Thor: Ragnarok is a very different movie. It’s different from any of the previous entries in this series and, in a lot of ways, is different from any other movie in the MCU. Much of that difference stems from the frenetic, high-energy and frequently slapstick tone that director Taika Waititi infuses throughout the movie’s two hour run time; jokes come thick and fast here alongside pratfalls and a colourful cast of supporting characters that seems to be constantly expanding as the film goes on.
So, does this mean Ragnarok is a good movie then? Possibly a great one?
Don’t get me wrong, it would be very hard to have a bad time watching this movie. The comedy is mostly good (with the possible exception of repeating jokes early on) and there’s a lot of laughs to be found throughout so it’s definitely a Fun movie that earns that capital ‘F’ but while this light hearted tone is a definite strength to the movie it also can feel exhausting in places and ends up butting roughly against what is ostensibly the main plot of the movie.
Without wishing to get into spoilers not covered by the title of the movie; this is meant to be a movie dealing with (or at least connected to) Ragnarok which is the long-prophesied ‘Death of the Gods’ or end of the world in both Norse Mythology and the prophecies that the Asgardians seem to run on in the MCU. However much of the driving factors and main events of that plot end up relegated to a sort of ‘B’ story involving the newly resurrected Hela, Goddess of Death taking over Asgard and generally getting up to some bloodthirsty shenanigans. Just to be clear, the phrase bloodthirsty shenanigans is one that I never thought I’d type but also is very literally applicable here as one particularly bruising sequence has her bringing slaughter and death in a kind of off handed, jokey way that can feel a bit out of place.
Most of our time is spent with Thor, Loki, a returning Hulk and newcomer Valkyrie all trying to escape from the planet Sakkar which is basically Thunderdome brought to you by Jeff Goldblum. In order to set up these two parallel the first forty minutes of the film pass by in an absolute blur of events and locations. By my count in that time we visit 6 different locations (different planets/planes included not just changing rooms) and have at least three fairly major plot events and an important MCU cameo all thrown at us. It was at this point that, honestly, the movie almost lost me as everything came so thick and fast that none of it really seemed to land for me.
However, once things settle down and we get to the meat of the story Thor: Ragnarok really hits its stride with some fantastic visuals, great use of music (Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin makes a repeated and awesome appearance) and some of the best action scenes we’ve had in the MCU. The action on Sakkar never really gels with the actual Ragnarok story, despite a couple linking scenes, but it’s so much fun and so slickly delivered that you end up basically forgetting that.
When the final confrontation eventually rolled around, I was definitely back on board.
It helps that the performances are all solid here, Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) in particular is a great addition to the band and she and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) have great banter throughout the movie. Mark Gruffalo gets to spend a lot more time as Hulk this time around too, and while he’s clearly having fun with it he doesn’t get quite as much to do given that a lot of his fighting gets sent to the CGI department (his one major plot development also gets a little sidestepped in the end in order to make another fall gag).
Ultimately I would recommend Thor: Ragnarok as a light-hearted and stylish adventure romp that absolutely drips with a unique voice. Personally, I wish that the overarching story had been more of a villain of the week set-piece then something as massively important/destructive as Ragnarok (at times it feels like Kevin Feige came up with the title, Taika came up with a film and then they had to mash them together) but then again I actually liked Thor: The Dark World so what do I know?
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