor trying to stop Hella from unleashing Ragnarok, the destruction of Asgard. The film begins with Thor escaping from a demon who Thor thinks is the threat. Thor then goes on a quest to find his father Odin who Loki dispatches to earth so he could pretend to be Odin and rule.
With some assistance from Dr. Strange (who I enjoyed more here than in his own movie) Thor rescues Odin. But it is not a joyful reunion as Odin is near death, a death that will unleash Hella.
Hella and Thor fight and she destroys Thor’s hammer and he must flee. Thor ends up captured and forced to fight in the Grand Master's gladiator games. His opponent is none other than his fellow Avenger (“a friend from work” ) the Hulk. Loki has also taken up residence in the grandmaster’s lair.
The fight between Thor and Hulk features a funny throwback to the first Avengers movie. Fans of the Hulk comics and the 60s cartoon show will be glad that the Hulk is finally talking.
Thor escapes the Grandmasters’s planet with the help of Valkyrie, Banner, and Loki and the group (which Thor dubs the Revengers….get it?) returns to Asgard take on Hella.
Cate Blanchett plays Hella with over the top campiness, but her story raises some serious issues. Hella is Odin’s oldest child and she helped her dad conquer other planets and build an empire until Odin became fearful she was becoming bloodthirsty. So the benevolent Odin we have seen through the last two Thor movies was once a brutal conquerer until he rejected that path but Helena and the destruction she brings are the results of Odin’s actions….blowback anyone? Helena was doing what she leaned from her father but she was cast aside when she was perceived as a threat and when Odin decided to abandon his war-like ways so maybe she has a legitimate beef with Odin and Asgard and maybe a kingdom built on military conquest does not deserve to survive.
Thor: Ragnarok is not just a fun action romp that deals with the nature of empires, blowback, and how societies treat their warriors after the time of war has passed.
You can help Campaign for Liberty by downing Thor: Ragnarock here.