Directed by Taika Waititi
Screenplay by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle, and Christopher L. Yost
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Cate Blanchett as Hela
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk
Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie
Jeff Goldblum as Grandmaster
Idris Elba as Heimdall
Karl Urban as Skurge
Taika Waititi as Korg
Anthony Hopkins as Odin
Of the three original Avengers, Thor is the one who has had the bumpiest road with his series of films. I like the first two Thor movies just fine, but they are certainly the weak links of the MCU. There's some good character groundwork and world building, but they're missing that special something that movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier or Guardians of the Galaxy have. When Thor: Ragnarok was announced, I was a bit skeptical. It didn't help that this was the original title card which was similar to the font of the title card for Thor: The Dark World.
It bothered me that the series was seemingly going to continue in the same direction and it felt that Marvel had learned nothing from the past two movies. Thor does not need to be dark. There's plenty of room for fun. Later, it was announced that director Taika Waititi would helm the film. Knowing of his films like the horror comedy What We Do In the Shadows peaked my interest. Then they unveiled the new title card and it was clear this was going to be a new direction for the series.
What a difference this made. It looked like something out of an 80's film, not unlike Flash Gordon. Then in the spring of 2017, the first teaser was released and after seeing it, it was pretty obvious that this was going to be a complete tonal makeover for Thor and it looked fucking awesome.
The use of humor including the now famous line, "We know each other! He's a friend from work!", suggested to Chris Hemsworth by a Make-a-Wish kid visiting onset, felt appropriate. The look of the film was that of a classic Jack Kirby Thor comic. The use of Led Zepplin's "Immigrant Song" was perfectly suited for the God of Thunder. My hype for the movie grew exponentially after seeing this teaser. It was also exciting that the new official release date was on mine and Liz's birthday. We were both pretty excited for the movie. I even bought this shirt to wear to the Thursday premiere screening.
The night finally came for us to see the film. Reviews had been very kind to the film, the interviews with cast members and Taika Waititi were fun and enjoyable. Within the first opening five minutes, I knew I was going to love this movie. There are plenty of movies that show the hero being captured by the villain and they then make their grand escape. This movie elevates that cliche, but sprinkling humor into the situation while then following it up with a totally bad ass action sequence set to "Immigrant Song". There's a current trend in trailers where there will be a song featured and then it's nowhere to be heard in the film. I was very happy to hear "Immigrant Song" used not only once, but twice and it's used to perfect effect both times. The movie only got better from that opening and by the end, Liz and I were immediately ready to see it again, a feeling that has only grown stronger with each repeat viewing. We then saw it the next night on our actual birthday and then a third time the night after. My limit for seeing a movie in the theater is four. I think that is plenty of times to see one film, because you don't want to grow tired of it. Liz and I loved this movie so much that we saw it a grand total of seven times in the theater. We have seen it eleven times at this point and the movie is simply an endlessly rewatchable blast. I don't know if I'll ever be happier with a comic book film.
Taika Waititi pretty much saved the Thor series with this movie. I've seen people complain about the amount of humor and jokes in the film, but I think it only makes the movie better. Waititi is known for his style of humor, so it should not have been a surprise to anybody who was familiar with is previous movies, especially What We Do In the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. He's also a very talented filmmaker. The way he frames certain shots in this film is astounding work. I love one of the shots early on when Hela arrives in Asgard and the palace is framed right in the center of her headpiece. There's also that creative reflection shot when Loki and Valkyrie are having a meeting with the Grandmaster. I think the humor gives the movie a tone that stands out. It's easily the funniest of the Marvel films. The movie is serious when it needs to be and it still manages to fit in with the other two films. Waititi also sneaks in themes of the horrors of imperialism and colonialism into the film and it works. If you own this film, I cannot recommend Waititi's commentary enough. It's clear that he put a lot of thought into every little detail and is truly a fan of the world of Thor and Marvel. It's also a consistently humorous listen.
The characters are all at their best in this movie. Thor feels the most fleshed out he has ever been. It's been clear that Chris Hemsworth has great comedic timing and Taika Waititi made sure he was able to use it to his fullest advantage. Thor should be a character who has a good sense of humor to him. The movie also uses his hotheadedness to humorous effect. He also has some pretty solid serious moments with characters like Loki and Odin in this film. Finally after two films, Thor finally ascends the throne to become the leader of Asgard. It feels earned at this point, because Thor has grown in many ways and he's finally willing to accept becoming king.
Loki feels better written, too. He's still the mischievous trickster, but both he and Thor have accepted that it's who he is. He's probably not going to change and that's ok. I like that when we first find him, he's disguised as Odin, watching a play that is a glorified tribute to his death and how great he was. He does have some nice growth and in the end, he comes to save his home, fighting alongside Thor for once and not against him. He stands alongside his brother on the throne in the film's final moments and it feels like he's proud of Thor. Their brotherhood has grown stronger and while they may not always see eye to eye, they're the only family that they have left.
Not only is the best Thor film, but it's the best Hulk one, too. I didn't read Planet Hulk until after seeing the film, but it's now probably my favorite story in comic book history. This is the closest we will ever get to a film based on it and I am completely satisfied with it. They borrow plenty of elements from that story including the setting of Sakaar, Hulk battling people in gladiatorial combat, the characters of Korg and Miek are in it, and the obedience disks are used. Mark Ruffalo is at his best as Bruce Banner with this performance. He's able to flesh out both identities. I think the moments with Hulk are excellent because he actually gets some characterization for once. He's learned to speak and when he transforms back into Banner, we see the external struggle between the two, which we have not in previous films. Bruce also has a great arc since he feels that he's starting to lose control and he may not change back if he turns into the Hulk again. During the battle of Asgard, he makes the choice to use the Hulk to save lives, even if it means giving up Banner in the process. It also leads to what I think is the funniest moment in the entire movie when he hits the bridge with a thud, not transforming right away. I've loved Thor and Hulk's dynamic since The Avengers, so it's nice to see it presented so prominently here. They give us equal amount of time with both Hulk and Bruce and it's really entertaining to see Thor share scenes with both.
The other Asgardians get justice, too. Odin is only in three scenes, but Anthony Hopkins brings his all to each moment. His final scene with Thor and Loki is one of the most emotionally effective in the entire series. He also does a great job of playing Loki playing him. Heimdall also gets more to do than he's ever had before. I like that he's the hero saving the Asgardian refugees. It's a proper role for him. The movie also kills off the Warriors Three, which I think was a wise move. They served their purpose in the other two films and killing them off provided stakes, while establishing Hela as a proper threat.
The new characters are all great as well. Hela is the first female MCU villain and she's also one of its best. Cate Blanchett is having the time of her life in the role and it shows in her performance. She is everything I want out of a comic book movie villain. She's riding that perfect line of menacing while being fun. I adore Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie. With just this film she has become one of my favorite supporting characters in the MCU. It's great to see a female character with this type of personality, because it's usually reserved for male characters. Her entrance is an all-time best in a Marvel movie. Her flashback sequence is stunning and it tells you just enough about her past without dwelling on it. Jeff Goldblum is a delight as the Grandmaster. He's clearly having a good time and he's a pretty solid villain, too. Karl Urban as Skurge even gets a good amount of characterization with what little screen time he has. Korg played by Taika Waititi is a character I didn't know I needed until I saw him. He's one of the funniest parts of this movie and it's not distracting that Waititi is playing him considering he's a fully CGI character.
Doctor Strange also has a cameo in this film and it's clear that Cumberbatch is still the best choice to play him. It's also hinted that Strange has only become more of a powerful sorcerer since his solo film. He doesn't feel shoehorned in. He's used for the proper amount of time and he has two of my favorite exchanges with Thor in the entire film. One of them is this:
Thor: "So Earth has wizards now?"
Thor: "Alright, wizard, who are you? Why should I care?"
The other is this exchange:
Thor: (Concerning Odin) "If you knew where he was, why didn't you call me?"
Doctor Strange: "I have to tell you, he was adamant that he not be disturbed. Your father has chosen to remain in exile. And you don't have a phone."
Thor: "No, I don't have a phone, but you could have sent an electronic letter. It's called an email."
Doctor Strange: "Yeah, do you have a computer?"
Thor: "No. What for?"
The look of this film is like a technicolor Jack Kirby dream and it is absolutely gorgeous to look at. They use every color in the crayon box to full effect. Both this movie and the Guardians of the Galaxy films are movies that actually look like a comic book brought to life. So many frames look like splash pages or even paintings. I love the look of Sakaar and how much detail is put into that world. The architecture is unique, the citizens all have amazing costumes and hair styles, the designs of the spaceships stand out, it's all stunning to look at. There's a lot to find in every scene with each viewing.
The action is directed pretty spectacularly as well. Every set piece is memorable. The opening in Muspelheim when Thor fights Surtur is probably my favorite opening action sequence in a Marvel film. The Hulk and Thor fight that was used a lot in the marketing delivers in every satisfying way. The spaceship chase through Sakaar feels like it's right out of an 80's sci-fi adventure. The battle for Asgard is an epic, grand set piece that doesn't overstay its welcome. I remember getting chills multiple times when "Immigrant Song" played that second time and Thor and company were all kicking ass during that battle.
Mark Motherbaugh's score is another all time best for the MCU. It's a wonderful combination of 80's synth and orchestral pieces. I've listened to the score multiple times and it stands on its own quite nicely. The Ragnarok Suite is exceptional work.
I have never been so thoroughly satisfied with a comic book film in the way I am with Thor: Ragnarok. This film is everything I could ever want in a big-budgeted comic book blockbuster. The character work is well done, the action is exciting, the humor is used appropriately, and the overall look would make Jack Kirby proud. Taika Waititi put a lot of love and care into this movie as well as everyone else involved. It makes for the best Thor movie and an all-time favorite for me. It's that kind of special film that constantly impresses and delights me.